Staff at RegalCare New Haven celebrate Spirit Day. Photo provided

New coronavirus infections in Connecticut’s nursing homes and assisted living facilities have all but ground to a halt statistically, according to new data released Friday from Gov. Ned Lamont’s administration.

The report also showed deaths from COVID-19 among elderly in these specialized communities continue to follow a two-month-long trend of slower growth, though there were 79 more fatalities.

Connecticut’s 214 nursing homes collectively have reported 8,672 cases since the pandemic began, but only 59 in the last weekly monitoring period, which closed Wednesday. That’s an increase of just over one-half of 1%.

Among assisted living facilities, 1,048 cases in total have been logged, but just two in the past week — growth that’s an even smaller fraction of 1%. These centers serve residents age 55 and older who need some assistance with daily living activities but not the skilled care provided by a nursing home.

“The overall data clearly indicates that the nursing home sector is recovering,” representatives of the state’s two-largest nursing home associations wrote in a joint statement. “Through the exemplary work of nursing home employees, the nursing homes are now emerging from the targeted impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Mag Morelli, president of Leading Age Connecticut, and Matthew Barrett, president of the Connecticut Association of Health Care Facilities, also attributed the minimal growth in infections to industrywide adoption of an omnibus testing program.

These point prevalence surveys involve testing all residents of any nursing home — excluding those already confirmed with the coronavirus — all at a single point in time.

State health and nursing home officials both say this is a vital data collection tool that can be used to control the spread of infection. The results allow facilities to quickly identify and to segregate infected from non-infected residents, and also to intensify the use of protective gear among staff assigned to treat those with COVID-19.

Morelli and Barrett have said “thousands” of nursing home residents have recovered from the coronavirus. Administration officials said more than a month ago that they hoped to report specific recovery totals, but that has proven problematic.

State health officials say there is broad disagreement among individual facilities and the medical community about what constitutes full recovery. 

Some providers insist patients have recovered once the worst elements of their condition have passed, while others wait until all symptoms are gone — a process that can take weeks.

There also has been disagreement about how to classify patients that are left with long-term — and possibly permanent — reductions to lung capacity because of their infection.

The latest report from the Lamont administration also showed 2,719 nursing home residents have died from the pandemic, including 71 who passed during the last reporting period. That’s an increase of 2.7%, down from nearly 4% during the previous reporting period.

Among assisted living facilities, 361 residents have died from the coronavirus, including 12 during the past week. That’s a 3.4% increase, down slightly from 3.6% during the previous reporting period.

Also Friday, Lamont updated Connecticut’s COVID-19 statewide database.

The state recorded 12 new deaths Friday tied to the coronavirus, bringing total fatalities since the pandemic began to 4,238.

Connecticut recorded another 117 cases of the virus Friday, and has logged 45,557 since the outbreak started in early March.

The number of patients hospitalized continues to drop. There were 172 patients hospitalized as of 5 p.m. on Friday, four fewer than the day before.

And the governor also noted another 7,293 COVID-19 tests were administered, bringing the total to nearly 378,000 over the past three months.

Keith has spent most of his 31 years as a reporter specializing in state government finances, analyzing such topics as income tax equity, waste in government and the complex funding systems behind Connecticut’s transportation and social services networks. He has been the state finances reporter at CT Mirror since it launched in 2010. Prior to joining CT Mirror Keith was State Capitol bureau chief for The Journal Inquirer of Manchester, a reporter for the Day of New London, and a former contributing writer to The New York Times. Keith is a graduate of and a former journalism instructor at the University of Connecticut.

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