Tyler Russell / Connecticut Public
COVID-19 positivity rates reached a high not seen since the beginning of the pandemic this week.

On Wednesday, Connecticut officials announced the state’s single-day COVID case rates hit levels not seen since the beginning of the pandemic, with a 17.8% test positivity rate and 7,520 new daily cases. 

But even though positivity rates are hitting record numbers, the state’s major hospital systems report much more manageable conditions than in previous surges. Yale New Haven, Hartford HealthCare and Trinity Health all confirmed that they are operating within capacity and have no immediate plans to cancel elective procedures. 

“As of right now, even though we’re seeing lots of lots of cases, the number of hospitalizations is not matching the number of hospitalizations that we saw in 2020,” said Dr. Tom Balcezak, chief clinical officer at Yale New Haven Health.

He also noted that the system is better prepared to handle COVID patients than it was during the last peak. There is wider availability of PPE, and hospital staff has more experience in treating COVID.

“The anxiety factor, while still there, is much less,” he said.

Currently, the hospitals across the Yale New Haven Health system have a total of 400 COVID patients. At its peak in April 2020, the system had between 850 and 870 cases. 

Balcezak explained that the lower number of hospitalizations could be due to more testing picking up mild and asymptomatic cases but also because vaccines are helping to prevent hospitalizations.

He said 75% of hospitalized patients and over 90% of ICU patients are not fully vaccinated, showing that hospitalizations are far less likely for fully vaccinated individuals and extremely rare among those with recent boosters. 

Dr. Ajay Kumar, chief clinical officer at Hartford HealthCare, agreed that vaccinations and boosters are key to staying safe during the current surge. 

“My advice to the public would be if you’re vaccinated, go and get the booster. I think it’s the most important thing one can do right now to prevent illness.”

Kumar noted that of 332 COVID patients admitted to the Hartford HealthCare system on Wednesday, only 50 patients are in the ICU. During the first surge, close to 50% of hospitalizations ended up in the ICU. 

The system has noticed a spike in emergency room visits due to an increase in COVID patients, but most of them aren’t requiring hospitalization. 

New York and Massachusetts are also experiencing a surge in cases. 

The New York State Department of Health reported a total of 67,090 positive cases, reflecting a positivity rate of 18.5%. Massachusetts recorded 15,163 new confirmed cases, reflecting a slightly lower positivity rate of 16.4%. 

Katy Golvala is a member of our three-person investigative team. Originally from New Jersey, Katy earned a bachelor’s degree in English and Mathematics from Williams College and received a master’s degree in Business and Economic Journalism from the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism in August 2021. Her work experience includes roles as a Business Analyst at A.T. Kearney, a Reporter and Researcher at Investment Wires, and a Reporter at Inframation, covering infrastructure in Latin America and the Caribbean.