Editorial: Coronavirus protocols more important than ever

Dentist Tom McManus and dental hygienist Ana Dacosta administer a COVID-19 swab test outside the Community Health Center of Danbury on Delay Street in Danbury last week.

Dentist Tom McManus and dental hygienist Ana Dacosta administer a COVID-19 swab test outside the Community Health Center of Danbury on Delay Street in Danbury last week.

Brian A. Pounds / Hearst Connecticut Media

With cases of the coronavirus on the rise and state officials trying to limit its spread, Connecticut in recent days faced the embarrassing prospect of having to put itself on its own quarantine list.

As Gov. Ned Lamont noted on Thursday, the list of states with travel restrictions has fluctuated over the months of the COVID-19 pandemic, starting at nine and rising to include more than three-quarters of states at its highest levels. With a cutoff of a seven-day average positivity rate higher than 10 per 100,000 residents, and Connecticut approaching that double-digit level, the state was nearly at its own designated breaking point.

The list isn’t just for bookkeeping. Travelers arriving from highly infected states are supposed to quarantine for 14 days or face a $500 fine, something that clearly isn’t feasible if Connecticut itself is over the limit. As Lamont said, it’s time to rethink the entire idea, which may have made sense in the spring but is of increasingly less use as numbers tick up nearly everywhere.

For all that Connecticut has done well to keep numbers low over the summer, it’s undeniable that the state has paid a comparatively high price. Measured by coronavirus deaths per capita, Connecticut is still near the top of the list, owing mostly to the disastrous spring months when the entire Northeast, particularly in nursing homes, experienced the worst of the crisis. Even as numbers have spiked in the South and Midwest, the number of deaths has not in most places matched the figures that New England and New York saw in the pandemic’s early days.

All of this is why no one should consider being complacent. The danger is real. Still, it’s hard not to conclude that many people around the state are getting more comfortable letting down their guard, wearing a mask incorrectly or not at all, or getting together in groups they might have shied away from a few months ago. Medical experts have put out warnings about small-group gatherings in homes, which may seem harmless enough but can serve to spread the virus between unsuspecting parties who may not even know they’re infected.

Everyone is tired of the semi-quarantine we’ve all been living under since March. Colder weather means it will only get harder from here, and a vaccine, whenever that comes, won’t solve the problem instantly. This is something we have to get used to, painful as that will be.

At the same time, the state has unveiled a color-coded system to alert residents of high coronavirus danger, with Danbury the lone municipality in western Connecticut to qualify as red, the most serious designation, in the system’s initial release. As some restrictions are loosened in an effort to help the economy, this could prove a useful tool for residents unsure of what dangers they could be facing.

Whether in state or out of state, the problem shows no sign of receding. It’s difficult to fight what we can’t see, but we have to try. Limiting the damage from a long, cold winter, which could mean the difference in thousands of people’s lives, must take a top priority for everyone.