VDH: COVID cases back over 200, three deaths for 398

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VDH: COVID cases back over 200, three deaths for 398

Wed, 11/17/2021 - 4:59pm -- tim

by Timothy McQuiston, Vermont Business Magazine The Vermont Department of Health is reporting 245 COVID-19 cases, which was up from Tuesday's 187. There were 222 on Monday and 298 cases on Sunday. There were 463 COVID-19 cases on Saturday and 505 cases Friday, which was the second highest case count on record after they spiked to 591 last Thursday. The 15 worst days have all come since mid-September, following from the Delta variant surge that began in July.

Reported cases have tended to ramp up later in the week as people get tested and results come back.

The VDH also reported three additional COVID-related deaths, which stand at 398 statewide. 

There were 44 COVID-related deaths in Vermont in October, which was the third-worst month on record (December 2020, 71; September 2021, 50). There are 22 so far in November.

Recent fatalities have all been among Vermonters 50 and older, with most in the oldest age band, which has been the case since the beginning of the pandemic, despite having by far the fewest number of cases. 

Over the last week, cases among those not fully vaccinated (now including children 5 and older) is up 39 percent, and for those fully vaccinated, cases are up 23 percent. 

Vermont has the highest rate of vaccination for those 65 and over. And for that age band, cases have decreased by 2 percent.


Governor Scott: Get vaccinated to help keep you and everyone else safe


Vermont officials were concerned that there would be a post-Halloween spike in cases, as there was last year. Cases did increase, though the spike was not as noticeable as total cases were starting at a much higher level than in 2020. 

Meanwhile, legislative leaders are balking at a suggestion from Governor Scott to call a Special Legislative Session Monday to allow for municipalities to enact their own COVID requirements, including local mask mandates. The request to do so came to Scott from the Vermont League of Cities & Towns.

The governor called the suggestion "an olive branch" in order to find some compromise over this contentious issue.

Bringing back the Legislature even for one day is an expensive operation. While back in session they could enact some other bill. Scott said he would not hesitate to veto something other than a local authority COVID response.

Legislative leaders want the governor to simply and cheaply call for a State of Emergency and mandate masking guidelines through executive order.

Scott has been adamant that there is no emergency now, despite the recent spike in COVID cases, and because there is not one, it would be an abuse of power. 

In a practical sense, Scott said it wouldn't work. Those who are determined not to follow health guidance now, nor get vaccinated, likely would not adhere to a mask mandate anyway. Similar situations in other states prove that point, Scott said. 

He added that the goal of his administration during the pandemic has been to protect the health care system, which, he said, has been successful. Even as cases recently surged, neither hospitalizations nor deaths have followed suit. 


Legislative leaders respond to Scott's call for special session


He and Health Commissioner Mark Levine are emphasizing not only vaccinations and boosters, but the use of rapid antigen testing, especially for those for are visiting or being visited for the holidays. Scott said rapid testing of COVID could be with us for the foreseeable future, even as the pandemic turns into an endemic.

Hospitalizations today were 59 today (up seven) and ICU visits were 16 (up five). Hospitalizations are relatively high but have not spiked even as case counts have risen.

Cases have been more prevalent in younger people, with 5-11 having the highest rate. But hospitalizations and deaths are most common among older people. Recent cases at Long Term Care facilities are down.

See locations of vaccine clinics and case dashboards below.

Cases have been especially high in the Northeast Kingdom, which has had elevated case rates in recent weeks. Bennington and Rutland also have seen increases recently. Orleans, Essex and Bennington counties have the highest rates of infection per capita, with all three over 1,000 cases per 10,000 people. The next highest counties are all under 800/10,000. Addison is the only county with under 500/10,000. The next lowest are Grand Isle, Orange and Windsor.

The governor has repeatedly said this is now "a pandemic of the unvaccinated," and said the transmission has been largely through smaller gatherings. Halloween parties at St Michael's College in Colchester, for instance, are blamed for a surge in cases there last week, even though the vaccination rate among college students is over 90 percent.

 

Meanwhile, the CDC gave final approval November 2 for Pfizer vaccines for children 5-11 (for vaccine information or to register CLICK HERE). Already in the 5-11 age band, 15,991 have either signed up or started their vaccine regimen, or about 36 percent of the 44,000 children in that range.

Governor Scott said the White House is sending more doses to Vermont, which so far has the highest uptake of any state. Human Services Secretary Mike Smith said there will be plenty of first and second doses available for all who sign up. The doses are a third of the strength of the adult dose and like the adult Pfizer regimen will require a followup shot for full immunity.


Governor Scott responds to record case count: Get vaccinated, protect others


Based on record high cases this past week, Governor Phil Scott recently issued a statement urging Vermonters to get vaccinated. He said, in part, "The simple fact is, this pandemic is being driven by the unvaccinated, including 53,000 eligible adults. The three lowest vaccinated counties account for 25% of today’s cases, yet they only make up 10% of our state population. Unvaccinated Vermonters are up to 5 times as likely to contract COVID in Vermont and they account for 70-85% of our hospitalizations and ICU stays. Unvaccinated adults are directly contributing to the strain on our hospital capacity. Enough is enough, it’s time to step up and get vaccinated – something over 90% of your fellow Vermont adults have done."


Vermont launches 5-11 vaccination drive


Some of the recent surge also could be due to a waning of immunization. Vermonters and New Englanders were among the first to get vaccinated, the governor said, and so the immunity may be wearing off.

Dr Levine continues to urge Vermonters to get their booster dose, especially if they're over 65. The immunity appears to wane over time and older Vermonters and those immunocompromised were among the first vaccinated last winter.

Dr Levine and Governor Scott have said that if you feel at all at risk of getting COVID, you should get a booster.

The elderly have been especially vulnerable to COVID, with the vast majority of fatalities coming among those 80 and over (211 total deaths, while having by far the fewest number of infections for any age band.). 

The CDC is also allowing people to change/mix and match vaccines.

Vermont has the highest booster rate in the US. And people who have been vaccinated can mix and match their boosters. Governor Scott, who originally received the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, told VBM November 3 that he opted for the Moderna vaccine for his booster.

Dr Rebecca Bell, President, Vermont Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, at the governor's press conference November 2, sought to alleviate parents' fears.

She said the efficacy of this lower dose children's vaccine is still 91 percent. And unlike with adults, children in the control group did not show any of the flu-like symptoms that some adults have experienced. 

Parents should also take comfort that a vaccinated child would no longer have to quarantine if they were a close contact to someone that tested positive. This issue has kept many kids out of school even though they never contracted COVID.

 

Education Secretary Dan French announced in late October that the state was once again delaying the roll out of the 80 percent rule for ending school mask mandates. It will not happen go into effect until January 18, 2022, when students return to school after the Martin Luther King Holiday break.

The governor and his staff reiterated that these are recommendations only, because there is no State of Emergency, not mandates. The local school districts, like local businesses and individuals, must make their own rules.

As the Delta variant continues to be active in Vermont, Governor Scott is calling on all Vermonters to act responsibly.

The new school guidance reads:

"To allow school districts time to calculate the percentage of currently eligible students who have received two doses of a two-dose vaccine, schools should require universal masking for all students and staff when indoors until January 18, 2022.

"Currently, all Vermonters ages 12 and older are eligible to be vaccinated.

"After January 18, 2022, masks should no longer be required for all those eligible for vaccination when the vaccination rate (two doses of a two-dose vaccine) among students is equal to or greater than 80% of the school’s currently eligible population.

"Masks should be required indoors for students younger than 12, who are not eligible to be vaccinated at this time.

"Masks, when required, may be removed when needed for instructional or operational purposes.

"Masks are currently required for all passengers on buses per federal regulation, regardless of age or vaccination status.

"Masks should not be required outdoors. Guidance will be updated when vaccine eligibility expands."

The state also released school sports guidance Tuesday.

See Vaccination & COVID-19 Dashboards & Vaccination Sites Table Below

Addison County

New Cases: 1

Recent Cases 14 days: 118

Bennington County

New Cases: 9

Recent Cases 14 days: 433

Caledonia County

New Cases: 7

Recent Cases 14 days: 324

Chittenden County

New Cases: 43

Recent Cases 14 days: 825

Essex County

New Cases: 3

Recent Cases 14 days: 111

Franklin County

New Cases: 31

Recent Cases 14 days: 482

Grand Isle County

New Cases: 0

Recent Cases 14 days: 22

Lamoille County

New Cases: 1

Recent Cases 14 days: 171

Orange County

New Cases: 6

Recent Cases 14 days: 201

Orleans County

New Cases: 1

Recent Cases 14 days: 362

Pending Validation

New Cases: 0

Recent Cases 14 days: 5

Rutland County

New Cases: 48

Recent Cases 14 days: 708

Washington County

New Cases: 18

Recent Cases 14 days: 357

Windham County

New Cases: 10

Recent Cases 14 days: 199

Windsor County

New Cases: 9

Recent Cases 14 days: 338

Most cases in Vermont are in the younger age groups with the 20-29 reporting the most, with nearly 7,300 total cases out of 37,100+, but only one death. The over 79 demographic has the fewest cases (just over 1,200) but by far the most fatalities with 188, or more than half the state total.

Financial Commissioner Michael Pieciak said Tuesday (SEE HIS FULL SLIDE DECK HERE) cases across the nation are falling fast and that the seven-day and 14-day averages in Vermont and the Northeast also are falling but at a slower rate. Vermont's seven-day infection rate is down15 percent. For the 14-day average, while overall it is down 2 percent for those who are fully vaccinated, it's up 9 percent for those who are not fully vaccinated (which includes the unvaccinated).

Cases in high vaccination regions of the country are not displaying the typical Delta variant pattern, as in India, of a spike followed by a steep drop off after a couple months.

In Vermont, Delta has shown slow growth and a long plateau. Health Commission Mark Levine suggested that the drop off here could be another couple of weeks off, but he frankly was not sure.

He and Governor Scott and Human Services Secretary Mike Smith all urged that everyone who is eligible to get a vaccine to get one now, to get a booster now and to wear a mask while at an indoor gathering.

Governor Scott said the data shows that virus transmission with Delta is occurring at things like weddings and baby showers and birthday parties, sort of small and medium events where people are gathered for a period of time. It is not happening while visiting a convenience store or other type place where you are in an out, he said. Nor is it happening at outdoor gathering events.

Pieciak, in his COVID-19 Modeling presentation, said deaths seem to have slowed down a little as Delta has taken its toll. There have been 23 in October so far (as of the 21st)   

Still, September was the second worst month for COVID-related deaths in Vermont since the beginning of the pandemic, with 45.

December 2020 was the worst with 71 and April 2020 was third worst with 35.

Meanwhile, the state is ramping up antigen testing in schools to keep kids in school who otherwise would be sent home if there were a close contact of someone who tests positive. Children now have a higher rate of infection than adults.

Governor Scott and state officials are urging all those who are eligible now to get vaccinated or get a booster shot, to do so, in order to reduce community transmission of the novel coronavirus (see clinic sites below).

As of October 1, many more Vermonters can now schedule and receive their Pfizer vaccine booster shots. He said there is plenty of vaccine supply.

“We know vaccines are safe and effective, and these additional doses add even more protection. So, I encourage anyone who is eligible to register for your booster today,” said Governor Scott. “At the same time, we continue to urge those who have not yet gotten their first dose to get vaccinated. The data shows we are now in a pandemic of the unvaccinated, and vaccines are the best way to protect yourself, friends and family, and to make sure we continue moving forward from the pandemic.”

Governor Scott said that the state will take a very broad interpretation of eligibility. 

"We've reflected on this," Scott said. "We're going to be quite lenient in terms of who should be included and if they'd like to have a booster we'd like to find a way for them to have it. So I expect that number is substantially higher at this point. So our interpretation of this will be, again, quite broad."

Addition of Rapid Testing Tools Will Help Keep More Kids in School

COVID-19 TESTING - TEST TO STAY

When a student or staff member with COVID-19 is present in school during their infectious period, the school may implement Test to Stay for unvaccinated close contacts. 

Who can participate?

Unvaccinated, asymptomatic students (ages 5 and up) and staff who are close contacts of a positive COVID-19 case.  

When should we use Test to Stay? 

When a student or staff member with COVID-19 is present in school during their infectious period, the school may implement Test to Stay for unvaccinated close contacts. When a case is identified during the school day, the following should occur: 

  1. The school should conduct contact tracing to identify close contacts. 
  2. Unvaccinated students and staff close contacts finish the school day as normal. 
  3. The following day, unvaccinated close contacts that do not participate in Test to Stay must quarantine (stay home from school). Unvaccinated close contacts who participate in Test to Stay will come to school as normal, but must be tested before beginning the school day.
    • Schools may house students in a designated area, where they will not mix with students and staff who are not testing until they have their results.  
    • Students may ride the bus to school, but must remain masked at all times, per federal regulations. If a student receives a positive antigen test, it will be the responsibility of the parent/guardian to pick the student up from school and they will not be permitted to ride the bus home, as they are now considered a positive COVID-19 case. 
  4. Close contacts will receive an antigen test until 7 days have elapsed from the date of last exposure to the case. 
  5. While students/staff are participating in Test to Stay antigen testing they should quarantine while outside of school, including over the weekend. 

Siblings of positive cases should be sent home and follow Protocols for Responding to COVID-19 Scenarios (Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education). 

Scenario 1 – Individual is symptomatic, antigen test negative

When a student or staff member is symptomatic, they will get an antigen test. If the antigen test comes back negative:

  • the individual should still be sent home and receive a confirmatory in-school response PCR test before they leave school. If an in-school test in unavailable, the school may provide a Take Home PCR Test, (see test type 3) to be self-administered at home and either mailed that same day to the lab via UPS or other courier service, or returned to the school for shipping
  • close contacts do not need to be identified yet, and other students and staff members will continue their day as normal
  • if the symptomatic individual’s PCR test comes back positive/, the school commences a Test to Stay Program for unvaccinated close contacts who chose to participate until seven days post exposure
  • If the PCR test comes back negative, no antigen testing is necessary
Scenario 2- Individual is symptomatic, antigen test positive

When a student or staff member is symptomatic, they will get an antigen test. If the antigen test comes back positive:

  • the individual should be sent home and go into isolation for 10 days
  • Test to Stay should start for unvaccinated close contacts the next day
  • antigen testing should continue for 7 days since the date of last exposure
Scenario 3 – Procedures upon learning of a positive PCR result.

When a student or staff member receives a positive test result, regardless of whether they are symptomatic or not:

  • the individual should be sent home (or not come to school) and go into isolation for 10 days
  • Test to Stay should start for unvaccinated close contacts the next day
  • antigen testing should continue for 7 days since the date of last exposure
How are results reported? 
  • Schools will be using SimpleReport for all rapid antigen tests. It can accommodate all antigen test types and links directly to VDH so that test results to do not need to be reported separately
  • SimpleReport is a free web tool created by the CDC that helps make COVID-19 rapid testing and reporting easier for schools
  • More information about the registration process is available in the Test to Stay Onboarding Checklist. Please use this guide to register and onboard.  
  • Please note that there is an option to do a bulk upload of participant data, rather than asking families to preregister. 
  • This reporting tool includes the option for test results to be sent in real time via text or email to parents/guardians. 
Test Type:
  • Rapid antigen tests. Both CLIA and non-CLIA waivered test kits may be available depending on the supply chain.
  •  Test kits are nasal swabs, which can be self-administered by individuals ages 15 and up. An adult must collect the swab for students ages 5 through 14.
Recommended Use Cases:
  • In elementary schools: classrooms and any additional close contacts
  • In middle and high schools with less than 80% of the eligible population vaccinated contract tracing should be done first to determine close contacts: 
    • If the close contact is vaccinated, then they would not participate in TTS and will not be required to quarantine. Instead, it is recommended that they complete a PCR test 3-5 days after their exposure
    • If the close contact is unvaccinated and asymptomatic, then they can participate in TTS or opt out and follow the protocols for quarantine either with or without a PCR test on day 7. 
  • Not recommended for middle and high schools where more than 80% of the eligible population is vaccinated.  

Information can be found on the Agency of Education’s COVID-19 Testing Family Resources webpage and COVID-19 Response Testing At-A-Glance.

Booster Shots

Get extra protection with a booster shot if you are 18 or older and you received your

  • second dose of Pfizer or Moderna vaccine at least six months ago, or
  • Johnson & Johnson vaccine at least two months ago.

It's especially important for anyone 65 or older to get a booster. For Pfizer and Moderna boosters, you should get a booster if you are under 65 and feel at risk of getting COVID-19. The CDC defines risk as:

  • having certain medical conditions, including mental health conditions,
  • working in a job that increases your risk of COVID-19 because you are indoors, exposed to the public and to other workers,
  • living in a long-term care facility, group home, college dormitory or other congregate setting, or
  • if you are Black, Indigenous or a person of color (BIPOC) or live with someone who is BIPOC

Here are the vaccination sites available this week:

More ways to get your free vaccine:

Make an appointment for a free vaccine

You can also walk-in at CVS, Hannaford Food and Drug, Walmart, Walgreens, Price Chopper/Market 32, Rite Aid, Shaw’s Supermarket, or Costco or get an appointment with Kinney DrugsCVSWalgreens, Northfield Pharmacy, or UVMMC Outpatient Pharmacies.

If you are 12 to 17 years old, look for clinics that offer the Pfizer vaccine and bring a parent or guardian with you. For children ages 5-11, look for a clinic that offers Pfizer (Ages 5-11). Please make an appointment for your shot. If you walk in to a clinic without an appointment, you are unlikely to get a vaccine.

ASL interpretation is available by video at all state-run vaccination clinics.

There will be first, second and booster doses for the vaccine type that is available at the clinic site you choose. Check the “Vaccine Type” column to see if the site has Pfizer (Ages 5-11), Pfizer (Ages 12+), Moderna or Johnson & Johnson.

Vaccination & COVID-19 Dashboards