Vermont says goodbye to COVID dashboard
BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Many Vermonters over the past two years have relied on the state’s COVID dashboard for daily updates of reported cases, hospitalizations, and other statistics. But the department as of Wednesday has discontinued the dashboard, saying those daily case counts are less useful as the state moves into the endemic phase of the virus.
Vermonters have spent the last two years managing the ups and downs of the pandemic and many have come to terms with the fact that COVID is here to stay.
“I noticed that no one pretty much wears a mask anymore and that does make me nervous. I had my mask on when I went in the store,” said Kim Pease of Shelburne.
“Fully vaccinated, two boosters and everything -- I feel like I’ve done everything I can do,” Tom Esnes of Charlotte.
As Vermonters continue to navigate COVID, the state is making some changes in how it shares COVID data. Instead of daily updates, the health department is moving to a weekly surveillance report, which will provide an overview of daily COVID cases for the week, the state community level, wastewater monitoring, proportion of circulating variants, and syndromic surveillance -- which shows the number of people coming to emergency rooms with COVID-like illness.
State epidemiologist Patsy Kelso says the main reason for this shift is that there are so many people doing at-home testing and are not sharing the results with the state. “We’re trying to shift people towards better metrics now, given that situation that really gives us insight into what’s happening with this virus in Vermont,” Kelso said.
She says the COVID environment doesn’t change much day-by-day despite changing case counts and that a weekly update could allow Vermonters to make more informed decisions. Another change in the state’s pandemic management is the closing of state-run COVID testing clinics by the end of June. “If you’re symptomatic, we want people to talk to their health care providers about whether they need a test, where to get one -- whether it’s coming into that provider practice, or going to a pharmacy where testing is still widely available, or just doing an at-home test,” Kelso said.
But the dashboard closure is raising eyebrows for some. Anne Sosin, a Dartmouth College public health expert, says she’s concerned that these steps are coming too soon. “If we are going to put the onus of decision making on individuals, then we need to empower them with the information and tools to protect themselves,” she said.
She says the daily data is still helpful to Vermonters, especially those who are older or immunocompromised. and she is concerned that having fewer testing options will create fewer data to make individual and community decisions. “We desperately want this to be over, but even as we take away the pieces that we need in place to manage this on a long-term basis, we’re seeing COVID continuing to rear its ugly head,” Sosin said.
The weekly surveillance report will show outbreaks by county and will continue to report on outbreaks at long-term care facilities and schools, but will not specify where. It will not provide data including county by county numbers or daily counts. State officials say that information and other data can be found online for those who want it.
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