Vaccines arrive as infections, deaths climb

Vermont and other states received fewer vaccines than expected.
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With Vermont reaching what he called a “grim milestone” of over 100 deaths and with new case counts again jumping another 1,000-mark threshold this week, Gov. Phil Scott announced on Tuesday that he is extending Vermont’s state of emergency through Jan. 15, 2021.

The first Pfizer vaccines arrived in the state earlier this week with the first Vermonter — UVM Emergency Dept. nurse Cindy Wamsganz — receiving the first vaccine on Tuesday. Despite this good news, Scott emphasized that it will be several more months before the vaccine will help control the virus statewide, asking Vermonters to persevere a little while longer. Also, states, including Vermont, have not received the number of initial vaccines first anticipated.

As such, Scott announced that school and regional sports will remain on pause. Later in the press conference it was confirmed that multi-household gathering and travel restrictions put into place ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday will remain in place throughout the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.

The Vermont Department of Health reported that 14 more Vermonters died of Covid this week, down slightly from the record 16 reported last week. Of the new fatalities, seven were ages 80 or older, six were between the ages of 70 and 79, and one was ages 60 to 69. The combined total from these last two weeks accounts for 28 percent of the total death tally since the start of the pandemic.

New Covid-19 case count was again extremely high with 702 new cases, but down from the record-breaking 778 reported last week, and from the 758 reported the week before, for a total of 6,243. Reaching the 6,000-threshold happened in the span of 10 days, a one-day increase from the nine-day span it took to reach the 5,000 mark. Vermont’s Covid seven-day positivity rate continued to decrease for the second week in a row, going from 2.4 to 2.2 percent.

During Friday’s press conference, Dr. Mark Levine, state Health Commissioner, said that although Vermont’s numbers are settling out at higher levels, they are not seeing an increasing trend but “more of a plateau level.”

The total positive case numbers and death statistics are based on data published on the state daily dashboard tracking cases reported during the span from Friday, Dec. 11 to Friday, Dec. 18.

The state Department of Health is currently following 42 outbreaks, 17 of which are in the healthcare sector; and 223 situations, 58 in the healthcare sector and 65 in non-healthcare areas. Eleven of those outbreaks are in senior care facilities, representing more than 425 positive cases including 123 cases at Elderwood in Burlington, 76 at St. Albans Health and Rehab, 67 at Rutland Health and Rehab, and 41 cases at Four Seasons Care Home in Northfield.

Hospitalizations increased slightly from 26 to 27, with two hospitalizations under investigation, up from zero. Patients in the ICU have doubled going from five to 10 however, Levine said that some patients in the ICU were there more for isolation and did not require all the services of an ICU.

Pfizer doses about 16% less than expected

Levine learned just prior to beginning Friday’s press conference, that as many as 975 out of 5,850 expected Pfizer doses — 16.7 percent — may not be coming, part of a regionwide decrease in allocation being reported this week.

Whether they were delayed by a few days or not coming at all was not clear. Levine did say that the vials of the vaccine received, expecting to contain five individual doses, actually yielded six or seven. He said that because of this, actual dose numbers may not be impacted greatly. Levine said that what everyone is upset about is that “there’s been no communication” from the federal government.

Moderna’s vaccine has received preliminary approval and final CDC approval is expected. Vermont has already placed their order to receive Moderna’s vaccine when that approval if final.

Frontline health-care workers will continue to be vaccinated this week through their healthcare facilities. Vaccines are expected to arrive next week to CVS, Walgreens and Kinney Drug stores that are contracted to begin vaccinating long-term senior facility patients as part of a federal senior vaccination program.

Next week, Vermont state and health officials will be working on a comprehensive plan for which groups will become next level vaccination priorities after health care workers and senior facility residents.

In K-12 schools throughout Vermont, there are 41 new cases, up from 26 reported last week, with 219 total Covid cases reported as of Wednesday, Dec. 16, on the state School Based Covid-19 Transmission document. Higher education data will not be reported again until colleges and universities return for the spring semester.

Statewide testing of unique individuals recorded 8,511, down from 10,366 tests given last week. Total tests given this week, which may include second and third tests, came in at 32,484, down slightly from the approximately 35,500 total tests reported last week. This data reported according to the data dashboard.

The Covid-19 testing schedule for Springfield has been updated with daily testing available daily from now through Tuesday, Dec. 22; daily from Dec. 26 through Dec. 29; and on Jan. 2 and 3; with varying times each day. The CIC Health Testing in Springfield is located at 51 Pearl St., Level 1, in Springfield. 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 43 percent of the state’s positive cases this week, reporting 305, up from 262 new cases reported last week and now totaling 2,255. Washington County new case totals continued to decline, with numbers this week at 30, down significantly from 78 cases reported last week, for a total of 844. Orange County was also trending lower with 20 new cases, down from 33 last week, for a total of 290 cases. Rutland County recorded 30 new cases last week, down from 39 last week for a total of 33.

Windsor County saw a decrease this week with 41 new cases, down from 58 last week, for a total of 326. Windham County numbers were also down again with 37 cases, down from 47 new cases last week, for a total of 360.

Contacts Monitored, which includes close contacts of people who have already tested positive, increased slightly from 172 to 191. Travelers being monitored, which includes those participating in the Sara Alert system, increased from 185 to 214.

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

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