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Is the Worst to Come? How COVID-19 Could Upend State’s Phase 3 Reopening

June 30, 2020

The good news is that Connecticut is heralded as one of two states, with neighboring Rhode Island, experiencing a consistent decline in COVID-19 cases. The not-so-good news is the World Health Organization revelation that “the worst is yet to come.”

WHO Director General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus pointed to the sustained and global spread of the potentially lethal virus, which he said is being fueled by inconsistent support for the testing and contact tracing efforts designed to slow infection spread.

“We all want this to be over. We all want to get on with our lives,” he said. “But, the hard reality is this is not even close to being over. The worst is yet to come.”

The announcement came just days after CNN pointed to Connecticut and Rhode Island as the only two states reporting a decline in new cases, while 36 states, many of which reopened earlier and faster, reported increasing numbers of infections.

The success here, experts believe, stems from various factors, including increased testing, mobile testing for underserved populations, contact tracing, antibody testing and residents’ adherence to social distancing guidelines and mask-wearing.

Early in the pandemic, Dr. Ajay Kumar, chief clinical officer with Hartford HealthCare, predicted that these steps would be the key to battling COVID-19, which he called “a long fight, a marathon.”

Expanded testing, he explained, will help determine if “herd immunity” exists in the area. This means having a high percentage of people who have recovered from the virus and are unable to pass it to others. Herd immunity is important going into the fall, when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predicts a second wave of the virus, overlapping with the seasonal flu.

Much research is currently underway on vaccines and improved treatments that should ease the burden of a second wave, but Dr. Kumar said people must remain vigilant and do everything they can to protect themselves and their families from infection.

“Social distancing measures are critical to reducing the amount of suffering” possible in another wave of the pandemic, he said.

With the surging numbers in other areas of the country, Gov. Ned Lamont is considering delaying the third phase of the state’s reopening plan. The phase – which is scheduled to go into effect in mid-July – would allow outdoor event venues such as amphitheatres and racetracks to open at 50 percent capacity, private indoor gatherings with up to 50 people and private outdoor gatherings of up to 250 people.

What is giving the governor pause, however, is reopening bars and expanding indoor seating capacity in restaurants. He said he is “rethinking that” after seeing what happened in other states when they reopened their bars.

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