The number of new COVID-19 cases in Vermont decreased over the last week from the week before, according to data released Tuesday, with state officials remaining cautiously optimistic that a recent surge will continue to decline.
Vermont reported about 86 fewer cases this week compared to last week, said Michael Pieciak, commissioner of the Vermont Department of Financial Regulation who has been handling the virus data for the state.
“When you look at that seven-day average the trend is down but it’s a not clear trend down and it hasn’t been sustained yet so that’s a point of caution certainly that we want to take into account,” Pieciak said during the governor’s weekly virus briefing.
Washington County, which had a high number of cases last week, has seen some improvement, said Pieciak, dropping from 339 cases to 209 this past week.
Vermont is about nine weeks into a surge in cases from the delta variant of the coronavirus, a time when other jurisdictions had started to see cases slow and then drop, Pieciak said.
"We’re still cautiously optimistic about whether we’re going to see that downward trend,” he said.
In other pandemic-related news in Vermont:
CONTACT TRACING IN SCHOOLS
The state is revising its recommendations for the contract tracing process in schools, Education Commissioner Daniel French said.
The changes will allow schools to more quickly identify students who are vaccinated, he said. Under guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Vermont, a vaccinated student who is asymptomatic is not a close contact, French said.
Previously schools had wait for a student’s vaccination status to be confirmed by the health department, he said. The changes allow schools to use their local vaccination information to determine if a student is vaccinated.
“Contact tracing is an important strategy to ensure the safety of our communities and our schools. The delta variant has put pressure on the contact tracing process because it spreads more quickly than other variants," French said.
Anyone within 6 feet of an infectious person for 15 minutes or more is considered a close contact.
In lunch rooms, the state is recommending seating charts and having classes eat together when possible, he said.
Two consecutive rounds of testing of inmates and staff at the Northern State Correctional Facility in Newport were all negative for COVID-19 after a recent outbreak, Human Services Secretary Mike Smith said.
“The facility has returned to modified operations though there will be another round of testing next week before the facility is fully clear of all outbreak protocol,” he said.
Last week the Vermont Department of Corrections said the Newport prison had a total of 13 inmates with COVID-19 and that 20 other inmates and seven staff who were previously infected had been medically cleared.
Vermont reported 111 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, for a statewide total of more than 30,370 cases since the pandemic began.
The Health Department reported that 43 people were hospitalized with COVID-19, with nine in intensive care.
The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Vermont has risen over the past two weeks from 130.29 new cases per day on Aug. 29 to 162.71 new cases per day on Sept. 12
The Associated Press is using data collected by Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering to measure outbreak caseloads and deaths across the U.S.