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Vt. officials continue to keep close eye on ICU capacity

Published: Nov. 9, 2021 at 8:40 AM EST
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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - After spending most of the past year with the lowest COVID numbers in the county, Vermont now has the highest case rate in New England, and officials say they remain concerned about what this trajectory could mean for ICU capacity in hospitals.

For the first time since June, Governor Phil Scott and other administration officials were masked for their weekly press briefing Tuesday.

“Sometimes you have to practice what you preach. It’s as much symbolism as anything else. I just thought it was a good idea that we show that it’s okay during this time that you wear a mask in certain situations,” Scott said.

The state continues to confront a post-Halloween COVID surge. Officials say Vermont cases have increased 42% in the past week and are projected to hit upwards of 500 cases daily within a month. Hospitalizations and deaths are also expected to remain high in the coming weeks.

“We can certainly change that for the better based on our own decisions we make -- protecting the most vulnerable, our families, and our friends,” said DFR Commissioner Mike Pieciak.

Over the last few weeks, there has only been an average of 10 ICU beds available out of the state’s 96 total. “We need to ensure that individuals that need hospitalization or an ICU bed can access them. So please, get vaccinated and get your booster,” said AHS Secretary Mike Smith.

At any time, up to 70% of COVID hospitalizations are among the unvaccinated. And that’s not the only stress on the health care system. There is also a surge in non-COVID patients -- all while dealing with a staffing shortage.

The state continues in its effort to move non-COVID cases to rehab facilities. But officials say more vaccinations and masking remains the best strategy to lower case numbers. They also urged those who do get infected to discuss with their doctor the possibility of getting monoclonal antibody treatment.

Health officials are also doubling down on boosters for adults and vaccinations for kids. Vermont is leading the country in boosters for people over 65 years old, and more than 14,000 children ages 5 to 11 have signed up for their first shot.

“This is a message for the duration of this year, and certainly to prepare ourselves for the holidays. All of the components matter -- to protect ourselves, our families, and all Vermonters -- we have to do it all,” said Vt. Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine.

Leaders say they’re also running into issues staffing for vaccine and booster clinics so they are calling on more volunteers for Vermont’s Medical Reserve Corps.

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