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Connecticut and local governments feel the pressure of Omicron

A COVID-19 vaccine being prepared at the New York State drive-thru vaccination site at Plattsburgh International Airport.
Office of N.Y. Gov. Andrew Cuomo

COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations are on the decline in Connecticut. In large part, that’s because of a surge in self-testing for coronavirus, state health officials said. As of Monday, nearly 1,900 Connecticut residents were hospitalized with COVID-19.

Connecticut distributed over 3 million COVID-19 self-tests since the beginning of the New Year, with about 1 million distributed over the past weekend. Thousands more self-tests are expected in the coming days.

Most have gone to schools and municipalities to give to students, staff and other frontline workers who need to test regularly, including elected officials. Data revealed last week showed Connecticut schools broke records for new infections last week, with 7,600 students and 2,300 staff testing positive for COVID-19.

In addition, U.S. Rep. Johanna Hayes (D-CT), state Representatives Antonio Felipe and Steve Stafstrom, top members of Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim’s staff and City Council President Aidee Nieves tested positive for COVID-19.

The state Capitol complex in Hartford will be shut down on Wednesdays and Fridays at least through the end of the month, even though the next legislative session is set to begin on February 9. This has been due to the 42-member State Capitol Police force being cut by about half because of coronavirus infections, and many legislative staffers are out because of the virus.

Several eastern Connecticut towns have shifted to virtual meetings to adjust to staffing challenges. Yale University instructed its students returning for the Spring semester to avoid local businesses, restaurants and bars in New Haven until February 7 to reduce the spread of the virus on campus.

However, despite a downturn in infections, Connecticut hospitals are at 83% bed capacity with 25% of the beds occupied by coronavirus patients, according to federal agencies. The state averages about 270 new coronavirus patients per week.

On Long Island, over 1,000 new patients were admitted to Suffolk County hospitals over the last week. That means new hospital admissions are up 7%.

New York also ended its contact tracing program for the coronavirus. Governor Kathy Hochul called the overwhelming number of cases nearly impossible to track. Instead, the state will divert resources to increase testing, vaccinations for New Yorkers 5 years old and up and supporting hospitals.

A new analysis from Columbia University found that the majority of New Yorkers who lost income during the pandemic were already living in poverty and people of color. The report comes as advocates have called for the state to resupply the New York’s $2 billion Excluded Worker Fund to provide relief to undocumented workers who weren’t able to obtain unemployment benefits.

About 14,500 Long Island homeowners are behind on their mortgages, as New York’s eviction and foreclosure moratoriums ended over the weekend. The state has $539 million in relief available through the Homeowner Assistance Fund.

Clare is a former news fellow with WSHU Public Radio.
A native Long Islander, J.D. is WSHU's managing editor. He also hosts the climate podcast Higher Ground. J.D. reports for public radio stations across the Northeast, is a journalism educator and proud SPJ member.