By Erin Petenko/VTDigger
Covid-19 levels in Vermont remain “low,” according to the Vermont Department of Health’s latest weekly surveillance update.
The data comes amid the first week of the Omicron booster, also called the bivalent vaccine, which became available Wednesday, Sept. 7 in Vermont. This booster specifically targets the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants of Omicron. About 80% of recent samples of the virus in Vermont were the BA.5 subvariant, according to the department.
Health officials and doctors urged Vermonters to get boosted despite the state’s low Covid levels, pointing to the vaccine’s ability to prevent severe disease in high-risk people and limit the length and severity of symptoms in low-risk people.
Covid cases and hospitalizations in Vermont declined in the past week after increasing the week before. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention rated only two Vermont counties as having “medium” Covid levels on Thursday, down from six counties a week earlier. Rutland and Bennington are the only counties that still report medium Covid levels.
The health department reported 494 cases in the past week, down 9% from the week before. Cases have also declined nationally in recent weeks, according to The New York Times.
There were 35 new Covid hospital admissions in the past week, down 40% from the week before. As of Wednesday Sept. 7, four people were in intensive care for Covid.
The department reported eight additional Covid deaths this week, for a total of 715 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020. That brings August’s total to 19 deaths, higher than the June and July total of 12 deaths each, but lower than May’s 32 deaths.
No deaths have been reported so far in September. Because of the delay in processing death certificates, the health department often takes days or weeks to update death data.
The department also reported vaccination data, which predates updated recommendations around the new Omicron booster. As of Wednesday, about 37% of Vermonters 5 and older were up-to-date on all recommended doses, including booster doses. That’s compared to the 83% of people in that age group that completed their primary series of vaccines.
According to the department, 5- to 11-year-olds had the lowest rate of vaccination, including the recommended booster dose for that age group. The second-lowest were 50- to 59-year-olds, who were recommended to get a second booster dose after the first.
Chittenden County had the highest rate of vaccination, with nearly half of residents 5 and older reported as up-to-date on their vaccinations. Addison and Washington counties also reported high vaccination rates. Essex County, by contrast, reported only 15% of its residents were up-to-date. The vaccination rate for people of color was higher than non-Hispanic white Vermonters in every age group, although Native American and Pacific Islander Vermonters reported the lowest rates in the state, according to the health department.