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Daily COVID count surges; younger Vermonters at heart of spike

Published: Mar. 26, 2021 at 8:35 AM EDT
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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - Vermont daily COVID case counts spiked Thursday, breaking the state’s one-day record and pushing the percent positive average back up to 1.8%. State health officials say infections of residents under 30 make up the root of the problem.

Vt. Health Commissioner Mark Levine Friday called the one-day spike of 251 new cases “concerning” and repeated that the state is in a race to vaccinate residents as viral strains increase. “This is a concerning number of new cases and should not be dismissed, but it is also not the entire picture,” he said.

Despite the high case counts, state leaders say the state’s pandemic attack plan is still on track. That’s because only four of the new cases are among Vermonters over 65 and hospitalizations and deaths are still declining as the most vulnerable Vermonters are building an immune response from the vaccine. “We’ll make changes if necessary, but at this point, I don’t feel like we need to change course,” said Gov. Phil Scott.

Levine says the sharp increase is from a combination of factors, including include people interacting more and the arrival of virus variants. It’s also driven by the social behaviors of young people. Vermonters under the age of 30 make up about half of the new infections, and it’s not just colleges. Campuses across the state aren’t seeing as many cases as Burlington schools. “A lot of what their students are showing with positive test results are reflective of what’s going on in the region around them and where they live,” Levine said. Chittenden County led the state in new cases with 102.

Levine says the rising case counts should be a reminder for everyone to double down on masking and avoiding gatherings. “What we need more now -- more so than in the past few months -- is for everyone to do everything they can to prevent the germs from spreading,” Levine said.

He says that message is particularly important because young people will be the last group to signup for the vaccine.

VACCINATION UPDATE

Vermont officials say the vaccination rollout continues, and that despite some glitches, the state ranks first in the nation for vaccinating people 65 and older.

Vaccination registration is currently open for Vermonters 60+, those 16+ with underlying health conditions, teachers and staff, some public safety employees, corrections staff, 911 operators, and some police.

The next age band, 50+, opens up on Monday. Health officials report that 33.8% of Vermonters16+ have received at least one dose of the COVID vaccine.

Officials apologized for a technical issue Thursday where an estimated 2,100 people seeking vaccine appointments online, instead were scheduled for COVID testing. AHS Secretary Mike Smith says the glitch lasted about 45 minutes. He says the state has canceled those testing appointments and officials are helping those people make vaccine appointments again. The governor was among those that signed up Thursday. He will get his shot a week from Monday.

Secretary Smith says 77% of teachers and school staff have now been vaccinated, and because the state is getting additional Johnson & Johnson shots, they will ramp up those vaccination efforts.

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