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Officials urge COVID precautions ahead of Thanksgiving

Published: Nov. 16, 2021 at 9:29 AM EST
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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - Vermont COVID case counts are expected to stay high over the coming month and state officials are urging Vermonters to take precautions to prevent further spread over the Thanksgiving holiday.

The latest forecast modeling indicates case counts are not expected to decrease over the next month and that the impact of Thanksgiving brings further uncertainty. Governor Phil Scott again urged Vermonters to get vaccinated and get booster shots to help prevent hospital counts from increasing further. He also urged those visiting vulnerable family members to make sure they get tested beforehand.

“The data speaks for itself. About three-quarters of our hospitalizations and about 70% of our cases are unvaccinated. So, the best way to protect yourself and your family is still to get vaccinated,” said Vermont Governor Phil Scott Tuesday.

Vermont cases have increased 64% over the last two weeks. The age group with the highest rate of case growth is five to 11-year-olds, who are still only about 17% vaccinated. Officials say older Vermonters represent the lowest infections numbers. That’s because officials say booster shots are working and Vermont is leading the nation in boosters in older Vermonters.

“Really critical for those who are vulnerable in that age group with the holidays and high case counts to go get your booster if you have not done so already,” said DFR Commissioner Mike Pieciak.

Governor Scott urged Vermonters not to get discouraged by the high case counts over the last few weeks, saying the state still has a lot to be proud of. He says protecting hospitals has always been the prime objective and that Vermont is still doing well in that metric because of the state’s high vaccination rate.

The high case counts have stressed Vermont’s 150 member contact tracing teams so the state is instead focusing on tracing older, more vulnerable people who test positive and they are asking others who may be infected to reach out to their own close contacts.

And with Thanksgiving on the horizon next week, Vt. Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine cautioned that the pandemic is not over and urged Vermonters to gather wisely. He said while vaccines are a big gamechanger this year, the delta variant is also. “Especially in this pandemic, knowing what we can and what we do about this virus, Thanksgiving can be a little risky,” he said.

Levine says rapid at-home antigen tests can help manage when you’ve been exposed to the virus but supply chain backlogs have made those tests hard to find. Until then, he said PCR testing remains free for all.

As of Tuesday, Vermont health officials reported 187 new coronavirus cases for a total of 45,213. There have been a total of 395 deaths. The state’s percent positive seven-day average is 4.3%. A total of 530,798 people have been tested, and 37,593 have recovered.

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