Covid Weekly Update: Vermont cases soaring as deaths double from last week

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The Vermont Department of Health recorded 10 new deaths this week, double the fatalities reported last week, and a new Covid-19 case count that soared by 758, up from 546 reported last week, for 77 total deaths and 4,763 total cases.

Seven deaths of the new deaths were Vermonters over the age of 80. Three were ages 70 to 79. The two deaths reported yesterday were both from a senior skilled nursing facility,  according to state Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine.

Wednesday’s reported record-breaking single daily case total of 178 was further revised, adding 46 cases for a total of 224.

Levine said on Friday that delayed reporting of 36 cases from UVM Medical Center and faxed reports received later in the day that were attributed to the Dec. 2 date are responsible for that increase.

Probable positives are now being added to daily totals. It may include those who have gotten a positive antigen test and are symptomatic but have not received a PCR test for confirmation, or those who are symptomatic and have been linked to a confirmed case. There were four probable positive cases reflected in the additional 46 cases added to the Dec. 2 case count. A total of 126 “probable” cases have been added to other dates going back to Sept. 6. Levine confirmed that all added “probables” are reflected in the overall case count total, another factor in this week’s dramatic jump.

The total positive case numbers are based on data published on the state daily dashboard tracking cases reported during the span from Friday, Nov. 27 to Friday, Dec.4.

Vermont’s positivity rate increased from 1.3 percent to 2.8 percent.

On Friday, acknowledging the record-breaking number, Levine cautioned that “one day does not make a trend” and that so far, they have not seen a major impact of Thanksgiving holiday gatherings. He did however say that the state was on that threshold of that timeframe.

Higher counts at nursing facilities prompts new protocols

Levine confirmed that there was a dramatic rise in the prevalence of coronavirus genome detected in the Burlington wastewater system this week, across all three of its treatment plants. Burlington has been monitoring the presence of virus in wastewater for several months now and detected a rise after Halloween.

This most recent rise, Levine confirmed, was much higher than previously recorded. He said a correlation between increased presence of the virus genome and increased illness was difficult to establish, but that “this one looks so dramatic that we would expect to find a correlation.”

The state Department of Health is following eight outbreaks at senior care facilities, with a total of 227 cases identified including 71 cases at Elderwood in Burlington, 57 at Rutland Health and Rehab, and 40 at Four Seasons Care Home in Northfield. Details on other outbreaks followed by the state can be found in this week’s Weekly Summary of Vermont Covid-19 data.

In response to concerns surrounding transmission in senior health care facilities, the state has implemented increased testing protocols for senior facilities statewide. For “lower acuity” facilities such as assisted living and residential care facilities, there will be twice weekly PCR testing for all staff, and rapid antigen testing available for identification of a symptomatic residents or staffers. For the “higher acuity” or skilled nursing and long-term care facilities, daily rapid antigen testing will be given to staff and once weekly PCR testing for all staff. In addition, rapid antigen test will be used for any symptomatic patients or staff.

Covid-19 hospitalizations increased from 18 to 29. And Levine also said there were seven other hospitalized patients suspected of having Covid-19. Three patients are reportedly in the ICU, up from two. No patients are currently on a ventilator.

Public school surveillance to continue through 2020

In K-12 schools throughout Vermont, there are 18 new cases, with 143 total Covid cases reported as of Wednesday, Dec. 2, on the state School Based Covid-19 Transmission document.

Agency of Education Secretary Ed French said that the second phase of surveillance testing in schools has begun. The AOE will be testing staff at 25 percent of schools each week through the end of the month. Bennington/Rutland, Southwest Vermont, Springfield and Windsor Central are among the school districts being tested this week.

In higher education, there were 18 new positive Covid-19 cases reported. Michael Pieciak, commissioner for the Department of Financial Regulation, announced that this would be the last report on higher education this year since schools were now on holiday break. He said that of the 220,000 total tests given to college students, only 238 were positives, making Vermont one of the safest states to attend college this fall.

Statewide testing of unique individuals reported 8,700 tests were given, down from last week and realigning to 8,409 tests given the week before. Total tests given this week, which may include second and third tests, were 26,691. This data reported according to the data dashboard.

The Covid-19 testing schedule for Springfield has been updated with daily testing available seven days a week from Monday Dec. 7 through Sunday, Dec. 20, with varying times each day. Private company CIC Health is testing in Springfield, at 51 Pearl St., Level 1. Click on this link to check for specific times each day. This site has recently added a link to sign up to be notified of future testing dates in the area of your choice.

Chittenden County stayed at the top of the county case counts with 223 new cases, up from 135 reported last week, and now totaling 1,688. Washington County new case totals continued to see a decline, with 112 new cases reported, down from 123 cases last week, for a total of 736. Orange County added 33 new cases, down from 45, for a total of 237 cases. Rutland County stayed flat with 32 new cases, an uptick from 31 last week for a total of 268. Windsor County was slightly down, going from 36 to 28 new cases for a total of 227. Windham County numbers jumped with 60 new cases, up significantly from 26 new cases last week, for a total of 276.

Contacts Monitored, which includes close contacts of people who have already tested positive, increased from 102 to 169. Travelers being monitored, which includes those participating in the Sara Alert system, rose just slightly going from 226 to 227.

During Friday’s press conference, Gov. Phil Scott confirmed winter high school sports and regional sports would continue to be on hold until further notice.

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

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