Weekly Covid Update: High case counts continue among younger Vermonters

New Covid cases among younger people continue to rise. Photo by Charlotte May from Pexels

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Although many numbers started to trend downward this week, high Covid-19 case counts and outbreaks are likely to continue in the very near future in younger populations, i.e.: those not vaccinated, according to Vermont Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine.

Driving the high numbers are the variants in the picture — including the UK variant that is now dominant — and other factors such as risky behaviors, more gathering, pandemic fatigue and feeling that the pandemic is over. “We’re not quite there yet,” Levine said.

Vermont hit the 20,000 Covid-19 case mark this week, the last state in the country to reach that milestone, according to Department of Financial Regulation Commissioner Mike Pieciak.

The median age of new cases remains at 27 said Pieciak, adding that the 16-29 year old group were seeing both the highest case count and the highest rate of infection.

Levine said that the third variant identified earlier this week, P1, often called the Brazil variant, was from a New Hampshire  resident who was tested in Vermont, although he acknowledged, “the virus of course, knows no borders.”

Scott presents ‘Vermont Forward Plan’ to loosen restrictions

Gov. Phil Scott presented the Vermont Forward Plan on Tuesday, April 6 that shows the timeline for loosening restrictions through July 4, when all restrictions might be lifted. Scott cautioned that these are based on projections of vaccination uptake and predicted infection rates, and could be subject to change.

Anyone who is fully vaccinated does not need to adhere to any restrictions beyond universal guidance. According to the state website, “universal guidance has five main tenets: Stay home if you’re sick, wear a mask, ensure six-foot spaces and uncrowded places, practice good hygiene, and know the travel restrictions.”

On April 9, “group A” businesses — those that have little or no contact with the public and are based mainly outside — can move to only universal health guidance; and travel policy has changed with no more quarantining required, instead testing is required within three days of entering the state, whether as a visitor or a resident returning from a trip. Visitors should also take a Covid test three days prior to visiting Vermont.

As of May 1, “group B” businesses, which are those who have longer duration of contact with the public or are in close contact environments, may move to universal guidance; and gathering sizes expand, and distances between individuals decrease, both indoors and outdoors.

As of June 1, Vermonters may travel without any testing or quarantine requirements. Gathering sizes expand further, and the distances between individuals contract, both indoors and outdoors.

After July 4, all mandates will be eliminated, with only recommended guidance remaining.

Cases, positivity rate and deaths all lower

The Health Department reported this week that new Covid-19 cases have begun to trend downward, although the weekly total remains over the 1000 mark at 1,060, down from the record 1,257 last week for a total of 20,815 since the beginning of the pandemic.

The number of people who died from Covid-19 deaths this week also dropped from four to three compared to last week. The total number of Vermonters who have died from Covid-19 is now 231. Of those who lost their lives to Covid-19 this week, one was older than 80, one was between 70 and 79, and one was between 50 and 59.

The overall seven-day positivity rate also fell slightly, going from 2.1 percent last week to 2.0 percent this week. Hospitalizations are also down, going from 35 to 23. However, the number of patients in intensive care rose from two to seven.

The total positive case numbers, deaths and other statistics are based on data published on the Health Department’s daily dashboard from Friday, April 2 through Friday, April 9.

Over 244,000 have had shots, Rite-Aids start vaccinating Monday

According to the Health Department, nearly 244,400 eligible Vermonters have received a vaccine: Almost 88,200 have received their first dose and nearly 156,200 have received both doses. Of those Vermonters 40 and older who were able to register for the vaccine on Monday, April 7, 28,100 have made an appointment.

Vermont remains first in the nation with vaccinating age 65 and older. Vermont also currently ranks fourth in total doses administered, and eighth in percent of population vaccinated.

The pace of vaccination has also picked up over the past week with up to 10,000 vaccinations reached on a single day with a seven-day average of over 7000 doses daily.

Pieciak said that according to a recent survey, 88 percent of Vermonters indicated they will “definitely” or “probably” get the vaccine once it is available to them, the second highest positive response rate in the country.

The 30 and over age band can begin registration on Monday, April 12 starting at 8:15 a.m.; and age 16 and over can register beginning Monday, April 19. Registration through the state website can be made online by clicking here or by calling 855-722-7878.

Walgreens will continue to offer vaccinations and Vermonters can register directly on its website or through the state website. Kinney Drugs and CVS also continue to offer vaccines and can be scheduled either on their respective websites or through the state website.

According to Human Services Secretary Mike Smith, Shaws has begun offering vaccinations as of Friday, April 9. According to a Shaw’s representative, only larger Shaws stores that have a pharmacy will be participating in the vaccination program. Neither the Ludlow nor Springfield locations are eligible.

Price Chopper and Rite Aid will begin offering vaccines on Monday, April 12. Both the Ludlow and Springfield Rite Aid locations will be providing vaccines. Appointments cannot be made directly through the stores however, scheduling must happen through the state website.

All counties are trending downward; local counts remain low

Windham County added 47 new cases, down slightly from 52 new cases last week, for a total of 1,168. Windsor County added 28 new cases, half of what it was last week and identical to the case count from the week before. Windsor County’s total now stands at 1,236. Rutland County has dropped to 117 cases from 171 last week for a total of 1,895. Bennington County added 47 cases, down from 56 cases last week, for a total of 1,749.

At Friday’s press conference, Levine said that although some counties may have more cases than average, the trend for all counties is down.

The case counts of local town totals have also decreased with the exception of Springfield which had 10 new cases, up from five last week. Chester added one new case this week, down from six last week. Cavendish added one case, matching last week and Ludlow reported zero cases, down from four last week.

In K-12 schools throughout Vermont, there are 107 new Covid cases this week, down slightly from 115 last week, with 1117 total Covid cases reported on the School Based Covid-19 Transmission document as of Wednesday, April 7.

UVM reported a total of 94 student positive cases during the week of March 29 to April 4, up from 80 cases last week, and nearly matching the 93 cases reported the prior week prior. When Scott was asked on Friday if there would be any vaccination requirements for Vermont college students returning in the fall, he said it was a conversation he and other state officials need to have, although under current federal guidelines, it cannot be required.

The Covid-19 testing schedule for Springfield has been updated with daily testing available from now through Sunday, April 24 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. Sign up to be notified of future testing dates in the area of your choice.

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

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