Vt. health commissioner: Not all coughs are COVID, other viruses spreading

Published: Sep. 28, 2022 at 6:13 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 28, 2022 at 7:57 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Coughing and sneezing can be heard in schools and workplaces across Vermont, but experts say it’s not just COVID going around. Our Alexandra Montgomery talked with Vermont Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine about what’s spreading and what’s next in the fight against coronavirus.

First, an update on the spread of COVID in Vermont. Levine says community transmission remains low. And although there’s been a minor uptick in hospitalizations, he says not everyone in the hospital is there because of COVID.

“Probably certainly 50% would be a high end, probably less than 50% are there for COVID,” Levine said.

And it’s not clearing out classrooms.

“The fact of the matter is we’re not having situations that are closing down classrooms, closing down schools,” Levine said.

Not all coughs are COVID. Dr. Levine says there are a number of upper respiratory viruses, like RSV, going around right now.

“In the region of New England, there’s been an uptick in hospitalizations for children with respiratory viruses and, again, most of them are not COVID,” he explained.

Now, pediatricians’ offices are busy giving kids vaccines against things like the flu and COVID. Levine says we’re either leading the nation or at the top with 20% of kids under 5 getting at least one COVID shot.

“Which may not sound like a lot,” he said, “but the nation is less than 5%.”

Next on the list is a COVID booster for kids 5-11. Levine says they preordered those shots and, pending approval, could give them out next month.

He recommends children get the COVID shots and available boosters, and that pediatricians across the state want this to be integrated into their seasonal shot schedules for kids.

“We have data that shows kids are still getting long COVID and susceptible to complications from COVID, and we have lots of data that shows that the vaccine continues to be safe,” Levine said.

Meanwhile, adults can get their bivalent booster at doctors’ offices and pharmacies across the state, and will find more Moderna shots available now that a manufacturer issue has been fixed.

“We are up to 27,000, so that’s really been about 1,000 doses a day since we’ve been able to start,” Levine said.

Click here for more on COVID-19 from the Vermont Department of Health.