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The data behind Vermont’s pandemic death toll

Updated: May. 13, 2021 at 4:50 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - The Vermont Health Department says 252 Vermonters have lost their lives to the coronavirus over the course of the pandemic. But as Dom Amato reports, even though Vermont has the fewest deaths in the country, it has still taken a toll on families and the medical community.

It’s been a busy year for Rutland Regional Medical Center Dr. Rick Hildebrant.

Reporter Dom Amato: Do you have any estimation on how many patients you have seen that have been infected with COVID? Dr. Rick Hildebrant: A lot.

Hildebrant helped create the hospital’s COVID plan for treating patients and keeping staff safe. The emotional toll has been hard -- long days, few breaks, and seeing patients die in hospital beds without their families. “When someone’s dying of this illness -- and to not have their loved ones by their side, not holding their hand -- that is really hard on patients, and it’s emotionally taxing on clinicians too,” Hildebrant said.

More than a quarter of Vermont’s deaths were at hospitals. The average age was 80 years old, and nearly all had a pre-existing condition, like respiratory problems. “I would say some of the big ones are heart disease, diabetes, stroke,” said Caitlin Quinn, a data analyst with the Department of Health. Since the pandemic began, she has collected all the statistics to aid in the state’s COVID policy decisions. “It really puts a lot of emphasis on work to make sure that data is accurate.”

As the number of vaccinated individuals has increased, infections and deaths have dropped. Since the December peak of 71 deaths, the average number of deaths per month has been 25, with Three deaths reported so far this month.

And as the average age of infection has gone down, the average age of death remains the same. And some of those people who die have been vaccinated. Officials say fewer than six fully and partially vaccinated Vermonters have died due to the virus -- something that is expected.

Reporter Dom Amato: Is that number -- less than 6 -- is that alarming at all to someone like you?

Caitlin Quinn: No, not at all. That is really expected because this vaccine is not 100% effective in preventing severe illness

But out of the nearly 70% of Vermonters who are partially vaccinated, fewer than one percent have contracted COVID after the shot. Dr. Hildebrandt says vaccines are the only way to get life back to normal. “If all of us get vaccinated, then this pandemic is stopped in its tracks,” he said.

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