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Increasing Vt. case counts an outlier in NE region

Published: Oct. 12, 2021 at 9:12 AM EDT
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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - Vermont COVID case counts have taken a turn for the worse compared to improving trends in the northeast region.

The delta variant’s unpredictability continues to confound state forecast models. After last week’s hopeful prediction of Vermont cases trending down, the state over the past week saw a 26 percent increase - the only state in New England seeing a growth in cases.

“The trends in new England and in the country have largely held steady, which certainly is a good sign for Vermont. What happens around us obviously has an impact on us here in Vermont, but at the moment, as you can see, the case slide trends have reversed and are going up,” said DFR Commissioner Mike Pieciak.

Health officials say around 75% of the new cases are among unvaccinated individuals and that most are linked to community transmission and not outbreaks. There’s an uptick in cases among the elderly and a spike in cases among children. There are currently 49 people in the hospital and five of them are children - three at the Brattleboro Retreat. Four more Vermonters died as of Tuesday, bringing October’s total deaths to 14. Most of the deaths have been among older Vermonters, many in hospice or with underlying conditions. “To protect yourself, your family, and your friends, I encourage you to get vaccinated,” said AHS Secretary Mike Smith.

As the delta wave drags on, Governor Scott now says it will likely last 12 to 13 weeks, nearly a month longer than originally forecasted. “We’re disappointed. Wish we had all the answers but we have to keep doing what we think is right, and that’s getting vaccinated,” he said. That includes getting a booster shot, getting tested, and wearing a mask at indoor gatherings.

While lawmakers last week continued to push for targeted mask mandates, the governor says such orders would not get the same compliance as last year. “I don’t think my saying that or us mandating that is going to get one single person to wear a mask that doesn’t want to wear a mask,” he said.

Vermont education officials say they continue to plan for the rollout of their new “Test to Stay” program, which allows students who have been identified as close contacts to remain in school while they are tested daily. Education Secretary Dan French reported instances where irate parents have lashed out at school nurses and staff over current school quarantine procedures.

“One nurse told me that it’s not what they signed up to be -- a nurse to be arguing with parents about the need to comply. But again, it’s all about keeping our kids safe, so we just need to work together during this challenging time of the delta variant,” he said.

Relief could be on the way. In early November the CDC will discuss Pfizer shots for children aged 5 to 11. State leaders say they’re ready to roll out shots as soon as they’re ready.

Nine long-term care facilities are reporting outbreaks. Green Mountain Nursing and Rehab in Colchester is seeing the largest outbreak -- 41 cases.

As of Tuesday, Vermont health officials reported 132 new coronavirus cases for a total of 36,025. There have been a total of 339 deaths. The state’s percent positive seven-day average is 3.1%. A total of 496,848 people have been tested, and 30,757 have recovered.

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