Rise in COVID-19 cases pushes Greenwich into ‘red’ zone, but low numbers in town schools

The Greenwich Board of Education Building in Greenwich, Conn., photographed on Thursday, Aug. 13, 2020.

The Greenwich Board of Education Building in Greenwich, Conn., photographed on Thursday, Aug. 13, 2020.

File / Tyler Sizemore / Hearst Connecticut Media

GREENWICH — Cases of COVID-19 are on the rise in town, although confirmed cases remain relatively low in the schools.

With the students and staff out of the classroom for the long Thanksgiving weekend, the Greenwich Public Schools reported six new cases of COVID-19, according to the Friday update of the district’s online tracker.

Overall, town officials said this week COVID-19 cases are rising across Greenwich, with 65 cases since Nov. 16 and one death reported, as well as seven patients at Greenwich Hospital currently admitted with the virus. Greenwich has moved into the “red” because of the increase in reported cases town-wide.

Friday, town and health officials said they expected the uptick and were prepared for it; First Selectman Fred Camillo said he did not plan to change the current open status of town buildings.

In recent months, Camillo relaxed restrictions on masks in both private and town buildings while saying they would continue to monitor the situation and follow state and federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines. He said the uptick was expected given that colder months mean more people indoors where the virus can spread more easily. He urged people to continue to be careful.

“That’s why I’ve said to never throw those masks away,” Camillo said on Friday. “You never know when you’re going to need them again. We have the colder weather and we have new variants. …We’re going to keep things open and do it in as safe a matter as possible. Whatever comes we’ll be ready for it.”

He said he was not considering at this time putting stronger restrictions back in place.

“We’re going to keep monitoring things as we have been since day one,” Camillo said. “We continue to encourage people to get vaccinated. We’re close to 90 percent for people who have had their initial vaccinations so that’s really good and we have the boosters available now. That will help mitigate things. We knew the spikes were coming. We’re where we thought we would be and we’re encouraged by the vaccination rates in town.”

Greenwich Hospital President Diane Kelly said the town is “on average where we have been.”

“We’re watching it closely. We’d like to see no patients with COVID but we’re perfectly able to care for seven,” she said.

“What I would say to people as we head into flu season and the COVID winter months,” she continued, is “it is so critical that people wear their masks appropriately, are getting both of their vaccines and now to get their booster shots.”

The report of an increasing number of cases of COVID-19 is occurring as children ages 5 to 11 became eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. The CDC gave final approval earlier this month for young children to get size-appropriate doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

On Tuesday, the school district reported nine new cases of COVID-19, according to the tracker. Nine new cases were also reported on Nov. 19. The district updates the tracker every Tuesday and Friday to keep the school community updated on the COVID-19 pandemic.

The total number of COVID-19 cases reported in Greenwich schools now stands at 55 for the month of November and 142 since classes began on Sept. 1.

A total of 58 cases were reported in September and 29 cases in October, according to the tracker.

As of Friday, there were 23 active cases in Greenwich schools, impacting eight buildings, according to the tracker.

There were nine active COVID-19 cases reported at Riverside School; three at Greenwich High; two each at Cos Cob, Eastern Middle, New Lebanon, North Street and Old Greenwich; and one at Parkway, according to the tracker.

Of the 23 active cases in Greenwich schools, 17 were reported among students; two cases each among teachers and service providers, and one each among administrators and non-teaching staff.

Of the active cases, 14 were attributed to family or outside activity; eight of undetermined origin; and one due to in-school transmission, according to the district. Some 22 families reported multiple cases of COVID-19 affecting 51 individuals, according to the tracker.

For the 2020-21 school year, a total of 697 cases of COVID-19 were reported district-wide.

The schools were closed Thursday and Friday for a four-day weekend for the Thanksgiving holiday, giving students and staff a break.

The Connecticut Department of Public Health and Griffin Hospital hosted vaccine clinics at three elementary schools in Greenwich for children in the new cohort to receive their first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, according to Jonathan Supranowitz, director of communications for the Greenwich Public Schools.

“We had more than 460 total children, ages 5 to 11, get their first vaccination dose at our three clinics. All of these children were given appointments for their second doses as well,” Supranowitz said.

Vaccination clinics have also begun at Greenwich Hospital, and appointments are required by calling 833-275-9644 or visiting www.ynhhs.org/covidvaccine. There is high demand for the children’s vaccination, said Magaly Olivero, coordinator of public and media relations at Greenwich Hospital.

Children can also receive COVID-19 vaccines at some drug stores and at pediatricians’ offices, Olivero said.

Statewide as of last Thursday, 13 percent of children between the ages of 5 and 11 had received their first dose of the vaccine, according to Gov. Ned Lamont’s office. That’s about 36,000 doses that have been administered to this age group, which became eligible on Nov. 2.

The increase in new cases is also mirrored in the overall number of COVID-19 cases reported among students and staff in Connecticut public and private schools over the past week. In total, 781 new student cases were reported in the state’s schools over the past week, the data shows, while 194 cases were reported among employees. Both numbers have increased statewide since the end of October and beginning of November and increased from last Thursday, the last date the state updated its data. The state updates its student tracker on Thursdays but this week was a federal holiday.

The town of Greenwich also reported a recent increase in the rate of infection. From Oct. 31 to Nov. 13, the rate of positivity rose to 2.6, with 10.7 new cases per 100,000 population. That was up from a positivity rate of 1 or lower throughout October, according to the tracker.

The most recent information — as of Nov. 20 — now shows the town’s positivity rate at 5.5 percent with 15.8 new cases per 100,000 population.

On Wednesday, according to the town’s Department of Health there are 80 COVID-19 cases that it considers “active” in town. By comparison, the number of COVID-19 cases being monitored on Nov. 10 was 28.

“I think people still need to practice precautions, especially when gathering over the holidays and not knowing if the people they’re gathering with are vaccinated,” said Dana Marnane, director of public relations and communications for the Yale New Haven Health System. “Wear masks. Wash hands and, yes, get vaccinated. Get your booster if you’re eligible.”

Greenwich’s death toll from COVID-19 now stands at 97 since the pandemic began, with a total of 6,057 cases recorded since March 2020.

In general, vaccination numbers continue to be strong in Greenwich. According to numbers put out by the town on Wednesday, in the age range of 12 to 17, 96.38 percent are partially vaccinated and 87.83 percent are fully vaccinated. For people age 18-24 in town, 93.36 percent are partially vaccinated and 81.25 are fully vaccinated.

The 45 to 64 age range has 87.88 percent of people partially vaccinated and 81.56 fully vaccinated. And for the age group of 65 and older, 100 percent are partially vaccinated and 90.95 percent are fully vaccinated.

The only demographic that is not at least 80 percent are people age 25 to 44. The number of people in thar age range is at 74.94 percent and fully vaccinated is at 66.66 percent.

“For people who are not vaccinated, I will continue to urge them to rethink that,” Camillo said.

The town is holding clinics from 1 to 4 p.m. Dec. 1 and 8 at Town Hall to provide Moderna booster shots to eligible people 18 and older. People will need to register in advance through the VAMS system and bring proof of their previous vaccinations as well as identification.

While the clinic for Dec. 1 is fully booked, there were appointments for Dec. 8 still available as of Wednesday afternoon.