Vermont hits COVID hospitalization record
MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - Vermont as of Tuesday set a new record for COVID hospitalizations since the start of the pandemic.
While attention around the world this week is focused on the omicron variant, the delta variant is still driving cases -- and hospitalizations -- in Vermont. A record 84 people are now hospitalized, with 22 of them in the ICU.
Forecast modeling shows that while case counts dipped over the last several days, health officials say that’s likely due to far fewer people getting tested over the Thanksgiving holiday, and they expect case counts to rebound and remain high through the end of the year. “This is all the more reason to take common-sense precautions,” Gov. Scott said Tuesday.
The biggest hospital strains are in Rutland and Bennington Counties, so the state is opening up more hospital and ICU beds. But state leaders continue to plead with people to get vaccinated and boosted. New data shows unvaccinated Vermonters are 13-and-a-half times more likely to be hospitalized than those who are fully vaccinated and boosted. They say 81% of critical care hospitalizations over the last week were among the unvaccinated. “They are much less likely to end up in the hospital compared to that not fully vaccinated population,” said DFR Commissioner Mike Pieciak.
Leaders are also urging people to take precautions including wearing masks around other people, in indoor public spaces, and getting tested after gatherings with people outside your household. But they continue to stop short of a mandate, despite continued calls for a statewide mask policy, including from former Vermont health commissioner Dr. Harry Chen
Current health commissioner Dr. Mark Levine agrees that masks work but he says he remains unconvinced a mandate would increase compliance. “I’m not so sure if we did an assessment of masks in the delta era it would show all the same data that was pre-dating the delta era. The main factor is the population is in a different place,” he said.
Meanwhile, the state is working to improve rapid testing and is also exploring giving free antigen tests to families, something New Hampshire has started doing.
As children head back to school from the Thanksgiving break, 44% of 5 to 11 year-olds now have a dose of the vaccine.
The governor says there are no confirmed cases yet the omicron variant in Vermont yet but that they are closely monitoring the situation closely. It comes as European health officials Tuesday reported that the variant slipped into countries before their defenses went up last week. Reuters reports five cases of the variant have been confirmed in Canada. Scott urged people to remain calm until more information is available. “We’re not going to speculate, and I’d urge people to stay focused on the facts,” he said.
As of Tuesday, Vermont health officials reported 214 new coronavirus cases for a total of 50,014. There have been a total of 410 deaths. The state’s percent positive seven-day average is 4.7%. A total of 545,845 people have been tested, and 40,798 have recovered.
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