Covid-19 updates, State News

Vermont shifts Covid testing strategy, available options

Staff report

At-home antigen or LAMP Covid-19 tests will now be provided at state-run testing sites, rather than PCR tests, according to state officials.

Health Commissioner Mark Levine said PCR tests — which are administered at the testing site and take longer to produce results — will still be available for certain situations, such as international travel. But rapid tests “help you take action quickly if you test positive: Isolating, telling close contacts and accessing treatment if you’re at high risk,” he said.

Vermonters who make an appointment at a testing site will soon have the option of picking up either an antigen test or a LAMP test to take home and perform.

LAMP tests are similar to PCR tests in how they work, but produce faster results. Antigen tests are considered slightly less accurate than PCR tests but are still an important tool.

Testing is still recommended under the latest health department guidance for close contacts or people who develop Covid symptoms. Masks are no longer recommendation for public indoor spaces throughout Vermont, bucking the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s guidance for medium and high risk counties.

There are still concerns about the future of Covid with the rise of the BA.2 coronavirus subvariant, which is more infectious than its Omicron cousin, and is responsible for an 11% rise in global cases, according to a state report.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also released data this week showing that many wastewater surveillance systems across the country are reporting a rise in viral load in the past two weeks.

Scott said Vermont is planning to expand wastewater surveillance, but he was not worried about the wastewater report. “The metric to watch is the hospitalizations, and particularly the hospitalizations for those who have Covid,” and those are declining significantly, he said. He added that BA.2 appears not to be evading vaccine-induced or natural immunity.

Levine said he expects BA.2 may “drag things on a little” rather than producing a new surge, “so the tail of that epidemic curve is going to be prolonged because BA.2 will keep it alive.”

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