The number of COVID-19 cases in Vermont hit an all-time daily high Thursday, with 487 positive cases reported, more than 40 of those in Bennington County.
“The continued high number of cases reflect a concerning level of ongoing community spread of the virus,” said Ben Truman, spokesperson for the Vermont Department of Health. Referring to the Delta variant of the virus, he added, “We are dealing with a unique challenge. COVID-19 is a very different creature than other viruses in the state — a highly infectious respiratory virus that is exceptionally good at moving from person-to-person.”
While Truman acknowledged that the 487 one-day caseload is troubling, he cautioned against being too alarmed by a single day’s figure.
“One factor in today’s high numbers is the spike and dips we see in positive reports on a given day,” he said, noting that more people tend to seek tests during the week rather than on weekends.
Gov. Phil Scott said in a statement that 53,000 eligible adults remain unvaccinated, making them up to five times more likely to contract COVID-19. And, he added, those unvaccinated Vermonters account for 70 to 85 percent of Vermont’s hospitalizations and ICU stays.
“Unvaccinated adults are directly contributing to the strain on our hospital capacity. Enough is enough, it’s time to step up and get vaccinated — something over 90 percent of your fellow Vermont adults have done,” the governor said.
“Vaccines are making a difference, and with boosters and vaccine approval for kids 5-11 years old, this will continue to improve,” he added. “However … we continue to see cases increase, which is leading to more hospitalizations and deaths than we want to see.”
Dr. Trey Dobson, chief medical officer at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center, said he has seen an increase in demand for COVID-19 tests, as well as an increase in COVID-positive results.
“It’s really hard to react to one date in time. But we have seen that cases are increasing around the state,” said Dobson. “The caseload is going in the wrong direction.
“We were optimistic, just like everyone,” he said of the consensus following the introduction of the vaccine. Now, he said, “disappointed is the right word.”
He said a significant percentage of the positive cases fall into the age group – 5 to 11 – that only just became eligible this week for vaccinations. His facility is scheduled to begin vaccinating children Friday, and virtually all 600 doses available for the two-day clinic are reserved. That, he said, is good news.
He said vaccinations won’t only protect the children, but will also prevent them from transmitting the virus to others.
“Once we get the kids vaccinated, we really should see a decline in the transmission,” Dobson said. He cautioned that the numbers won’t improve overnight. In fact, he said, it takes 45 days from the first shot before the person is fully protected.
Truman agreed that vaccinating children should help stem the increase in transmission. He said that to date there are about 11,700 appointments for vaccinations of the 5- to 11-year-olds.
“We’re hopeful that that’s going to have an impact,” he said. Truman said there are about 44,000 children who are eligible for a vaccine. Referring to the daily case numbers, he said, “These young people are a portion of these cases.”
He urged everyone to take preventative steps, such as getting vaccinated, wearing masks appropriately, and following health guidance in gatherings.
“Everyone has to do all these things, from the governor to the youngest child who can get vaccinated,” he said.