by Timothy McQuiston, Vermont Business Magazine The Vermont Department of Health today is reporting 1,963 cases of COVID-19 for Wednesday. This is more than 1,000 cases higher than Tuesday. Reported cases tend to run higher as the week goes along as people get tested and the labs report their results.
The VDH completed its update delayed test results yesterday following a technical glitch over the weekend.
The VDH reset case counts with the new record high set last Friday, January 7, of 2,975 cases of COVID-19. The numbers for January 8 are 2,357; January 9, are 1,061, January 10 are 939, and for Tuesday, January 11, they are 813. While the fatality rate has slowed, there were still three deaths reported today for a statewide total of 490.
The record for daily cases was broken seven times in the last two weeks as the 14-day average increased by 245% and the 7-day average increased by 69% to 1,607 cases. With case counts now elevated, the seven-day positivity rate is now 13%, which is just below the 13.8% record set January 8.
Hospitalizations January 13 were 91 (up six); the record of 101 was set January 10, 2022. ICU stays, which also had been elevated, were 28 (up one). The one-day record there was set December 7, 2021, (31). Hospitalizations and ICU visits have not surged even as cases have more than tripled the last couple of weeks.
The VDH and Department of Financial Regulation (DFR) are estimating that with the more virulent Omicron variant, cases will be going up from the current rate to upwards of 5,000 a day through the end of the month, before they begin to subside in February.
As for testing, the state will be relying more heavily on self reporting as rapid antigen tests become more prominent.
While the first 350,000 tests have been distributed in a program that began Wednesday morning, all Vermont residents who have not successfully ordered one can request a rapid, at home test through the VDH when the state is able to distribute the next allotment of 150,000 tests: SayYesCovidHomeTest.org
Each order will contain two test kits and each kit contains two tests, for a total of four tests per order.
For schools, the rapid tests will become the standard as daily testing of close contacts will replace the PCR surveillance testing and contact tracing now used in the Test to Stay program.
The new program will rely on those rapid antigen tests and parents giving them to their kids at home.
Because Omicron spreads fast, the school Test to Stay program has become unsustainable given the lag in test results for PCR and the labor-intensive nature of contact tracing.
The teachers' union and others were disappointed with the state's sudden change. Governor Scott said the state had to act quickly because of the fast acting nature of the Omicron variant.
The state is confident that there are plenty of antigen tests for the schools. Health officials also mentioned that while more infectious than previous variants, health outcomes are not as severe as the previous variants.
State officials want to keep kids in schools and schools open. Remote learning does not count as an official school day, unless granted a waiver by the Department of Education.
Because self-reporting of cases will not be as high as cases found via PCR tests, several metrics should be used to judge the impact of COVID-19 on the state.
DFR Commissioner Pieciak said many factors should be looked at to gauge Omicron impact, including statistical estimates of viral load, hospitalizations, ICU stays and deaths.
Also, people should upgrade their masks to N95 or similar because Omicron is better able to get through a regular cloth mask. Dr Levine urged Vermonters to wear a double mask if an N95-type mask was not available.
As for the adult population, the state will begin to roll out free antigen test kits for the general public beginning Wednesday on the healthvermont.gov website starting at 10 am. The state has 250,000 kits (each kit has two tests and an individual should take both at least 24 hours apart).
The federal government will release similar kits in the coming weeks.
The state and federal kits are on a first-come basis.
Pharmacies also may have kits available, though that is more hit or miss. However, most insurance will cover the cost of kits (about $25) either upfront or reimbursed.
There were 49 COVID-19 related fatalities in Vermont in September 2021, and 47 deaths in October, which had been the second- and third-worst months on record (December 2020, 71). There were 42 fatalities in November, 62 in December and 10 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. But like hospitalizations, the number of deaths have not spiked with the surge in overall cases.
The VDH also today reported three additional COVID-related fatalities, which stand at 490 statewide.
Governor Scott Press Briefing January 11, 2022, Bullet Points
- Test to Stay out at schools, rapid antigen tests in. Plenty of tests at school.
- The public also will be able to request a rapid antigen test kit through the state starting Wednesday. There are 250K test available, plus some are separately available through pharmacies.
- Get your kids vaccinated to protect them and everyone else, and keep them in school.
- Technical glitch on the state level has closed down the dashboard but cases are higher and are expected to climb until at least the end of January.
- Seven-day average for cases is up 69 percent to 1,607 cases;14-day average is up 245 percent.
- In US, there are about 4-5 times more cases of COVID-19 than what has been reported, which means in New England, about 10 percent of the population has been infected.
- Death rates have slowed.
- Hospitalizations have increased 34 percent over last week and peaked Monday at 101 statewide. But hospitalizations have increased at a much more gradual rate than with the increase in case counts. ICU stays have not increased. Still, sickest patients are those unvaccinated.
- Fully vaccinated and boosted death rate is very low: 2 per 100K if boosted, versus 45.5 per 100K if only one or no vaccination (24 times higher).
- Get an N95 mask or equivalent or wear a double mask because of Omicron.
- 487 total deaths in Vermont. Seven deaths so far in January in Vermont, two reported today, Vermont has the lowest death rate in the US.
- Dr Levine sad it's possible that it's not IF you will get Omicron, it's WHEN.
|DATE||CORRECTED CASE COUNT|
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 outcomes and to get tested (see further information below).
Cases during this recent surge have been especially high in the northwestern (Chittenden County third highest in the state the last two weeks) and southern Vermont counties (Bennington and Rutland the two highest) and now also in Washington and Lamoille counties.
The state began distributing 500,000 at-home rapid antigen tests starting on Wednesday January 12 at 10 am trough the healthvermont.gov website. The first allotment of 350,000 was allocated by the afternoon.
The State opened registration for COVID-19 booster shots for children 12 to 15 years old on Thursday, January 6, following approval by CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky late Wednesday night.
This age group can receive their Pfizer booster as early as five months after their second Pfizer dose. Children ages 16 and 17 have already been eligible for a Pfizer booster but can now also get their booster shot as soon as five months after the second dose.
The new five month wait time for a booster shot also applies to anyone 18 and older who received the Pfizer vaccine. They can get a Pfizer or Moderna booster.
To make an appointment, parents and caregivers can go online effective immediately at healthvermont.gov/MyVaccine or by calling 855-722-7878.
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.
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.
“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:
- Vaccination and booster locations: healthvermont.gov/MyVaccine
- Protecting yourself: healthvermont.gov/preventCOVID19
- Testing for Covid-19: healthvermont.gov/covid-19/testing
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 has the most cases per capita, with Orleans County second, Essex County third and Rutland County fourth.
See Case and Vaccine Dashboards Below
See this map displayed full-screen.
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.
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.
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
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
514 Canal St.
For people 5 years old and older
Special event: Wed, Jan 5 10:00 am - 2:00 pm
417 Canal St.
Tues, Wed, Thurs, Sat 2:00 pm - 6:00 pm
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
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 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.
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
5445 Lake Morey Rd. E
Mon, Wed, Thurs, Sat, Sun 9:00 am - 12:00 pm
Tues, Fri 4:00 pm - 6:00 pm
48 County Rd.
Tues & Thurs 10:00 am - 4:00 pm
Wed 12:00 pm - 6:00 pm
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
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
62 Wilson Rd.
Mon - Wed 8:00 am - 4:00 pm
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.
154 Creek Rd.
Mon - Fri 9:00 am - 1:00 pm
Sat 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
55 Middle Rd. North
Thursday, Jan. 6 from 8:00 am - 4:00 pm
134 State St. (parking lot)
Thurs 3:00 pm - 6:00 pm
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
Lamoille Health Partners
609 Washington Highway
Wed - Fri 1:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Sat 9:00 am - 1:00 pm
Newport Ambulance Services
830 Union St.
Mon, Tues, Thurs 8:00 am - 4:00 pm
Sat 8:00 am - 12:00 pm
North Country Hospital
189 Prouty Dr.
Mon, Thurs, Fri 8:00 am - 4:00 pm
Tues, Wed 10:00 am - 6:00 pm
31 Dog River Rd.
Mon 9:00 am - 12:30 pm
Fri 4:00 pm - 7:00 pm
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
53 Main Street
NOTCH Partner Project (not Richford Health Center)
Mon 10:00 am - 2:00 pm
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 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
Carlos Otis Stratton Mountain Clinic
78 Founder's Hill Rd.
Mon, Wed, Fri 8:00 am - 11:00 am
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
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
Northeastern Vermont Regional Hosptial
1315 Hospital Dr.
Mon, Wed, Fri 8:30 am - 12:20 pm
Waitsfield United Church of Christ
4355 Main St.
Fri, Sat 9:00 am - 2:00 pm
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
65 Main St. N.
Mon, Tue, Wed, Fri 3:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Thurs 4:00 pm - 6:00 pm
249 Meadow St.
Wed 9:00 am - 1:30 pm
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
Mt. Ascutney Hospital and Health Center
289 County Road
Mon - Fri 9:00 am - 4:00 pm
* Testing for people age 2+ years.
32 Mallets Bay Ave.
Mon, Wed, Fri 3:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Tues, Thurs, Sat, Sun 9:00 am - 2:00 pm