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Across Yale New Haven Health, COVID-19 cases have plummeted

COVID-19 hospitalizations at the five hospitals in the Yale New Haven Health system have declined by 45% over the past two weeks, YNHH officials reported Tuesday, with a third of those admitted having been vaccinated against the disease.

Not all of the vaccinated truly should be considered “breakthrough” cases, however, Dr. Thomas Balcezak, YNHH’s chief clinical officer, said during a virtual news briefing. That’s because some of those counted as COVID-19 patients arrive at the hospital for care that is unrelated to COVID-19, exhibit no symptoms of the disease and only are found to be infected because YNHH routinely tests all patients.

Only about 10% of the COVID-19 patients who are vaccinated exhibit symptoms, Balcezak said.

Of YNHH’s 74 COVID-19 patients Tuesday, 41 were at Yale New Haven Hospital, 21 were at Bridgeport Hospital, three were at Greenwich Hospital, six were at Lawrence + Memorial Hospital in New London and three were at Westerly Hospital, where hospitalizations had climbed to 15 at the beginning of the month.

Statewide, Tuesday’s hospitalizations were down by 15 to 294 since the day before, while 394 new cases were detected among 13,932 test results, a one-day positivity rate of 2.83%.

YNHH officials also reported Tuesday that nine days before a Sept. 30 deadline, well over 90% of the system’s health care workers and employees have complied with a company mandate that they be vaccinated against the coronavirus that causes the disease.

At least “a few” employees who refuse to be vaccinated and who are ineligible for an exemption for medical or religious reasons, will be leaving the company, Balcezak said. Asked to quantify “a few,” he said just over 700 individuals still have not gotten at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, a fraction of whom are full-timers, but he couldn’t predict how many were likely to end up resigning or being terminated.

Over the last couple of weeks, a significant number of employees have gotten the Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine at “vaccine fairs” organized by the company, Balcezak said.

“The J&J acceptance has been pretty remarkable,” said Marna Borgstrom, the YNHH chief executive officer. “So, we are hopeful that we won’t lose many people at all. ... The fact that other health care organizations are requiring vaccination as well means that people really have to look outside this field, probably, if they want to remain in the region.”

Borgstrom said YNHH prides itself on its workforce and has long sought to avoid terminating employees for other than performance issues.

“It’s a really painful thing to do,” she said. “In this case, our view is that the safety of the patient and their loved ones is paramount. Who’s going to come (to the hospital) if you don’t feel safe?”

Like other health care networks, YNHH is preparing to administer booster shots of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine to those 65 and older once the U.S. Food and Drug Administration grants full approval of the practice and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends it.

Both things could happen by the end of the week, Balcezak said.

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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