Health Care

Vermont Covid levels remain ‘low’ while numbers rise nationally

Note: This story is more than a week old. Given how quickly the Covid-19 pandemic is evolving, we recommend that you read our latest coverage here.

The ​​BA.5 subvariant of Covid-19 now accounts for 78% of new cases nationally and appears to be driving a national surge, but Vermont data so far has not shown any dramatic effects from the strain.

Covid cases nationally have begun to creep upward, with a 24% increase recorded in the past two weeks despite a drop in the highly reliable PCR testing, according to The New York Times. Hospitalizations are up 18% nationally. And that surge has started to appear in the Northeast, too, particularly in New Jersey and New York.

At the same time, Vermont’s Covid levels remain “low,” according to the state Department of Health, which published its latest surveillance update on Wednesday. The department calculates that rating based on Covid cases, hospital admissions and the number of Covid patients in Vermont hospitals.

The update also reported low levels of people appearing in emergency rooms with Covid symptoms, and little change in the levels of virus in local municipalities’ wastewater samples.

As of last Thursday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention rated 11 of Vermont’s 14 counties as having “low” Covid levels, while Essex, Rutland and Bennington counties have “medium” levels.

Of the underlying metrics published by the health department, only one showed signs of rising: 31 patients were in Vermont hospitals with Covid as of Wednesday, up from a low of 10 on July 13, according to the department, but still far lower than a BA.2 peak of over 60 hospitalizations in mid-May.

Covid cases in Vermont remained mostly level from the week before, with about 86 Covid cases reported each day in the past week, according to the department.

However, Covid case data is based only on PCR tests, which account for a small fraction of tests in the state. At-home antigen tests are not included in this data.

The department reported one additional Covid death in this week’s data, bringing July’s total to six. 

Because of delays in investigating and processing Covid death certificates, new deaths are often added to the state’s data retroactively. In total, 689 people have died in Vermont since the pandemic began in March 2020.

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Erin Petenko

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