The Perfect Enemy | ‘Many of us are contemplating closing doors’: Health centers still reeling 3 years after Conn.’s first COVID-19 patient - FOX61 Hartford
April 9, 2024

‘Many of us are contemplating closing doors’: Health centers still reeling 3 years after Conn.’s first COVID-19 patient – FOX61 Hartford

‘Many of us are contemplating closing doors’: Health centers still reeling 3 years after Conn.’s first COVID-19 patient  FOX61 Hartford

In three years, Connecticut lost more than 12,000 lives; several million have been vaccinated against COVID-19.

HARTFORD, Conn. — Wednesday marks three years since Connecticut’s first COVID-19 patient was diagnosed and treated at Danbury Hospital. Connecticut’s proximity to New York meant the state experienced the pandemic before much of the country.  

The Nutmeg State has come a long way in three years but the virus is still here and still making people sick.

Since March 8, 2020, Connecticut has lost more than 12,000 people to the virus, including many of the most vulnerable in nursing homes. Several million residents have been vaccinated. But the impacts are lasting, especially on health workers and health systems.

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“We’ve come a long way,” said DPH Commissioner Manisha Juthani. “I think we need to take a moment to remember all those we lost over this period of time, have gratefulness for all we’ve been able to accomplish and think about how we can take care of people better.”

At the onset of the pandemic, more than 1,900 people were hospitalized across Connecticut. Hospitalizations were even higher amid the Omicron wave. Now, about 200 people are hospitalized. 

“That just gives a reflection of the burden on our healthcare system, which is at a relative low point,” Juthani said. 

From ramping up vaccine distribution across the state to oral at-home treatments like Paxlovid, three years marks major advancements in prevention and treatment. But the pandemic forced health systems to transform the way they operate with many centers still reeling from it.

“Health centers are still struggling from the aftermath and the aftershock,” said Nichelle Mullins, CEO, Charter Oak Health Center, which tested more than 40,000 people in one Hartford neighborhood. “They didn’t have access to testing anywhere else. That was another thing that surfaced during the pandemic, health inequities,” Mullins said. 

Now, 16 federally funded health centers across Connecticut are seeking to provide the same services with fewer resources since pandemic funding went away.

Mullins added, “Many of us are contemplating closing doors, laying staff off, reducing our hours because there isn’t wide level support for health centers in this state.”

Monday, March 13, will mark three years since Hartford HealthCare saw its first COVID-19 patient. Amid the pandemic, the system expanded Telehealth services and extended outreach efforts into neighborhoods, working alongside community partners.

“Not waiting for people to come to us but recognizing that we had to meet people where they were,” said James Cadon, chief integration officer for Hartford HealthCare. “All stemming from lessons learned coming out of COVID.” 

Since the virus is still infecting people in Connecticut, the Department of Health is pushing for more people to get the latest booster that came out in the fall, which it says protects against current strain of the virus. For more information on the COVID-19 vaccine or booster, visit vaccines.gov.

Samaia Hernandez is a reporter for FOX61 News. She can be reached at shernandez@fox61.com. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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