Protests could cause spike in COVID cases, Hartford HealthCare says


HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — For months, Hartford HealthCare and MIT have been using a model to project Connecticut’s COVID-related deaths and hospitalizations accurately.

The latest prediction is 4,400 deaths by mid-July, but as protests continue, that number could change.

“There is always a concern [with] any large gathering, any large congregation of people can lead to infectivity,” said Dr. Ajay Kumar, EVP and Chief Clinical Officer at Hartford HealthCare. “This virus is as infectious as it was in March so we have to be careful.”

Just over a week ago, there was an unpredicted spike in cases, and with people protesting more and more every day, those numbers could spike again — if people don’t act carefully.

RELATED: Protests over the weekend could bring about new hot spots of COVID infection

“To define protest is when a group of people comes together for a single cause,” said Keith Grant, Senior System Director for Infection Prevention at Hartford HealthCare. “It doesn’t need to be without a mask and huddled together. If we can do it safely, I would appreciate that from everyone.”

“If you have 10,000 people protesting together, there is no doubt in my mind the three people infected might become a thousand people infected,” added Dr. Dimitris Bertsimas, Associate Dean of Business Analytics at MIT.

He said with a 2% mortality rate, that could lead to 20 people dying from one incident.

Bertsimas said a significant spike in the fall is possible if protests continue with unsafe conditions and if people come to Connecticut from other places with high infection rates.

Right now, Kumar said most people protesting are wearing masks but social distancing remains a challenge. He said experts will be watching the numbers very closely.

“The next week will be critical for us to know, and we will see how it becomes apparent too. We’re looking at the data closely, and we’ll be monitoring how the system evolves.”

He said the goal is to keep hospitalizations down throughout the summer.

Latest predictions can be found online.

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