Mayor: Stamford averages 80 new COVID cases per day

Photo of Verónica Del Valle

STAMFORD — Like most weeks, Mayor David Martin began his weekly coronavirus update by emphasizing the scope of suffering due to the virus across the United States.

“To give you a comparison, there have been almost as many deaths of COVID-19 since last February as there have been in all American combat fatalities — in World War II, in the Korean War, in the Vietnam War, in the wars in the Gulf and Afghanistan and Iraq. All the the combat fatalities since the beginning of World War II, that’s how big this number is,” Martin said Tuesday before briefing city residents on the latest local COVID-19 numbers.

Stamford is currently averaging about 80 new COVID cases per day, Martin said, adding that the early 2021 numbers were “not quite as bad as (they) were after Thanksgiving.” But he discouraged making any early judgments on the holiday season’s impact on the spread of the coronavirus.

Also, another five residents have died from COVID-19 since the last update, bringing the city’s death count up to 244 since the pandemic hit last March, according to data from the Department of Public Health.

“It’s a little bit early to say what’s really happening after Christmas and New Year’s,” Martin said. “Cases from New Year’s and the week before New Year’s won’t be showing up until next Tuesday.”

Dr. Jennifer Calder, city director of health, counterbalanced Martin’s talk with updates about the COVID-19 vaccine rollout that was tempered with a little more optimism. Stamford’s vaccination program had immunized 3,510 people as of Tuesday, she said.

That figure represents 2.7 percent of Stamford’s nearly 130,000 residents. Stamford Health said it administered 3,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine to its staff and other healthcare providers, while a newly established vaccine clinic through the Stamford Department of Health inoculated another 510 healthcare workers with the Moderna vaccine.

This week, Stamford Health began to administer second doses of the vaccine, and DPH is expected to start in two weeks.

Nobody has experienced a serious or adverse reaction to the vaccine in Stamford, Calder said.

“What we’re seeing is what you’d traditionally see with a flu shot,” she said.

But there is another possible problem on the horizon, said Dr. Michael Parry, Stamford Health’s head of infectious diseases. A coronavirus variant has begun popping up all around the country, with the first cases in the state reported on Thursday.

“Over the last many months, mutations have occurred, and most of the time, they are inconsequential,” said Parry. “But every now and then, mutations that accumulate — and that’s what’s happened now in the U.K. — is multiple mutations have occurred within the same virus, and this seems to have impacted its ability to spread from person to person.”

While the U.K. variant of COVID-19 is estimated to be about 70 percent more transmissible, according to the medical journal, The Lancet, Parry said the variant is no cause for panic. He emphasized that the variant doesn’t increase the death rate or the severity of the illness.

The current testing and vaccine infrastructure still protects residents against the COVID variant, Parry said. But he encouraged vigilance moving forward as mutation continues and the variant spreads. Too many mutations could have serious implications for reinfection and the vaccine, Parry said.

“These questions haven’t been answered, and — at the moment — they don’t seem to be relevant,” Parry said. “But depending on what mutations happen, they could be, so this is something we need to track.”

Two cases of the COVID-19 variant had been detected in New Haven County as of Thursday.