In the early months of the pandemic, infection rates, hospitalization rates and death rates were all closely connected. Typically as infection rates increased, within days to a couple of weeks we would see hospitalization and death rates climb.

But just as COVID keeps changing, so does the way experts look at these statistics.

The massive amount of immunity now seen across the United States – thanks to vaccinations and boosters but also because of the huge number of people who have already been infected with COVID – is leading to a near all-time low death rate, even as infection rates are creeping back up.

“We are seeing fewer patients die from COVID currently in Connecticut because of the level of immunity in the community,” said Virginia Bieluch, MD, chief of the division of infectious diseases at The Hospital of Central Connecticut. “The death rate we are seeing is much lower than during previous waves of infection. People are immune because of vaccines, prior infection or a combination of both vaccination and prior infection.”

Connecticut’s current positivity rate hovers between seven and eight percent. Of the 2,734,503 Connecticut residents who are fully vaccinated, 234,786 have contracted COVID (nine percent). Just over 11,000 Connecticut residents have died of COVID since the pandemic began in March 2020.

According to data analyzed by The New York Times, Connecticut’s reported cases have decreased by 19 percent from the average two weeks ago. Deaths have decreased by 60 percent.

Of course, having had COVID doesn’t mean you will never get it again, as its variants continue to emerge. “I do want to emphasize the importance of getting vaccinated for COVID even if you have been infected with SARS-CoV-2 as the vaccine enhances your immune response to prevent reinfection,” Bieluch said.

“We are continuing to learn about immunity to SARS-CoV2, the virus that causes COVID. The immune response is different in different individuals, and a person may have a different level of immunity to different variants,” she said. “The most protection is present in people who have had COVID-19 and been vaccinated against this infection.

It is important to pay attention to and follow guidelines regarding vaccination and boosting, she said. “Immunity derived either from vaccination, infection or a combination of vaccination and infection will decrease over time,” Bieluch explained. “We don’t know exactly how long protection lasts from the original vaccine series. We do know that vaccine efficacy wanes over time and that measurable decrease in protection has occurred by about six months.”

Immunity protects against an individual having a severe care of COVID, Bieluch said. But it doesn’t rule out a new infection as variants emerge. Additionally, “some people such as older individuals and people with compromised immune systems will lose immunity faster than younger, healthier individuals.”