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COVID cases among CT students halved, child hospitalizations down

Omicron continues to retreat to Connecticut schools.

Preliminary data from Thursday showed the number of student cases has nearly halved this week, while new infections reported by teachers and staff have also fallen. The increased availability of COVID-19 test kits in recent weeks may also contribute to more reliable numbers, although not all cases are being reported to schools.

Statewide, this has resulted in fewer school building and district closures, fewer combined classes in gymnasiums and cafeterias, and less teacher coverage needed on a daily basis. Fewer children have also been hospitalized with COVID-19 this week – a welcome development that has lagged behind adults.

“I don’t mean to exaggerate,” said Kate Dias, president of the Connecticut Education Association, the state’s largest teachers’ union. “But I think we’re in a much better place.”

Early state data Thursday showed 6,024 students and 1,138 school staff reported COVID-19 infections over the past week — decreases of 46% and 35% from the previous week. , respectively. The state Department of Public Health is also regularly updating data which, as the surge wanes, could suggest cases peaked in Connecticut schools the first two weeks after winter break. .

The availability of testing has also continued to increase in recent weeks, with many schools distributing home testing kits to students and staff. Last week, the state delivered 350,000 self-tests to cities for K-12 students and teachers, child care programs, first responders and other frontline city workers, according to state data. The governor’s office had distributed 1.4 million tests to students and teachers before then, they said.

Dias said the abundance of home testing has made it more efficient for schools to shift from contact tracing to symptom monitoring, especially as strategies such as social distancing have been difficult with larger classes. large.

“We’re really at very minimal interventions in schools,” Dias said.

Along with the test kits, the state also delivered N95s to teachers and school staff — part of an effort to distribute 6 million high-quality masks across the state. The union leader has expressed support for masks in schools until public health experts advise against it, and wondered if a statewide mask mandate should expire before then.

“I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the increase in the availability of these masks has coincided with the reduction in this number of adults infected with the virus,” Dias said. “I’m very concerned that this is becoming a local situation, where teachers get stuck in a debate they don’t need.”

She added that masks build confidence for teachers entering spaces with largely unvaccinated populations, as many elementary classrooms are in Connecticut.

Children ages 5 to 11 have been eligible for the COVID vaccine for almost three months. But 43% of that age group received at least one dose, according to state data, compared to 79% of 12- to 15-year-olds or 86% of 16- and 17-year-olds.

“I would like to see those numbers be higher,” said Dr. Magna Dias, chair of pediatrics at Bridgeport Hospital. “That being said, this is a significant improvement from just a few weeks ago.”

“While adult cases have started to turn around with this latest omicron push, we haven’t seen this turnaround as quickly for children,” the doctor said. “And that’s because it’s a much less vaccinated population, so there were still more people that it could infect.”

Youth hospitalizations followed a similar trend. Overall hospitalizations fell for the first time in Connecticut in three weeks in mid-January – but the children’s situation lagged a few weeks.

“For children, just in the last week we have finally started to see the number of hospitalizations turn around,” Dr. Dias said.

She encouraged parents to speak with their pediatricians or attend a pop-up clinic at Bridgeport Hospital on Feb. 12 to ask questions in a “judgment-free” zone.

“Unfortunately, COVID is not a mild disease for children,” she said, “and although most children do very well, we don’t know the long-term effects of COVID. on the health of our children.