By John Schwing

WESTPORT — As the Omicron variant of COVID-19 wanes from its surge earlier this year, bringing an end to nearly all health and safety protocols imposed during two-plus years of the pandemic, you might think the savage beast of a virus has been tamed.

But you would be wrong.

Westport currently has the highest rate of COVID transmission in Fairfield County, according to the latest data from the state Department of Public Health.

Westport, according the figures posted March 31, has the second highest transmission rate of the virus in Connecticut, exceeded only by the upstate town of Union. 

The town is back in the “red zone” reserved for communities with the highest COVID transmission rates by state public health officials, with a rate of 25.8 cases per 100,000 people.

Only 19 other communities among the state’s 169 municipalities are classified in the red zone.

Neighboring Fairfield has a virus transmission rate nearly as high as Westport, at 25.7 cases per 100,000. But other area communities, also classified in the red zone, have much lower rates: Weston at 19.5 and Easton at 16.1.

Meanwhile, next-door Norwalk has a transmission rate of only 5.9 cases per 100,000 people (the state’s yellow zone) and Wilton has a 10.5 rate (orange zone).

Westport public schools are also reporting an increase in the number of COVID cases, with 23 cases among students and staff recorded Monday, according to the school district’s COVID dashboard.

The total number of COVID cases reported in the schools last week was 43, according to dashboard figures.

The figures are higher than Feb. 28, when the Board of Education voted to lift the mask mandate for the town’s schools. On that day, 11 cases of the virus were reported, and on several subsequent days there were no confirmed COVID cases reported districtwide.

Statewide, the COVID positivity rate stood at 4.26 percent Monday, according to figures released by Gov. Ned Lamont. That’s the highest figure reported in weeks.

The BA.2 variant, expected to become the dominant strain of COVID in the U.S. in coming weeks, is the prime factor driving up the number of cases in the Northeast and the West, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control.

In response to ongoing pandemic health risks, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration last week authorized a second booster shot of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines for older adults and immunocompromised people.

For the FDA’s specific guidance for people it recommends receive a second booster inoculation, visit the agency’s website.