877 school COVID cases detected in CT since classes resumed, data shows

Photo of Nicholas Rondinone
Connecticut National Guard Sergeant Collin Paternoster administers free Covid-19 tests at the new Fair Haven Community Health Center testing site at 293 East Street in New Haven, Conn. on Thursday, December 3, 2020.

Connecticut National Guard Sergeant Collin Paternoster administers free Covid-19 tests at the new Fair Haven Community Health Center testing site at 293 East Street in New Haven, Conn. on Thursday, December 3, 2020.

Brian A. Pounds / Hearst Connecticut Media

As officials weigh the future of the mask mandate in schools, the state reported Thursday there have been 877 COVID cases among students and staff during the first weeks of school.

Cases have largely been spread among the hundreds of schools in Connecticut, the data from the last week shows. Six schools had a half-dozen or more cases among students and staff, including 12 cases at Manchester High School, according to the data.

While 751 students in grades K-12 have tested positive for COVID since the start of the school year, 87 percent of the cases have been found in students who are not vaccinated — some of whom are still ineligible. The state has also reported 126 cases among teachers and staff, about 22 percent of whom were not vaccinated.

The risks of COVID-19, exacerbated by the spread of the highly transmissible delta variant, remain a concern among state leaders. This week, Gov. Ned Lamont’s administration said it was considering extending the mask mandate for students and staff in schools, which is set to expire on Sept. 30.

“I just think it should continue a little bit longer. We’ve got not just delta, but mu (variants). We’ve got flu season. The flu is coming up from the southern states. I think we’ll know a lot more in six weeks,” Lamont said this week.

The rise in cases in schools comes when statewide COVID metrics have leveled off. On Thursday, the state reported a daily positivity rate of 2.95 percent for new COVID tests. Hospitalizations saw a small drop of a net of three patients for a total of 325 statewide. There were 31 COVID-19 deaths in the last week for a total of 8,447.

Going into the school year, Connecticut saw a small bump in the number of new vaccines administered each week. But the most recent figure, for the week ending Sept. 11, dropped to about 36,000 new doses, the lowest since July.

However, Connecticut remains among the most vaccinated states in the country. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 77 percent of all eligible Connecticut residents were fully vaccinated as of Thursday.

For school-aged children eligible for the vaccine, 67 percent of those age 12 to 15 were fully vaccinated, and 77 percent of those 16 and 17 had received their shots.

Despite widespread vaccination, community transmission of COVID-19 remains high across six of eight Connecticut counties.

As of Thursday, all of Connecticut except Tolland and Fairfield counties was designated as having high community transmission by the CDC. This means the areas have more than 100 cases per 100,000 people.

In Tolland and Fairfield counties, the community transmission is considered to be substantial, with a case rate of more than 50 per 100,000 people.

These designations have been significant in recent weeks after the CDC shifted its guidance to recommend all people, regardless of whether they have been vaccinated, wear masks indoors when they are in areas of substantial and high community transmission.

While Lamont has not reinstated a broad indoor mask mandate, the state Department of Public Health echoed the guidance of CDC and recommended people wear masks indoors in Connecticut counties under these designations.

Lamont gave authority to municipal leaders to issue mask mandates within their borders. Often, leaders have elected to institute these orders based on whether the municipality was designated a red zone alert level by DPH.

On Thursday, 84 towns and cities — about half of Connecticut’s municipalities — had this designation, which means there are 15 or more cases per 100,000 people.