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BENNINGTON — Vermont’s fight against COVID-19 hit another grim milestone Friday, with a one-day record of 740 people testing positive for the virus. That marks an increase of 100 positive cases from the last one-day record of Dec. 4.

In addition, the Vermont Department of Health reported the death toll related to the virus hit 429 on Friday, three more than the previous day.

Seventy-eight Vermonters are currently hospitalized with COVID, 24 in intensive care.

In Bennington County, 28 new cases were reported Friday, bringing the two-week total to 615. Windham County reported 52 new cases on Friday, bringing the two-week total to 332.

The Vermont Department of Health attributed the rising positive cases to a variety of factors, including the rapidly spreading delta variant, unvaccinated people with no immunity to the virus, people vaccinated early in the pandemic whose protection is waning and have not received booster shots, and COVID-weary Vermonters returning to pre-pandemic habits like gathering in groups and not wearing masks.

”Even with high vaccination rates, there are many adults, adolescents and young children who are unprotected,” the department reported. “This virus is very effective at finding them.”

“We expected numbers to increase significantly after Thanksgiving,” said Trey Dobson, chief medical officer at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center. “The greatest concern is whether hospitalizations will continue to rise. The high vaccination rate and boosters are keeping most people from becoming seriously sick. However, our nurses, doctors and other healthcare workers are at capacity and cannot be strained further.”

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”We need to make sure everyone gets vaccinated and boostered,” he added.

SVMC announced Friday that, in response to the sustained surge in cases and to mitigate the spread of the virus, in-person visits for hospital patients will be suspended starting Monday.

Visitor restrictions also include the health system’s practices and off-campus offices, SVMC said in a statement.

Visitation at SVMC and other hospital systems has been restricted during times of increased transmission throughout the pandemic. Regional hospitals, including Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health and University of Vermont Medical Center, have also initiated visitor restrictions this week.

“Caring for patients during a pandemic involves making difficult choices,” said Dobson. “As much as we appreciate families’ in-person contributions to their loved ones’ healing, restricting visitors is necessary to protect our capacity to meet our patients’ and staff needs, and ensure their safety amidst an increase in cases.”

Dobson noted that the health system will reassess its visitor policy regularly and base future visitation on the region’s positive case percentage and inpatient volume.

The policy has some exceptions, including: adult patients who require someone for physical or cognitive support associated with the patient’s health care; in the emergency department, visitors are allowed at the discretion of the care team; patients at the end of life may have up to six visitors at a time; expectant and delivered mothers are allowed one care partner for the duration of the stay and, if requested, one doula; pediatric patients may have two primary care partners for the duration of their stay; and a member of the clergy may visit upon request to the care team.


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