By Erin Petenko/VTDigger
Vermont’s Covid-19 levels are still “low,” according to the state Department of Health’s weekly surveillance report, Dec. 7.
The weekly update comes amid a national rise in Covid cases and hospitalizations, according to The New York Times. Massachusetts, Connecticut and New York have all reported a rise in Covid levels, particularly in the Long Island region.
Omicron subvariants B.Q.1 and B.Q.1.1 have become the dominant strains nationwide and in New England, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Experts believe the strains are more effective at evading previous immunity to Covid than other subvariants.
CDC Director Rochelle Walensky told reporters that people should consider wearing high-quality masks this season to limit transmission of Covid, particularly in places that have high levels of Covid or other respiratory illnesses such as the flu or respiratory syncytial virus, commonly known as RSV.
Vermont is one of only four states in the contiguous United States that did not report high levels of flu activity in the most recent CDC report. Hospitals in Vermont have reported a surge in RSV, which poses a higher risk for young children than for adults.
Walensky said the CDC was considering a revision in its Covid community levels map to incorporate other types of respiratory illnesses.
Last Thursday, Dec. 7, the map indicated that Vermont counties were experiencing “low” Covid levels, reflecting the state’s low rate of cases, hospital admissions and beds taken up by Covid patients. But the state health department reported increases in some metrics for Covid in Vermont, even as they remained within “low” levels. There were 439 Covid cases reported this week, up from 273 the week before, according to the department. Covid case data is primarily based on PCR tests, and do not include at-home antigen testing, so data is very limited.
The health department also reported 43 people were hospitalized for Covid in Vermont as of Wednesday, up from 27 a week earlier. That includes five patients in intensive care, about the same as a week ago. Hospital admissions — the number of people arriving at hospitals with Covid — remained roughly level with the week before.
The department reported 11 additional Covid deaths this week, all of which occurred in November. That brings November’s total to 22 deaths, compared to October’s 30 deaths. In total, 781 people have died of Covid in Vermont since March 2020.