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A Yale-New Haven Health COVID-19 testing site at Stonington Human Services in September. Sun file photo

STONINGTON — A spike in COVID-19 has led to 117 new cases being diagnosed in the community within the past two weeks, pushing the town's average daily case rate to 45 and exceeding even the highest rate reached during the 2020 holiday season.

Cases in in the Ledge Light Health District's nine member towns in southeastern Connecticut have continued to rise over the past month now, with 501 total new cases in the week ending Dec. 4. The trend carries both positive and negative news, with the number of hospitalizations lower than a year ago but overall case rates higher.

Stephen Mansfield, director of health for the Ledge Light Health District, said unfortunately trends do not show the case rate letting up anytime soon.

"There is a sharp increase in the number of new COVID cases within our jurisdiction, which is consistent with an increase in COVID cases statewide, according to Department of Public Health data," Mansfield said in a press release. "Unfortunately, we expect this trend to continue as we move into the holiday season."

In Stonington, the average daily case rate has climbed higher than it has been since mid-January. At 45 cases per day, the town has the second highest rate next to Ledyard at 45.4, and has maintained a higher rate for three consecutive weeks than the community reached at any point during the 2020 holiday season. On the final day of December last year, the town's rate reached a holiday season high daily case rate of 31.

North Stonington has also struggled in recent weeks, with a daily case rate that exceeded 41 just before Thanksgiving ans remained there since.

Stonington First Selectman Danielle Chesebrough said Monday that officials are continuing to monitor the situation and are working to enhance public communication campaigns regard to vaccinations, testing and updated safety protocols.

"Internally, we are constantly monitoring the situation to make sure we are doing what is best for our residents and town employees," Chesebrough said. "The message right now is that vaccinations are incredibly important in helping prevent significant symptoms, and the best way as community to protect each other is to test often and to take precautions."

As Chesebrough notes, however, the latest figures aren't all negative.

Despite seeing more active cases than a year ago, the number of hospitalizations in the region are down considerably over the same period and the number of COVID-related deaths have also dropped exponentially since this time last year.

According to data from the Connecticut Department of Public Health, there were 80 hospitalizations within the Ledge Light Health District during the week ending Dec. 11, 2021. This year, there were just 44 for the same period.

The state also reported just three deaths related to COVID-19 within the health district's nine member towns over the past three weeks, compared to a rate of just over 1 per day a year ago.

To try and combat the latest spike, Chesebrough said the town is continuing to promote vaccination events and testing on its website, and is hosting weekly testing and ride scheduling for homebound residents who need assistance weekly through Stonington Human Services. The town has also expressed interest to Ledge Light in holding a vaccination clinic as the district seeks to host more such events in the future.

During the holiday season, both Chesebrough and Mansfield encouraged residents who may have been exposed to test, even if they are a-symptomatic, and to quarantine when necessary to avoid transmitting COVID-19 to others.

Mansfield said the district would also continue to work with towns and schools to monitor the situation and would suggest additional action if necessary in the interest of public health.

"It is imperative that we remain diligent in our mitigation strategies," he said. "We strongly advise everyone to continue to wear masks indoors in public settings, regardless of vaccination status."

For more information about vaccines, COVID-19 transmission rates and other resources, visit llhd.org/coronavirus-covid-19-situation.

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