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Number of new COVID patients levels off

Updated April 22, 10:30 a.m.

SHARON — The number of new cases of COVID-19 in Litchfield County and the state seem to be leveling off, according to Dr. Mark Hirko, president of Sharon Hospital.

But, he stressed during a phone interview on Friday morning, April 17, it is essential that Connecticut residents continue to observe the social quarantine and other anti-COVID precautions recommended by the state and by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

“When this started, the system and state were seeing anywhere between a 7 and 10% increase daily in test results that were positive,” Hirko said.

“So the rate of increase was high. Over the past week or so we have seen the rate flatten; the numbers are still there but the rate of increase is now at 1 to 0%.”

Hirko said that Sharon Hospital  had added six new patients in the previous three days.

Many patients are
still in hospitals

He was quick to warn that there are still many COVID-positive patients in the Nuvance system, which includes the four hospitals in the Health Quest system; three of those hospitals are in New York State and the fourth is Sharon Hospital. Nuvance also owns the Western Connecticut Health Network, with three hospitals in Connecticut. 

As of Friday morning, he said, there were 300 positive patients at Nuvance hospitals. 

“At Sharon we have had between eight and 15 positive patients in the hospital on average. We are currently at five.” The numbers shift as patients are discharged or pass away, he said. 

“On a daily basis we have between four and seven patients coming in that are evaluated; and anywhere from two to three arepositive but most of those people go home” because they are not sufficiently ill to require hospital care. 

This is a transitional moment in the COVID crisis, as some patients begin to recover. They no longer need hospital care, but they need an intermediate facility where they can continue to recover until they test negative twice in 24 hours. At that point they can return home or to their own skilled nursing facility.

Not massively overwhelmed

So far, Hirko said, Sharon Hospital has not transferred patients to Sharon Health Care Center, which is across the street but has no official affiliation with the hospital. Sharon Health Care has been designated by the state as a COVID-positive recovery facility and began accepting patients on Thursday, April 16 (see story, this page).

“We have a very strong relationship with them [Sharon Health Care]”, Hirko said. “I know that they’ve been preparing for a large influx. Right now, everybody is waiting.”

However, area residents should not worry that the hospital and health care center will have masses of COVID-positive patients. 

“We are not being massively overwhelmed,” Hirko said.

For the most part, Hirko said, the community has been supportive of Sharon Hospital’s efforts to treat patients. 

“I’m very proud of the community, the way they’ve embraced and recognized the employees. I’m proud of the staff; they’ve really stepped up.

“It’s very good to see everyone in their masks and doing their jobs.”

Remain vigilant

General statistics about the spread of the coronavirus are posted every afternoon by the state at www.portal.ct.gov/Coronavirus.

On Saturday night, Gov. Lamont sent out an email with some good news that reflects the same numbers Hirko is seeing:

“For the first time since the start of this pandemic, today we saw the number of COVID-19 positive patients in our hospitals decline,” Lamont said. “This is providing us with some hope, and is a sign that our social distancing measures are having an impact. 

“But one day of data alone does not mean we are out of the woods and can return to life as normal. Many of our hospitals and nursing homes remain under great stress, and our front line workers continue to battle this virus around the clock. But we have shown that with proper measures in place, we can slow down the spread of the virus.”

Who is most afflicted?

As of Friday evening, the numbers on the state website showed that there had been 46 COVID-related deaths in Litchfield County. The most Connecticut deaths have been in Fairfield County (425 on Friday), Hartford County (266) and New Haven County (229). Litchfield County is fourth on the list. 

By Sunday night, the number of COVID-related deaths had increased in Litchfield County to 48, a relatively modest increase compared to the prior weeks’ increases.

Statewide, according to the website on Friday, “a total of 16,809 laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been reported among Connecticut residents. One thousand nine hundred forty-six patients [1,946] are currently hospitalized. There have been 1,036 COVID-19-associated deaths.”

By Sunday night, “a total of 17,962 laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19” had been reported and 1,901 patients were in hospitals. Statewide by Sunday night, there had been 1,127 COVID-19-associated deaths.

More fatalities among
older men

The number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 on Friday in Litchfield County was 28. By Sunday night that number was 27.

Statewide on Friday, the majority of COVID-positive cases (3,248) were in the 50-59 age group. There were 2,683 cases in both the 40-49 and 60-69 age groups. There were 1,541 cases in the 70-79 age group and 1,866 cases for the 80-and-over age group. Those numbers had changed by Sunday night; see the state’s coronavirus web page for updated statistics.

The deaths from COVID, however, were predominantly in the over-80 age group (579); the second highest mortality rate was in the 70-79 age group (231).

There are many more positive test results for women in the state, of all ages (8,852 versus 7,654 positive cases among men). But the death rate is higher among men (545 men versus 485 women).

Statistics for Dutchess County can be found at www.dutchessny.gov/Departments/DBCH/2019-Novel-Coronavirus.htm#con5.

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