HARTFORD - Connecticut is reopening health care centers dedicated solely to treating COVID-19 patients amid a resurgence of the coronavirus across the state, including in nursing homes and assisted living facilities, a state Department of Public Health spokesperson said Friday.
A coronavirus “recovery center” in Meriden reopened last week to serve up to 30 patients and there are now plans to reopen one in Torrington with another 30 beds in the near future, department spokesperson Av Harris said. The two facilities were among several around the state that opened earlier in the pandemic but later closed as virus rates dropped over the summer.
The reopenings come as Connecticut on Friday surpassed 100,000 positive coronavirus tests since the pandemic began, and as public and private schools saw a 70% increase in positive student tests compared with last week.
Two other centers in East Hartford and Wallingford have remained open during the pandemic. They’re designed to treat COVID-19 patients discharged from the hospital before they return to nursing homes and other locations.
“This helps those nursing homes manage their COVID-19 outbreaks through infection control measures such as cohorting their residents appropriately and offering maximum protection to those residents who are COVID negative,” Harris said in an email to The Associated Press.
Harris also said the centers help free up hospital beds by caring for patients who no longer need acute care. He added that Connecticut hospitals currently have adequate space to treat COVID-19 patients.
The facility in Meriden, at the former Westfield Care and Rehabilitation Center, had already exceeded its initial capacity of 30 by one patient on Friday and set up another 30 beds because of increasing infections, said Tim Brown, marketing and communications director at Athena Health Care Systems, which runs the facility. The building can house up to 90 patients.
The number of Connecticut nursing home residents who are testing positive for the coronavirus and dying from the disease has more than tripled over the past month amid a second COVID-19 surge statewide, according to the latest state data released Thursday. Positive tests among assisted living facility residents have doubled, but deaths have remained steady at three or four per week.
For the week of Nov. 11 to 17, there were 306 nursing home residents who tested positive for the virus and 39 died, compared with 71 positive tests and 15 deaths during the week of Oct. 14 to 20. During the same period, the number of staff members infected increased from 86 to 262, but none of them died, state data show.
In assisted living facilities, 59 residents tested positive and three died during the week of Nov. 11 to 17, compared with 27 positive cases and no deaths the week of Oct. 14 to 20. Employee infections rose from 39 to 66 over the same period, but no deaths were reported.
The increasing infections correspond to statewide and nationwide increases in coronavirus infections and deaths. Since Oct. 20, the number of daily positive virus tests in the state has increased from about 430 to nearly 2,100. Daily virus-related deaths have increased from five to 23 over the same period, and hospitalizations have risen from about 220 to nearly 850.
To date, about 101,470 people in Connecticut have tested positive for the virus and nearly 4,830 have died.
Gov. Ned Lamont said Thursday that he was concerned about the virus resurgence in nursing homes.
“Most of our nursing homes now do have an infection ... not outbreaks but infections,” he said. “Don’t go visit right now. Do not go visit right now. ... If you want to keep your loved ones safe that’s our strongest recommendation going forward.”
In other coronavirus-related news in Connecticut:
SCHOOL CASES INCREASING
Nearly 1,150 Connecticut public and private school students have tested positive for the coronavirus since last week, a 70% increase compared with the previous weeklong period. And nearly 490 educators tested positive, up 49%, according to data released this week by the state Department of Education.
State Education Commissioner Miguel Cardona said Friday that Connecticut is not seeing mass transmission in schools and most of the infections are linked to activities outside of school, The Hartford Courant reported. Some school districts, however, have moved from in-person to remote learning because of rising virus rates.
Connecticut has nearly 528,000 public school students and 52,000 educators.
Of the latest students in prekindergarten through Grade 12 to test positive, 348 attend in-person classes full time, 508 take part in a hybrid of in-person and remote learning and 274 are in fully remote learning.
Positive tests increased 51% for students learning completely in-person, 58% for those in hybrid programs and 138% for those learning remotely, compared with the previous week.