The News-Times

Danbury area sees dip in COVID-19 cases

- By Currie Engel

DANBURY — After weeks of rapidly increasing COVID-19 cases, not enough tests to go around, concerns about school staffing — the Danbury area is finally reporting a decline in case rates.

State data released Thursday shows that every town in the Danbury area, with the exception of Bridgewate­r, reported a downward trend in COVID case rates per 100,000 residents, some by as much as 20 to 30 percent compared to the week prior. While the case rates are still high compared to mid-2021, the area could be turning a corner after the latest surge.

Earlier this month, Connecticu­t hit its highest daily positivity rate since data collection began, with more than 20 percent of all tests coming back positive. This week, the positivity rate has dropped below 20 percent for the first time in two weeks, and as of Thursday, was down to 13.3 percent.

When looking at graphics from the state or local health department­s, many are starting to show a peak and the beginning of a decline for case rates, infection numbers and hospitaliz­ations.

The state data report includes cases from the two-week period of Jan. 2 to Jan. 15, which means there is a slight lag in reporting. Residents taking at-home tests also skew the data.

Danbury went from 241.8 cases per 100,000 residents in last week’s report to 206.6 this week. Redding saw the greatest decline of 37 percent, going from a case rate of 143.4 to 104.2.

New Milford dropped only slightly from a high of 187.9 per 100,000 to 183.6, the smallest decline of any Danbury-area town.

Ridgefield’s case rate was down 24 percent to a case rate of 132.8 in this week’s report. The town reported a positivity rate of 11.7 percent on Wednesday, down from 12.4 percent on Tuesday. Meanwhile, Fairfield County’s positivity rate was still

16.5 on Wednesday.

“This is the type of informatio­n that confirms the downward trends,” Ridgefield First Selectman Rudy Marconi said. “Hopefully, the end is near.”

In Bethel, First Selectman Matt Knickerboc­ker looked over the state data on Thursday afternoon. He called the case rate decline good news.

Even national COVID data has shown a decline in cases this week after a peak on Jan. 13. On that day, the country hit a record of more than 869,000 new cases in a single day, according to the New York Times COVID tracker.

Cautiously optimistic

Local leaders were cautiously optimistic Thursday, saying while lower rates were good news, people shouldn’t get complacent.

“We need to get that number down substantia­lly so we’ve got some time to go. I want to urge everyone not to relax,” Marconi said, referring to the town’s case rate.

In Bethel, a nursing home saw 32 cases among its population of 116 in the last two-week reporting period.

State nursing homes reported 58 deaths, up from 13, in the last two weeks.

“We have a rapidly improving picture around the tri-state region,” said Scott Gottlieb, former Food and Drug Administra­tion commission­er, at Gov. Ned Lamont’s news briefing Thursday night. “But we’re not through this, by any means, quite yet.”

He said February should provide a better picture of the overall outlook on COVID.

Leaders from New Milford, Brookfield, Redding, and Danbury could not be reached for comment Thursday night.

Knickerboc­ker said he plans to send a bulletin Friday with a COVID-19 update for residents and his message will be simple: “The only thing I’m going to tell people in my next bulletin tomorrow morning is keep up the good work.”

Testing woes lessen

Lately, testing has been hard to come by, pushing local, state and national testing infrastruc­ture to its limits as residents scramble for tests.

While demand for COVID testing is still high, some leaders have reported supply seems to be improving.

Marconi said availabili­ty of at-home test kits in stores seemed to be improving. But it affects the state data since the more at-home tests people take, the fewer cases are reported to the government.

Knickerboc­ker said he’d heard residents were requesting the test kits that are now available thanks to a new federal program that sends tests to your home through the United States Postal Service.

Health director of the newly formed Housatonic Valley Health District Lisa Morrissey announced a program on Wednesday to implement rapid PCR testing for first responders and critical town employees. Interested towns will sign a contract with the health district for the tests, footing the bill using COVID relief funds or set aside funds from their budget. The initiative aims to achieve faster turnaround times for those in need of a negative PCR test to get back to work.

Yet, despite the local, state and national initiative­s, cars were still lining up at Danbury’s newest COVID testing site on Monday afternoon, which has moved to the Patrick R. Waldron Veterans Hall parking lot on Memorial Drive.

“We’re still fighting this virus and we need to be diligent in that effort,” Marconi said.

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