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Norwalk epidemiologist offers COVID-19 update, warns of ticks

A slide from Norwalk epidemiologist Brian Weeks’ presentation to the Board of Health on Tuesday. Gray is good – it means less than five COVID-19 cases per 100,000 of the population, he said.

NORWALK, Conn. — While you’re worrying about COVID-19 variants, you need to also keep in mind that mosquitos and ticks are also capable of causing diseases.

Dump the stagnant water from wherever it’s collected in your backyard and check your pets, the City’s new epidemiologist, Brian Weeks, said Tuesday, after delivering a very detailed COVID-19 update to the Board of Health.  

Norwalk and the State of Connecticut are doing very well overall with COVID-19, he said, with less than five cases per 100,000 people in almost every Connecticut community. He explained that’s obviously linked to seasonality, vaccination efforts and prevention, and others talked of the push to get Norwalkers vaccinated, mentioning creative efforts such as visiting laundromats.

Variants are “obviously, the big thing we’re all focused on,” Weeks said. The State has the Delta variant at .5% of cases from March 2 to June 2, but Weeks said the CDC’s data for the four weeks leading to May 22 was probably more accurate, due to many variables. The Delta variant is at 3% in the CDC data.

The U.K. variant was at 41.5% in the State data and 55% in the CDC data, according to Weeks. The Delta variant’s percentage is increasing and it’s 40 to 50% more transmissible.

“It’s obviously a bit of an uphill battle,” Weeks said. “But we do have, again, the wind at our backs because we are having the summertime, so people are able to social distance more. People are aware of prevention measures, we obviously better understand COVID. And obviously, vaccination, the efforts are much higher, and they will continue forward, as the summertime goes forward.”

The five-per-100,000 stat is for May 30 to June 12, the most recent State data available, he said. But data pulled Monday shows there have been 11,570 cases and 225 deaths here, with the 20-29-year-old set having the highest percentage of cases at 23.8%, and the 10-19 segment tied with those 30-39 and 60-69 at about 14.3%.

“Part of our messaging is going to be including this age group, along with just kind of like the standard precautions relative to less than 50 years of age, but nonetheless, not ignoring … and overlooking the fact that … we are still seeing, especially in the 60- to 69-year-old age group having a decent sized proportion in terms of COVID cases,” Weeks said.

Outreach to promote vaccinations includes the news that “one of the biggest things is obviously reducing the severity of disease, so no hospitalization” or “other kinds of complications that might occur, especially if obviously, people are fully vaccinated,” he said. And anyone who’s planning to travel should be aware of the Delta variant and “other variants that might not even be known.”

Project Manager Maura Faugno said vaccination efforts have included visiting daycares and administering doses to workers and families. It’s also an opportunity to share information and “really bringing the vaccine to people really helps.”

“It’s not necessarily that they’re really hesitant, it’s just, they just don’t have time. They’re busy. They’re, you know, working families,” she said. “so just coming when they are picking up their children from their daycare provider, and being able to vaccinate them right there on site was really helpful. So we didn’t have to do much convincing, they were just very happy that we were able to vaccinate them on site.”

A clinic is planned for next week at Saint Joseph And Saint Ladislaus Parish in South Norwalk, and, “We’re also partnering with the Summer Meals Program,” she said.

Board member Ken Lalime asked about outreach to local businesses, maybe having clinics in lobbies.

“I’ve been thinking about that,” she replied, suggesting that clinics and educational sessions might be held in shopping centers.  Workers have already visited a South Norwalk laundromat “where they’ve gotten a whole bunch of people” who were washing their clothes or waiting for the drier.

She was thinking of going into stores and asking if workers would be interested in being vaccinated the next day, she said.

“That last 15% or 20%, or whatever, is going to be difficult to find. But those are the kind of techniques that we’re going to need to to get people vaccinated,” Lamine said.

Weeks said that anyone interested in COVID-19 stats should check out the weekly reports coming from the Mayor’s office on Fridays.

But, “Don’t forget, there’s also other diseases and other public health concerns and threats out there,” he said. “…With this great, you know, warm and wet weather that we’re having is also the vector for diseases.”

Two Connecticut residents reportedly tested positive for Powassan virus infection last week. One lives in Fairfield County.

Powassan spreads to people through the bite of an infected Black-legged (“deer”) tick (Ixodes scapularis), the Connecticut Department of Public Health states. The virus can cause severe disease. There is no vaccine to prevent or medicine to treat it.

Check yourself for ticks but also check your pets, Weeks said Tuesday.

While it’s early for mosquitoes, “they are a nuisance right now. And this is really opportunity to really stem the flow of mosquitoes in the population,” Weeks said. You should be “making an effort to really dump out any sorts of sources that can collect water,” be it tires in the yard, the birdbath, garbage pail lids or flowerpots, because “a small amount of water can help house mosquito larvae and you know, it takes about a little more than a week for them to develop into full-fledged mosquitoes.”

“The big thing right now is not only just reducing the risk of transmission of West Nile virus, Triple E, to the population, but also just reducing…the opportunity for mosquitoes to expand their geography, right, because that also creates opportunities in future seasons, where those mosquitoes are now established,” he said, comparing it to slowing the spread of COVID-19 in the early months.

“If people can really just be on top of that and help with the messaging, to really not have, you know, epidemics upon epidemics and pandemics and all that kind of stuff,” he said. “Let’s help kind of work on mitigating the vector borne diseases as well because we don’t need anything else complicating our lives, as COVID has done a great job doing that already.”

COVID19 Update – June 18, 2021

2 comments

Skip Hagerty June 24, 2021 at 10:44 am

It sounds like Mr. Weeks feels that young healthy kids, who are at essentially no risk of being severely ill from Covid, should still get a vaccine. It would be nice if the reporter had asked what risks kids face as a result of taking the vaccine. What are the stats on that?

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