MONTPELIER — Reaching record numbers for COVID-19, Vermont reported 405 more cases in the past week than in the week before.
The state reported 1,166 cases for the week ending Jan. 11, compared with 761 for the previous week, according to Michael Pieciak, commissioner of the Department of Financial Regulation.
“To put the current risk into perspective: Imagine that over the last five days, Vermont has reported more cases than it did for the entire months of May, June, July, August and September combined,” Pieciak said Tuesday at the governor’s twice weekly news conference on the state’s response to the pandemic. “We have also seen our case growth accelerate that would suggest we’re seeing a holiday surge.”
In the five days before the news conference, Vermont recorded 888 new cases. Health Commissioner Mark Levine said Vermont is seeing the effects of Christmas gatherings, but more data is needed to make determinations on the impact of New Year’s Eve.
Pieciak described the rise in cases tracking closely to trends seen during what was referred to the “Halloween surge.” Similar case growth was not seen after Thanksgiving, he said.
Last week, Levine mentioned concern about potential spread of the virus stemming from several family gatherings. From Dec. 23 to Jan. 2, Vermont restrictions were eased to allow households to gather with one other “trusted household.” But as of Tuesday, he said there haven’t been significant outbreaks tied to smaller gatherings allowed by the state.
“We see far more evidence of abundant isolated cases that have come from the community,” he said.
State officials expect to see cases rise until early February. Pieciak said Vermont could approach an average of 300 cases a day.
“The decisions that we all make today both large and small — following the public health guidance, and doing everything to protect ourselves and our families — will help us beat that estimated forecast,” he said.
Currently, Vermont is averaging about 166 cases a day. Pieciak said to approach capacity at intensive care units, the state would need to be closer to averaging about 380 cases a day over a 14-day period.
“That’s growth that’s far beyond growth we’re experiencing today,” he said. “And it’s beyond what we expect to experience if our 14-day trends continue.”
Pieciak said Vermont and Connecticut rank first in the Northeast region for vaccine doses administered per capita. Gov. Phil Scott expects to announce more information on vaccination scheduling at Friday’s news conference.
Doses are already being administered to health care workers and emergency medical service personnel, and the plan moving forward involves following federal guidelines in prioritizing the elderly. Levine anticipates another vaccine could be approved by late January or early February.
Levine called Vermont’s 2.7 percent positivity rate “the best in the nation.” He said the state recorded 109 cases Monday and 167 Tuesday.