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Vt. health officials urge individuals to reexamine COVID risks

Published: May. 3, 2022 at 9:32 AM EDT
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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - COVID cases and hospitalizations are trending up again in Vermont but officials say they are leaving it up to individuals to reexamine their own risk factors when determining how to live their daily lives. It comes as Vermont is getting big shipments of antiviral therapy from federal health officials.

Vermont health officials Tuesday said the Green Mountain State will start receiving 2,000 doses of Paxlovid weekly, a big step up from the 200 doses per shipment, which led to widespread shortages. The increase will allow the state to expand the number of pharmacies getting the drug and allocate more doses to the few dozen pharmacies already receiving it.

“This means that this effective anti-viral drug will be easier for patients to access and will prevent more potential cases of severe disease in Vermont,” said Vt. Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine. He says the bulk of the doses that arrived Monday will go to pharmacies, where patients can pick up prescriptions from their providers. “I would really urge anyone who’s in a higher-risk group and who’s tested positive to take advantage of the drug.”

The state will also send the treatment to long-term care facilities and hospitals, including some doses designed for people with poor kidney function. And it’s in those shared spaces where the medicine is likely needed most. A dozen long-term care facilities are experiencing significant spread of the new BA.2 variant. Levine says the omicron subvariant is typically milder than other strains, but much more transmissible. He stresses that while infection rates are rising, data also shows that vaccines continue to prevent severe sickness.

The state’s modeling shows the seven-day average of cases and hospitalizations increased over the last week. Only an average of 4% of Vermont’s inpatient beds are occupied by people with COVID-related illnesses. According to the CDC’s COVID data tracker, transmission levels are considered “high” in half of Vermont’s 14 counties. That’s why Levine says infection may be inevitable, so he encourages individuals to reexamine how they respond based on their own risk. “Look at your age, look at your underlying medical conditions if you have any, look at who you’re living with and who may be vulnerable that you wouldn’t want to bring the virus home to,” he said.

The Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility, the women’s prison in South Burlington, is also grappling with an outbreak. Of the nearly 90 inmates, 18 have tested positive as of Monday. Levine says since the variant is racing through Vermont, he thinks case counts will soon level off and then drop again. He also urged those that are not up to date on COVID boosters, particularly older Vermonters, to get their shots.

As of Tuesday, Vermont health officials reported 304 new coronavirus cases for a total of 124,830. There have been a total of 639 deaths. The state’s percent positive seven-day average is 12.8%. The current number of hospitalizations is 62 with 10 in the ICU.

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