VDH: COVID cases fall but still very high, positivity rate sets record

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VDH: COVID cases fall but still very high, positivity rate sets record

Wed, 01/05/2022 - 4:50pm -- tim

VDH COVID positivity test rate January 5, 2022 

by Timothy McQuiston, Vermont Business Magazine The Vermont Department of Health today reported 887 new cases of COVID-19 for Tuesday, while this is half of the record, it is still historically high. The record of 1,727 cases of COVID-19 was set on Monday. On Thursday, December 30, it reported a then record 1,471 cases. The record for cases was broken three times last week. The VDH also today reported two more COVID-related fatalities for 482 statewide. With case counts now elevated, the positivity rate has increased to a record high 12.6 percent.

The state expected a surge in cases for the holidays, driven by the new Omicron variant and family gatherings. Cases for both unvaccinated and vaccinated people have spiked.

The VDH is urging eligible Vermonters to get vaccinated and boosted to reduce the chances of a serious health outcome and to get tested (see further information below).

Cases during this recent surge have been especially high in the northwestern and southern Vermont counties and now also in Washington and Lamoille counties. 

There were 49 COVID-19 related fatalities in Vermont in September 2021, and 47 deaths in October, which had been the second- and the third-worst months on record (December 2020, 71). There were 40 fatalities in November, 60 in December and four so far in January 2022. 

The December 2021 fatality rate was below the pace set in December 2020, but surpassed last September for the second worst month for COVID-19 deaths.

Hospitalizations today were 82 (down one) after breaking its one-day record December 8 with 92 statewide. ICU stays, which also had been elevated, were 15 (down four). The one-day record there was set December 7 (31). Hospitalizations and ICU visits have not surged even as cases have spiked the last couple of weeks.

Governor Phil Scott issued the following statement Monday on the FDA’s announcement that children 12-15 years old are eligible for a Pfizer booster shot:

“Today’s news that the FDA has approved booster shots for 12–15-year-olds is another important step forward. With cases expected to increase across the country over the coming weeks, the best way to keep Vermonters who are most vulnerable to severe illness out of the hospital is through vaccination and booster shots. Expanding eligibility for boosters will have an important impact and reduce disruptions. 

“I have directed the Agency of Human Services to operationalize this change in the State’s vaccine registration system as soon as final approval from CDC is granted, and we will have more details soon.”

  • In addition to expanding booster eligibility to those under 12, the FDA also shortened the waiting time between the primary series of the Pfizer vaccine and the third shot (booster) from six months to five.
  • The FDA also authorized a third primary-series dose for immunocompromised children over 5 years old.

The Department of Financial Regulation Commissioner Michael Pieciak released his usual COVID-19 Modeling report January 4, despite the governor not having his press conference as he prepares for the State of the State Address on January 5.

Among his findings was that the surge in cases this past holiday season was much greater than it was post-Christmas in 2020. 

As for the spike in COVID-19 cases, the VDH said in a statement last Wednesday that, "There are likely multiple factors at play and unfortunately these high case numbers are not unexpected. We are likely seeing the impact of holiday gatherings as we did in the days after Thanksgiving. In addition, Delta, a highly transmissible variant, is still circulating. Add to that the even more contagious Omicron getting a foothold in the state, along with many Vermonters following our recommendations for testing, and the numbers will go up.

"With all that, it’s important to know we are focusing on data of serious outcomes." 

Health Commissioner Dr Mark Levine said at the press briefing on December28:

“I suggest we not focus too much on those figures.

“Case number data are important. But what I, and every person on this stage, will be watching closely are the data and metrics of serious outcomes among people – specifically, hospitalizations and deaths.

“Here’s why. Even if you get sick from COVID, If you are fully protected – meaning you have your full primary vaccination and have your booster shot – you will generally have mild cold-like symptoms, or at worst, flu symptoms, and the illness is short-lived. Like having the flu, it’s not fun – being sick never is, but full protection means you should escape the worst of it. And reports from around the country and in Vermont are bearing this out.

“The data on serious outcomes, however, are key indicators of the worst impacts of the coronavirus. These are the figures that inform us of where we are in the pandemic; and as they have for almost 2 years now, drive our actions for protecting Vermonters from these terrible outcomes, and preserving the capacity of our health care system so each of us can get any needed care – whether we have COVID or another health need.”

Vermont had been late to see a surge from Omicron that has already hit New England the rest of the US.

Cases over the Christmas break were low and the positivity rate was relatively high as testing was low. Case counts were also relatively low over the holiday. 

On December 22, the VDH began presenting the relative death, hospitalization and case counts between fully vaccinated and not fully vaccinated Vermonters, in order to emphasize the benefits of getting vaccinated and boosted (fully vaccinated includes having received a booster shot for those who are eligible.)

The VDH reported Vermont's first case of the Omicron variant December 17, though they say it probably first showed up in Vermont in early December. 

DATE NEW CASES
Dec. 30 1,471
Dec. 31 577
Jan. 1 473
Jan. 2 245

FEMA has sent first responders to assist the UVM Medical Center in Burlington and Southwestern Medical Center in Bennington. They are expected to be here for two weeks, depending on conditions.

Governor Scott at his usual Tuesday press briefing urged all businesses to follow the state's own strict COVID guidance, but requiring employees to either be fully vaccinated and boosted or wear a mask at all times and get a weekly test.

He's urging businesses require the same of customers, but once again he stopped short of issuing a mandate.

Addison County

New Cases: 20

Recent Cases - Past 14 Days: 354

Cases Per 100,000 - Past 14 Days: 957.5

Bennington County

New Cases: 76

Recent Cases - Past 14 Days: 797

Cases Per 100,000 - Past 14 Days: 2,236.8

Caledonia County

New Cases: 10

Recent Cases - Past 14 Days: 249

Cases Per 100,000 - Past 14 Days: 821.7

Chittenden County

New Cases: 194

Recent Cases - Past 14 Days: 2,774

Cases Per 100,000 - Past 14 Days: 1,685.6

Essex County

New Cases: 0

Recent Cases - Past 14 Days: 30

Cases Per 100,000 - Past 14 Days: 480

Franklin County

New Cases: 54

Recent Cases - Past 14 Days: 739

Cases Per 100,000 - Past 14 Days: 1,495.3

Grand Isle County

New Cases: 5

Recent Cases - Past 14 Days: 77

Cases Per 100,000 - Past 14 Days: 1,086

Lamoille County

New Cases: 9

Recent Cases - Past 14 Days: 317

Cases Per 100,000 - Past 14 Days: 1,253

Orange County

New Cases: 12

Recent Cases - Past 14 Days: 189

Cases Per 100,000 - Past 14 Days: 651.7

Orleans County

New Cases: 13

Recent Cases - Past 14 Days: 166

Cases Per 100,000 - Past 14 Days: 616.9

Pending Validation

New Cases: 305

Recent Cases - Past 14 Days: 1,426

Cases Per 100,000 - Past 14 Days: 0

Rutland County

New Cases: 78

Recent Cases - Past 14 Days: 957

Cases Per 100,000 - Past 14 Days: 1,631.1

Washington County

New Cases: 45

Recent Cases - Past 14 Days: 831

Cases Per 100,000 - Past 14 Days: 1,429.3

Windham County

New Cases: 45

Recent Cases - Past 14 Days: 552

Cases Per 100,000 - Past 14 Days: 1,291

Windsor County

New Cases: 21

Recent Cases - Past 14 Days: 456

Cases Per 100,000 - Past 14 Days: 824.8

Several municipalities in Vermont separately are requiring masking and many businesses are requiring proof of vaccination or a recent negative test. 

“We knew it was only a matter of time before we saw Omicron in our state, and made sequencing a priority,” said Dr. Levine. “Vermont is a national leader in the proportion of positive tests on which we perform genomic sequencing. This is key to our ability to quickly identify and respond to cases.”

Global research is finding that the Omicron variant spreads faster and more efficiently than Delta, which is responsible for the current surge in cases and hospitalizations in Vermont and elsewhere. The new SARS-CoV-2 variant, formally called B.1.1.529, appears to be much faster moving but also less of a threat to the lungs and therefore somewhat less dangerous.

Dr. Levine said that the speed at which Omicron is likely to become the dominant strain means it is even more important for people to act quickly to be vaccinated and get their booster shots.

“As the effectiveness of the initial vaccines begin to wane, boosters provide the protection you need against bad outcomes, including serious illness, hospitalizations and death, especially for people whose age or health conditions make them vulnerable.” 

Scientists are continuing to study how Omicron compares to the already highly transmissible Delta variant, including what impact the new variant may have on the severity of illness and the effectiveness of current vaccines. The CDC expects that anyone with Omicron infection can spread the virus to others, even if they are vaccinated or don’t have symptoms.

“I can’t emphasize this enough: All Vermonters need to be as protected as possible, as soon as possible. So get vaccinated, get children age 5 and older vaccinated, and if you are due to get your booster shot, get it as soon as you can,” said Dr. Levine. “Vaccines are our best line of defense against this virus, and our ability to slow Omicron’s spread and to reduce the chances of new variants from emerging depends on our being fully protected.”  

In addition to being vaccinated and boosted, Vermonters should continue taking these common-sense precautions to protect against the spread of the virus in our communities, now and during the holidays, 

  • Stay home if you feel sick.
  • Get tested if you have any symptoms – even if mild, or if you may be a close contact, or have taken part in activities that could put you at risk, such as large gatherings or travel.
  • Wear a mask at indoor public settings and around anyone at higher risk of COVID-19.
  • Gather with others safely, which means small group sizes and testing before holiday celebrations.

For more information:

Learn more about the Omicron variant from the CDC: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/variants/omicron-variant.html

Recent fatalities had all been among Vermonters 50 and older until two weeks ago when there were three deaths in the 40-49 age band and now two in the 30-39 age band. There continues to be only one death for anyone under 30, which came in the 20-29 age band. These were the first fatalities for anyone under 50 in more than a month. The oldest age band has had the highest number of deaths since the beginning of the pandemic, despite having by far the fewest number of total cases. 

The rate of fatalities by month has slowed even as cases have increased, as nearly all of the most vulnerable Vermonters have been fully vaccinated. (The number of fatalities is sometimes adjusted by the VDH as information is updated).

Vermont has the lowest COVID fatality rate in the nation (71 per 100,000 residents). Hawaii (75) is second lowest. Mississippi (348) and Alabama (333) have the highest fatality rates. SEE FULL LIST BELOW.

Cases have been especially elevated in southern Vermont, with Bennington County now supplanting Orleans with the most cases per capita, with Essex County third and Rutland County fourth.

See Case and Vaccine Dashboards Below

This map includes Health Department, pharmacy and other testing sites.

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HERE TO GET TESTED

Where to Get Tested

ANTIGEN TESTS AVAILABLE SOON

Vermonters will soon be able to pick up a free antigen test at sites around the state. Information will be posted here as soon as it is available. Read more about antigen tests

INFORMATION ABOUT TESTING

You can be tested at a Health Department testing site, through your health care provider, or ask about testing at your local pharmacy. People with or without symptoms can be tested at most testing locations.

Learn about how to isolate and notify your close contacts if you test positive

FREE HEALTH DEPARTMENT TESTING

Our testing and vaccination clinics are busy right now. It's important to make an appointment ahead of time so you will not be turned away. Make an appointment online, or call 802-863-7240. ASL interpretation is available by video at all Health Department testing sites.

MAKE AN APPOINTMENT Use if you have had testing or a vaccine through the Health Department.

CHECK FOR RESULTS Log in after you get an email saying your results are ready.

CREATE AN ACCOUNT Use if you have never had a test or vaccine through the Health Department.

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Frequently asked questions about Health Department Testing

Bennington
Southwestern Vermont Medical Center (this site is not Health Dept testing)
Gymnasium at former Southern Vermont College campus
981 Mansion Dr.
Mon - Wed 1:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Thurs - Sat 8:00 am - 12:00 pm
For appointment for this site go to: https://svhealthcare.org/COVID-19/testing

Berlin
1311 Barre-Montpelier Rd.
Mon, Thurs, Sat 9:00 am - 4:00 pm
Tues 12:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Wed, Fri 2:00 pm - 7:00 pm
Sun 10:00 am - 4:00 pm

Brattleboro
Rescue Inc.
514 Canal St.
For people 5 years old and older
Special event: Wed, Jan 5 10:00 am - 2:00 pm

Brattleboro
417 Canal St.
Tues, Wed, Thurs, Sat 2:00 pm - 6:00 pm

Burlington
405 Pine St.
Mon, Tues, Fri  8:00 am - 4:00 pm
Wed, Thurs 12:00 pm - 7:00 pm
Sat 9:00 am - 2:00 pm

Burlington
294 North Winooski Ave., Suite 125
(satellite location of Community Health Center of Burlington)
Mon 12:30 pm - 5:00 pm
Tues 11:00 am - 12:00 pm, 12:30 pm - 3:00 pm
Wed 8:00 am - 12:00 pm
Fri 8:00 am - 12:00 pm, 12:30 pm - 2:00 pm
Closed Mon. Jan. 10.

Burlington
Burlington High School
52 Institute Rd.
For people 5 years old and older
Special event: Mon, Jan. 3 12:00 p.m. - 6:00 p.m.

Enosburg Falls
Cold Hollow Family Practice (this site is not Health Dept testing)
84 Water Tower Rd. Fork Suite 1
Mon - Fri 8:00 am - 6:00 pm
For appointment for this site call 802-933-6664

Fairlee
5445 Lake Morey Rd. E
Mon, Wed, Thurs, Sat, Sun 9:00 am - 12:00 pm
Tues, Fri 4:00 pm - 6:00 pm

Glover
Glover Ambulance
48 County Rd.
Tues & Thurs 10:00 am - 4:00 pm
Wed 12:00 pm - 6:00 pm

Hardwick
Hardwick Fire Station
333 Wolcott St.
Mon 7:30 am - 11:30 am
Wed 1:30 pm - 5:30 pm
Sat 8:00 am - 12:00 pm

Island Pond
Brighton Fire Department
102 Railroad St.
Tues 8:00 am - 12:00 pm
Thurs 2:30 pm - 6:30 pm
Sat 8:30 am - 12:30 pm

Johnson
62 Wilson Rd.
Mon - Wed 8:00 am - 4:00 pm

Killington
Corner of Killington Access Rd. and Dean Hill (old fire station)
For people 5 years old and older
Special events: Mon, Jan. 3 from 2:00 p.m. - 6:00 p.m.

Middlebury
154 Creek Rd.
Mon - Fri 9:00 am - 1:00 pm
Sat 10:00 am - 1:00 pm

Middlebury
55 Middle Rd. North
Thursday, Jan. 6 from 8:00 am - 4:00 pm

Montpelier
134 State St. (parking lot)
Thurs 3:00 pm - 6:00 pm

Morrisville
Copley Hospital (this site is not Health Dept testing)
528 Washington Hwy
Mon – Fri 10:00 - 11:00 am, 4:00 - 5:00pm
Sat: 10:00 - 11:00 am
For appointment for this site call 802-888-8888

Morrisville
Lamoille Health Partners
609 Washington Highway
Wed - Fri 1:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Sat 9:00 am - 1:00 pm

Newport
Newport Ambulance Services
830 Union St.
Mon, Tues, Thurs 8:00 am - 4:00 pm
Sat 8:00 am - 12:00 pm

Newport
North Country Hospital
189 Prouty Dr.
Mon, Thurs, Fri 8:00 am - 4:00 pm
Tues, Wed 10:00 am - 6:00 pm

Northfield
31 Dog River Rd.
Mon 9:00 am - 12:30 pm
Fri 4:00 pm - 7:00 pm

Randolph
Gifford Medical Center (this site is not Health Dept testing)
44 S Main St, South parking lot
Mon, Tue, Thur, and Fri 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
For appointment for this site call 802-728-7000

Richford
53 Main Street
NOTCH Partner Project (not Richford Health Center)
Mon 10:00 am - 2:00 pm

Rutland
Rutland Regional Medical Center
160 Allen St.
Mon - Fri 9:00 am - 10:00 am and 4:00 pm - 5:20 pm
Sat 10:00 am - 11:50 am

Springfield
Springfield Health Center
51 Pearl St., Level 2
Mon, Tues, Fri 8:00 am - 12:30 pm
Wed 8:00 am - 11:00 am
Sat 8:00 am - 12:00 pm

Stratton
Carlos Otis Stratton Mountain Clinic
78 Founder's Hill Rd.
Mon, Wed, Fri 8:00 am - 11:00 am

St. Albans
Northwestern Medical Center (Valley Crossroads Building)
27 Fisher Pond Road (north side of the building)
Mon, Tues, Fri 10:00 am - 2:00 pm
Wed, Thurs 2:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Sat 9:00 am - 12:00 pm

St. Johnsbury
Caledonia Home Health Care & Hospice
161 Sherman Dr. (parking lot)
Mon, Wed, Fri 8:30 am - 1:30 pm
Tues, Thurs 3:30 pm - 7:30 pm
Sat 8:30 am - 12:30 pm

St. Johnsbury
Northeastern Vermont Regional Hosptial
1315 Hospital Dr.
Mon, Wed, Fri 8:30 am - 12:20 pm

Waitsfield
Waitsfield United Church of Christ
4355 Main St.
Fri, Sat 9:00 am - 2:00 pm

Waterbury
1727 Guptil Rd.
Mon, Tues, Fri 9:00 am - 6:00 pm
Wed 1:00 pm - 7:00 pm
Thurs 1:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Sat 9:00 am - 5:00 pm
Sun 9:00 am - 3:00 pm

Wells River
65 Main St. N.
Mon, Tue, Wed, Fri 3:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Thurs 4:00 pm - 6:00 pm

Williamstown
249 Meadow St.
Wed 9:00 am - 1:30 pm

Williston
UVMMC Clinic - Taft Corners
300 Interstate Corp. Center
(Next to TD Bank and across from Friendly’s)
Mon - Fri 9:00 am - 12:00 pm and 1:00 pm - 3:30 pm

Windsor
Mt. Ascutney Hospital and Health Center
289 County Road
Mon - Fri 9:00 am - 4:00 pm
* Testing for people age 2+ years.

Winooski
32 Mallets Bay Ave.
Mon, Wed, Fri 3:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Tues, Thurs, Sat, Sun 9:00 am - 2:00 pm

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