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Expect an uptick in COVID-19 and flu cases, Connecticut’s public health expert warns

HARTFORD, CT - February 22, 2021: Trinity Health RN Kayla Bennett gives Hartford resident James Watts his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at a neighborhood vaccine clinic at the Parker Memorial Community Center. (Ryan Caron King / Connecticut Public)
Ryan Caron King
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Connecticut Public
COVID-19 and flu immunizations are being encouraged by Connecticut's Department of Public Health to fend off an expected increase in cases.

Now’s the time to get the COVID-19 booster and flu shots – especially with winter approaching.

Dr. Manisha Juthani, commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Public Health, speaks Thursday, July 28, during a press conference outside Hartford’s InterCommunity Health Care aimed at dispelling misinformation about how monkeypox is spread.
Mark Mirko
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Connecticut Public
Dr. Manisha Juthani

“We hit 400 patients with COVID in the hospital about a week ago,” said Dr. Manisha Juthani, Connecticut’s public health commissioner. “I do expect that that number will continue to rise over the next couple of weeks.”

Juthani told Connecticut Public Radio’s “Where We Live” that her department is also monitoring the flu across the state. Less mask usage this winter may result in more flu cases.

“Flu has been low for the last couple of years,” Juthani said. “We do anticipate it’s going to be much higher this year; we already see activity. We’re expecting a worse flu season than usual.”

Still, there’s good news. According to the CDC and hospital systems, with vaccines, people are protected against the severity of both the flu and COVID-19. Juthani said the new COVID bivalent booster would prevent people from getting severely sick. Connecticut has administered close to 100,000 doses since early September.

Workforce shortages 

Ahead of the anticipated uptick in COVID and flu cases, Connecticut, like the rest of the U.S., is facing nursing shortages.

“Health care workers are still doing their part that they do every single day in hospitals,” Juthani said. “There are people who certainly have left the workforce. There have been several state initiatives to bolster workforce development. But these types of initiatives take time.”

Connecticut launched a higher education program earlier this year to build up the pipeline of nurses, funded by the American Rescue Plan Act.

Emily Caminiti contributed to this report.   

Sujata Srinivasan is Connecticut Public Radio’s senior health reporter. Prior to that, she was a senior producer for Where We Live, a newsroom editor, and from 2010-2014, a business reporter for the station.