Weekly Covid Update: Vermont up 1,000 cases in 11 days State monitoring vulnerable nursing home population

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The Vermont Department of Health recorded five new deaths this week and a Covid-19 new case count that crossed the 4,000 threshold, leaping from 3,000 to 4,000 cases in just 11 days.

New case numbers this week added 546, down from the 716 cases reported last week, for a total of 4,005 Covid-19 cases. The total positive case numbers are based on data published on the Health Department’s daily dashboard tracking cases reported during the span from Friday, Nov. 20 to Friday, Nov. 27.

These five new fatalities bring the total number of Vermont deaths due to Covid-19 to 67. All five deaths were Vermonters over the age of 70. According to Dr. Mark Levine, state health commissioner,  the latest three deaths reported on Friday were ages 76, 81 and 94 with one dying at home, one in the hospital and one in a long-term care facility.

During Friday’s press conference, Levine said the state is becoming more and more concerned with Covid-19 cases erupting in nursing homes and long-term care facilities, particularly how staff illness would exacerbate a staffing shortage. Levine also spoke about a new situation the state is following at a long-term care facility — Elderwood at Burlington — where 14 residents and two staff tested positive.

During Tuesday’s press conference, Commissioner of Department of Financial Regulation Michael Pieciak said they were following six active outbreaks in long-term care facilities with case numbers totaling 100. When questioned about an update on the reported Tuesday numbers, Secretary Mike Smith from the Agency of Human Services said that those numbers, other than Levine’s data on Elderwood, had not been updated due to the holiday.

Hospitalizations remained the same  — holding at 18, with two patients in the ICU, up from one. The “hospitalization under investigation” decreased from four to three.

Vermont’s positivity rate decreased from 2 percent to 1.3 percent, with a seven-day average at 1.24 percent according to Levine.

School numbers up by 35 cases

In K-12 schools throughout Vermont, there are 35 new cases, with 110 total Covid cases reported as of Sunday, Nov. 22, on the VDH School Based Covid-19 Transmission document.

During Tuesday’s press conference, Gov. Phil Scott announced that winter high school sports, expected to begin on Nov. 30, would be paused until further notice.

The Vermont Agency of Education will also implement the addition of a new question, as part of the daily health check, asking if students or staff had participated in a multi-family gathering over the Thanksgiving holiday. If the answer is yes, the person would be required to quarantine at home for 14 days, converting to all-remote learning. During Friday’s press conference, Scott admitted they had received pushback on this proposal but the AOE was not changing the health screening question.

Two Rivers Supervisory Union made the decision weeks ago not to return to in-person instruction following the Thanksgiving break, precisely due to concerns over student and staff holiday plans and the need for wide-spread quarantining that may result, particularly impacting staff numbers. TRSU schools are slated to return to in-person instruction on Jan. 11.

In higher education, there were 54 new positive Covid-19 cases reported. Pieciak echoed Levine’s comments from a week ago, saying that the increase was a reflection of community spread and not on-campus infections.

State-wide testing of unique individuals saw a dramatic leap, recording 14,393 new test this week, a significant jump from the 8,409 tests done last week, according to the data dashboard. The weekly summary of Vermont Covid-19 data, which shows overall testing numbers, including second and third tests per individual, was not updated this week due to the holiday. According to Smith during Tuesday’s press conference said they had tested more than 41,000 over the last seven days. Smith said Vermont would see a “fairly significant increase in testing capabilities” with the added “on-demand” testing sites.

During the Tuesday, Nov. 24 press conference Smith gave an update on the new state on-demand testing site roll out. Five testing sites in Brattleboro, Burlington, Middlebury, Rutland and Waterbury were opened last week. Testing sites in Berlin, Bennington, Fairlee, Newport, Northfield, St. Johnsbury and Stratton were slated to open this week. Next week, sites in Morrisville, Springfield and White River Junction, Franklin County are slated to open.

The plan is to have a total of 16 new sites up by the end of the month. These on-demand sites will provide testing seven days a week with expanded hours. The on-demand sites are in addition to the current pop-up testing locations already in place. Smith said registrations for on-demand testing will soon be online. Pop-up testing registration can be done online through this form.

The pop-up Covid-19 testing schedule has listed one date in Springfield, on Tuesday, Dec. 1. The testing location in Springfield is at Springfield Riverside Plaza, at 256 River St. Once the on-demand testing site in Springfield is established next week, additional dates will likely be added. Location details are pending. Click on this link to check for other testing sites. This site has recently added a link to sign up to be notified of future testing dates in the area.

Windsor gains 22 new cases; Windham up by 26

Chittenden County returned to the top of the county case counts with 135 cases this week. That’s down from the 171 cases reported last week and now totals 1,465. Washington County’s new case totals eased by 100, with 123 new cases, down from 223 cases last week, for a total of 624.

Orange County added 45 new cases, down from 76, for a total of 204 cases. Rutland County was also down with 31 new cases, down from 45 for a total of 236.

Windsor County more than doubled numbers, going from 14 to 36 new cases for a total of 199. And Windham County gained 26 new cases this week, up slightly from 21 last week, for a total of 216.

Contacts Monitored, which includes close contacts of people who have already tested positive, decreased from 158 to 102. Travelers being monitored, which includes those participating in the Sara Alert system, rose just slightly going from 221 to 226.

‘Vermont Lights’ program and Telegraph Holiday Lights map

Also on Friday, Scott announced a new statewide holiday initiative called “Vermont Lights the Way,” urging Vermont residents to decorate their homes and businesses with festive decorations and lights as a way to “remind each other there are brighter days ahead.”

Two weeks ago, The Chester Telegraph announced its Holiday Lights program. You can read about the local program here and sign up to be on the map at contest@chestertelegraph.org.

Scott also suggested Vermonters use the hashtag #vtlightstheway on social media, tagging photos of festive displays, to help promote the project.

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

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