COVID-19 shows no signs of stopping with 250,000 Americans dead, cases rising in Connecticut
Here’s a rundown of how Connecticut and UConn are dealing with the increase of cases, how the pandemic is affecting young people, and the hopes of a viable vaccine.
More than a quarter of a million people have died from COVID-19 in the United States, and the pandemic has shown no sign of slowing down. Hospitals are becoming overwhelmed around the country. On Wednesday alone, there were 166,000 new cases and 1,800 people died from the virus.
The rise in cases is especially concerning with Thanksgiving around the corner. The Center for Disease Control has recommended against traveling for the holiday. A second wave of COVID-19 has arrived as temperatures have gotten colder. Here’s a rundown of how Connecticut and UConn are dealing with the increase of cases, how millennials are being affected by the continuing pandemic, and the hopes of a working vaccine on the horizon.
Connecticut steps up safety measures
COVID cases, hospitalizations and deaths are all on the rise here in Connecticut. Gov. Ned Lamont acknowledged the state is in the middle of a second wave. Nearly all of Connecticut’s cities and towns (96%) are now under red alert status, and the positivity rate is up to 6.5%. The death toll is now up to 4,805.
Graphic by Allison O’Donnell. Data source: Centers for Disease Control
Despite the rapid increase in COVID cases, Lamont does not want Connecticut to enter a full lockdown like it did in the spring. He instead stressed the need for “interstate collaboration and a regional approach to slowing the spread of the virus,” according to Hartford Courant.
Lamont has recently instituted stricter safety measures, including closing restaurants by 10 p.m. and restricting indoor gatherings to 10 people. He is also mandating the wearing of masks in public, and recommends people stay home between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.
Gyms, places of worship and restaurants remain open, but with reduced capacity. The measures in Connecticut are more relaxed than in states like New York and New Jersey, which both have stricter capacity limits for gyms and restaurants.
Not everyone is satisfied with these measures, though. New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker has called for the state to return to Phase 1 of the reopening plan after 9 city restaurants were closed for COVID violations. New Haven currently has an infection rate of 19 cases per 100,000 people and has been a coronavirus hotspot for a month.
UConn provides exit testing as students leave campus
The surge of COVID cases has also been felt here in Storrs. As of November 19, there were 66 positive cases at UConn. On Wednesday, 40 off-campus students tested positive for COVID according to an email from Eleanor JB Daugherty, the Associate Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students. This is a new high, and reflects the rapid rise in COVID-19 cases even locally.
The entire UConn campus was recently put under quarantine in an effort to reduce the spread of the virus. Exit testing was also provided to all students before they left campus for Thanksgiving break, which follows the advice from Governor Lamont and other governors from neighboring states such as Massachusetts and New York, who have advised all colleges to also give exit testing. Nearly 7,000 students tested over the past 5 days, according to a Thursday email from the Dean of Students.
The pandemic has worsened mental health and disrupted lives for many
Younger people are not just feeling the health effects from the pandemic—it’s also affecting their employment, living situations and mental health. According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), younger people express the greatest concern over the impact of the pandemic on “mental well-being, employment, income loss, disruptions to education, familial relations and friendships, as well as a limitation to individual freedoms.”
The OECD also found that people aged 25 and under are 2.5 times more likely to be without a job than the 26-64 age group, and that graduating during a recession can have a “scarring effect” on wages. The pandemic has forced many young people to move back home as well, as more than 50% of 18- to 29-year olds are now living with their parents.
The pandemic has also affected the mental health of young people. In October 2020, more than 47% of young adults were showing at least moderate depressive symptoms, according to a study led by Massachusetts General Hospital.
Vaccine on the horizon
Pfizer and Moderna both recently announced that their COVID-19 vaccines were proven to be 95% effective at preventing illness, signaling that a viable vaccine may be arriving soon. The companies are seeking emergency authorization from the FDA for the experimental vaccine, according to The Washington Post. Some 40 million doses of the vaccine are expected to be available by the end of the year. The vaccine will require two doses to be effective.
Pfizer’s results from its experimental vaccine will be analyzed by the FDA as well as an independent advisory committee that advises the agency. This committee will likely meet the second week of December, and will meet the week after to discuss the Moderna vaccine.
The process of approving the vaccine is being rushed. Usually, the FDA examines vaccine data for at least a year before meeting with its advisory committee. The FDA has stated that it might take a couple of weeks to make a final decision on the vaccine after it meets with the committee.
According to a Gallup poll, 58% of Americans say that they would immediately take a COVID-19 vaccine, which is up from 50% in September.
Inaction in the White House
As COVID-19 continues to ravage the nation, President Trump has made few public appearances since the election was called for Joe Biden. He has also refused to cooperate with Biden’s presidential transition team. Biden called for Trump to start an official transition on Wednesday.
“Soon, we're going to be behind by weeks and months being able to put together the whole initiative relating to the biggest promise we have with two drug companies coming along and finding 95% effectiveness, efficiency in the vaccines, which is enormous promise,” Biden said. The president-elect met with several Republican and Democrat governors from the National Governors Association on Thursday to discuss how his administration could help states overcome the pandemic.
Biden has pledged to mandate mask wearing, work with governors to impose similar local restrictions, and expand testing and contact tracing efforts. Without Trump’s cooperation with the transition though, there is not much the Biden administration can do until he is sworn into office on January 20.