Weekly Covid-19 Update: Cases double in week, mostly due to Shoreham orchard outbreak

With colleges back in session in Vermont, Covid-19 cases remain minimal. Photo by Thomas de Luze for Unsplash.

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The Vermont Department of Health saw a dramatic spike of 78 cases this week, more than twice the 37 new Covid-19 cases reported last week. The statewide total cases now stands at 1,846.

The increase is due in part to an outbreak reported among Jamaican migrant workers brought in to pick apples at Champlain Orchards in Shoreham in Addison County. Of the 101 workers tested at the location, 28 tested positive for Covid-19.

Among counties, Addison  saw the biggest jump this week with 28 positive cases, a direct correlation to the outbreak at Champlain Orchards. Chittenden County saw an increase of 23 positive cases this week for a total of 865. Bennington County, which saw the biggest county increase last week with 12 and included several cases tied to a golf tournament, saw a five-case increase this week for a total of 27.

Windham County gained five new cases this week, for 129 in total, while Windsor County jumped by 10 new cases, totaling 100. There was no indication if those 10 Windsor County cases were related.

Dr. Mark Levine, commissioner of the state Department of Health, said that outbreak has been contained to the site and creates no risk to the public. Two other groups of workers were under quarantine, have all tested negative on Day 7 and no longer need to quarantine. The recovering workers are being housed together and all of their needs — medical, food and otherwise — are being met, Levine said. After another round of testing today, Champlain Orchards may reopen again as early as Saturday, pending results.

The total positive case numbers are based on data published on the VDH daily dashboard, tracking cases reported from Friday, Oct. 2 to Friday, Oct. 9. The number of Covid deaths in Vermont remains at 58, a number that has not increased in more than two months.

During the Tuesday, Oct. 6 press conference, Michael Pieciak, commissioner of the Department of Financial Regulation,  said he was seeing a 48 percent increase in cases regionally in New England, New York and Quebec, with Massachusetts and New York City accounting for a lot of the increase. Even eliminating Quebec, that number was still at 46 percent.

Gov. Phil Scott, when asked about this most recent spike during the Friday, Oct. 9 press conference, said that in comparison to surrounding regions Vermont still looks good and continues to lead the nation with the lowest number of positive cases per capita. He said that he has meetings with a team three times a week to look at the Covid numbers and that from his standpoint “we have nothing to worry about at this point.”

Levine agreed with Scott, adding that trends they are seeing nationally and regionally are more concerning than what he’s seeing within Vermont borders but they will continue to watch both carefully.

Student numbers of Covid infections remain low

With schools one month into the education year, Scott, updating on K-12 schools, said there has been no in-school transmission of the coronavirus. The number of students infected overall remains at four, with no new cases being reported this week.

Vermont Agency of Education Secretary Dan French said that more schools throughout Vermont are increasing in-person instruction. The agency is looking at the feasibility of winter sports in schools and is trying to find a path forward to continue with basketball and hockey, but he was not optimistic about indoor track and wrestling being able to resume. The AOE will publish its guidelines for winter sports at the end of the month.

On Tuesday, Pieciak said that higher education was seeing continued success with only four new cases reported, for a total of 51 with approximately 100,000 tests being given. During Friday’s press conference, Levine favorably compared that number to 178,000 positive Covid cases for college students nationwide.

Of note, the Burlington City Council chose to lift the early closing restriction on Burlington bars this week. Burlington is home to the University of Vermont and Champlain College and within 4miles of St. Michael’s College. When asked about the change, Levine commented during Tuesday’s press conference that the numbers have certainly been low enough and that “if the city of Burlington decided to relax the closing of bars, one couldn’t argue with that.”

Statewide testing of unique individuals was the same as last week, with a total of 5,580 new people tested. Overall testing numbers this week increased from around 28,000 to over 30,000. This larger number includes second and third tests for some people.There are zero hospitalized patients with Covid-19 this week, the same as was reported last week. The “hospitalization under investigation” went from one to zero.

Contacts Monitored, which includes close contacts of people who have already tested positive, ticked up slightly from 43 to 50. Travelers being monitored, which includes those participating in the Sara Alert system, was also up, going from 544 to 604.

The pop-up Covid-19 testing schedule for Springfield has added Tuesday dates that go to the end of October, with dates for Oct. 13, Oct. 20, and Oct. 27. The testing location is at the Springfield UU Meetinghouse on Fairground Road. To schedule a test, click on this link and scroll down to the “Register for Pop-Up Testing” button. This site has recently added a link to sign up to be notified of future testing datesin the area of your choice.

The Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development updated Vermont’s cross-state travel information map on Tuesday, Oct. 6. This map identifies the surrounding counties throughout the Northeast that can now freely travel to Vermont without quarantine.

This is a county-by-county list for those areas that have less than 400 active Covid-19 cases per million residents and is updated weekly. Eligible travel counties have dropped significantly from last week with possible travelers to Vermont going from 4.2 million, down to 2.9 million, the lowest number since they launched the travel map. Click this link to see the latest updates to this interactive county map.

For more state-wide details on Covid-19 information and resources, click here.

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