VDH: As COVID concerns wane, school masking recommendation to expire March 14

VDH: As COVID concerns wane, school masking recommendation to expire March 14

Starting February 5, the case dashboard will not be updated on Saturdays, Sundays or holidays.

VDH: As COVID concerns wane, school masking recommendation to expire March 14

Starting February 5, the case dashboard will not be updated on Saturdays, Sundays or holidays. A breakdown of the previous days’ cases will be reported on Mondays (or the day following a holiday, including Town Meeting on March 1). See below. Graphics courtesy DFR.

by Timothy McQuiston, Vermont Business Magazine The Vermont Department of Health today is reporting 177 cases of COVID-19 for Wednesday, down nearly 100 from Tuesday. The 7-day case average is 163 (see modeling update below). Hospitalizations and ICU stays have fallen dramatically the last few weeks. The CDC is easing masking recommendations nationally because of the reduction in pressure on the health care system. The CDC and Vermont are emphasizing serious health outcomes, such as hospitalizations and fatalities, and not overall cases, as the best measure of COVID’s health impact at this time.

Because Vermont hospitalizations and deaths have come down, Governor Scott today said that as of March 14 there no longer will be special COVID guidance for schools. This includes no additional masking recommendations for children and staff in the school building or on the school buses. Schools will follow the general statewide guidance on mitigation measures.

Human Services Secretary Jenney Samuelson added that children have seen fewer serious health outcomes, including hospitalizations, from COVID nationwide. In Vermont, no one under 20 has died from COVID.

The statewide guidance will be based on personal choice, which Scott said should be driven by individual health considerations, which include age and underlying medical conditions. If, say, a new variant emerges, then guidance could again change, he said. He added that because of immunity levels here and health care experience, Vermont is well prepared to handle what comes next.

He urged anyone who felt the need to wear a mask, in public or in school, to do so as they see fit. He asked that no one be judgemental on the measures each of us is taking to stay healthy.

However, he noted that those who were not fully vaccinated were still at greater risk for serious health outcomes if they did contract COVID.

As today’s press briefing, neither the governor nor members of the administration wear wearing a mask, for the first time since November 2, 2021.

There were two additional COVID-related deaths since yesterday, for 604 statewide; the two were in the 80+ age group.

There were 49 COVID-19 related fatalities in Vermont in September 2021, and 47 deaths in October, which are the fourth- and fifth-worst months on record. There were 42 fatalities in November, 62 in December, and 65 in January 2022 and 57 so far in February (fatality data is typically updated into the next month) and 2 in March.

While the highest concentration of deaths has been in the last six months, December 2020 was the worst month with 71.

Hospitalizations today were 32 (up 2 from yesterday). The record was 122 on January 19. Health officials have focused on this as a key indicator. They had been running over 100 in early February.

ICU stays, which also had been elevated but less volatile, were 4 (up 2). The one-day record there was set December 7, 2021, (31).

With case counts falling, the seven-day positivity rate is now 4.6%; the record was 13.8% set January 8. Testing is also down.

Health Commissioner Mark Levine, MD, has said he expects fatalities to subside in the next couple weeks. He said there are no dangerous looking variants on the horizon, unlike the Delta variant from last summer and Omicron from late fall. A similar variant to Omicron is circulating in Vermont, but does not appear to be causing noticeable effects. But he urges Vermonters to remain vigilant, get vaccinated, wear a mask and stay home if sick and get tested.

Importantly, hospitalizations and ICU stays are much lower than even a couple weeks ago. Meanwhile, the record daily high of COVID-19 cases was set January 7, with 2,975.

January 2022 had by far the most cases by month, with 38,500 because of the Omicron variant. December 2021 was second worst with 16,091. December 2021 was third worst with 10,134, February 2022 was fourth with 7,585 and October 2021 was fifth with 6,572, as the worst months for overall cases were all in the last six.

There were 262 cases of COVID-19 on Monday; 70 on Sunday; 87 on Saturday; 185 on Friday; 227 on Thursday; 206 on Wednesday; 265 on Tuesday; and 68 cases last Monday.

Weekly Data Modeling is presented by DFR Commissioner Michael Pieciak

Department of Financial Regulation Data Modeling was updated March 2, 2022 (click HERE for all 55 slides).

COVID-19 cases in Vermont continue to decline, with the state averaging 163 cases per day on a seven-day average. This represents a 91% decrease since the Omicron variant peaked in Vermont in January 2022, with cases now at the same level as September 2021. CDC modeling predicts these favorable trends will continue in Vermont, the Northeast, and across the United States.

Hospitalizations have also dropped precipitously as the Omicron wave subsides: new admissions for the virus have dropped by more than a third in the last week while the ICU inpatient census has fallen by half.

As of March 2, there are two individuals in Vermont ICUs for COVID-19. The average overall number of people in the hospital for the virus in Vermont has declined 40% in the last week to 33—a level not seen since last fall.

Hospitalizations continue to be more common among older Vermonters: those over 65 are more than 17 times more likely to be hospitalized for COVID than those under 24. Unvaccinated adults are also at increased risk with quadruple the rate of hospitalization compared to their boosted peers.

Deaths were unevenly distributed in Vermont during the month of February, with nearly 60% of the 57 fatalities occurring in the first half of the month. Modeling forecasts deaths will continue to slow in the coming weeks. Our thoughts are with the families of those who have lost loved ones to COVID-19.

  • Vermont is averaging 163 cases over the last 7 days
  • The 7-day average has decreased 20% over the last 7 days & decreased 43% over the last 14 days
  • Cases down 91% since the Omicron Peak
  • Vermont reported 1,111 new COVID-19 cases this week, 526 fewer cases compared to last week
  • Fewest weekly case since mid-September
  • Week-over-week testing fell, with the 7-day average decreasing 17%
  • Test positivity decreased 3% over the last 7 days
  • The not fully vaccinated case rate has decreased 35% in the last 7 days
  • The fully vaccinated rate has decreased 25% during the same period
  • Over the last 7 days, cases have:

● Decreased 1% for ages 0 to 24
● Decreased 42% for ages 25 to 49
● Decreased 24% for ages 50 to 64
● Decreased 10% for ages 65+

  • Vermont ranked 35th for the rate of new COVID-19 cases over the last week.
  • Vermont had the 2nd highest rate of COVID-19 testing over the last week
  • Vermont COVID-19 cases are expected to continue to decline in the coming weeks, consistent with improving case trends in Vermont, the Northeast and the U.S.
  • Declines in COVID-19 fatalities are expected over the next 4 weeks
  • 36% decrease in the new hospital admission 7-day average over the past week, 7-day average lowest since early October
  • 40% Decrease in the 7-day hospitalization average over the past week
  • 50% decrease in the 7-day ICU average over the past week
  • Hospitalizations continue to be more common among older Vermonters
  • Those 18+ & not fully vaccinated were nearly 4x more likely to be hospitalized from COVID-19 over the last 6 weeks compared to those fully vaccinated & boosted
  • Vermont ranked 21st on COVID-19 hospital admissions per capita over the last week
  • 602 COVID-19 deaths since the start of the pandemic
  • Vermont had the 13th-fewest COVID-19 deaths per capita over the last week
  • Northeast Regional Cases: New Cases February 22th to February 28th, 47% Decrease in New Cases
  • Weekly Northeast Regional Cases: 39,849 fewer cases this week compared to last week
  • New England cases decreased 29% over last 7 days & decreased 56% over last 14 days
  • New England hospitalizations decreased 25% over last 7 days & decreased 47% over last 14 days
  • National COVID-19 cases are expected to see improvement in the coming weeks
  • Case declines will likely vary by geography based on timing of Omicron peak

COVID cases now are highest per capita in the last two weeks in Addison, Orleans, Orange, and Windsor. Addison had been a relatively quite region until recently. Windsor County cases also have increased relative to the rest of the state.

Dr Levine said those who are not fully vaccinated (which includes a booster for those eligible) are still more likely to be hospitalized for COVID-19.

According to the VDH, 81 percent of eligible Vermonters (5+) have been completed their vaccination regimen and a total of 65 percent (12+) have received a booster shot.

Case information reflects counts as of the end of the previous weekday. All data are compiled by the Health Department and are preliminary and subject to change.

DATE CASE COUNT DEATHS REPORTED
February 28 101 4
March 1 262 0
DATE CASE COUNT DEATHS REPORTED
Feb. 25 185 0
Feb. 26 87 0
Feb. 27 70 3
DATE CASE COUNT DEATHS REPORTED
Feb. 18 267 4
Feb. 19 210 0
Feb. 20 101 0
Feb. 21 68 0
DATE CASE COUNT DEATHS REPORTED
Feb. 11 283 0
Feb. 12 247 0
Feb. 13 120 8
DATE CASE COUNT DEATHS REPORTED
Feb. 4 284 0
Feb. 5 311 0
Feb. 6 149 0

Case information reflects counts as of the end of the previous weekday. All data are compiled by the Health Department and are preliminary and subject to change.

Testing

Addison County

New Cases: 14

Recent Cases – Past 14 Days: 262

Cases Per 100,000 – Past 14 Days: 708.6

Bennington County

New Cases: 8

Recent Cases – Past 14 Days: 115

Cases Per 100,000 – Past 14 Days: 322.8

Caledonia County

New Cases: 8

Recent Cases – Past 14 Days: 96

Cases Per 100,000 – Past 14 Days: 316.8

Chittenden County

New Cases: 65

Recent Cases – Past 14 Days: 602

Cases Per 100,000 – Past 14 Days: 365.8

Essex County

New Cases: 1

Recent Cases – Past 14 Days: 19

Cases Per 100,000 – Past 14 Days: 304

Franklin County

New Cases: 11

Recent Cases – Past 14 Days: 185

Cases Per 100,000 – Past 14 Days: 374.3

Grand Isle County

New Cases: 1

Recent Cases – Past 14 Days: 16

Cases Per 100,000 – Past 14 Days: 225.7

Lamoille County

New Cases: 1

Recent Cases – Past 14 Days: 44

Cases Per 100,000 – Past 14 Days: 173.9

Orange County

New Cases: 11

Recent Cases – Past 14 Days: 133

Cases Per 100,000 – Past 14 Days: 458.6

Orleans County

New Cases: 8

Recent Cases – Past 14 Days: 156

Cases Per 100,000 – Past 14 Days: 579.8

Pending Validation

New Cases: 9

Recent Cases – Past 14 Days: 167

Cases Per 100,000 – Past 14 Days: 0

Rutland County

New Cases: 11

Recent Cases – Past 14 Days: 220

Cases Per 100,000 – Past 14 Days: 375

Washington County

New Cases: 10

Recent Cases – Past 14 Days: 195

Cases Per 100,000 – Past 14 Days: 335.4

Windham County

New Cases: 7

Recent Cases – Past 14 Days: 72

Cases Per 100,000 – Past 14 Days: 168.4

Windsor County

New Cases: 12

Recent Cases – Past 14 Days: 215

Cases Per 100,000 – Past 14 Days: 388.9

​As for testing, the state will be relying more heavily on self reporting as rapid antigen tests become more prominent and more available.

While the first 350,000 tests were distributed in a program that began in January, all Vermont residents who have not successfully ordered one can request a rapid, at home test through the VDH when the state is able to distribute the next allotment of 150,000 tests: SayYesCovidHomeTest.org

Rapid antigen tests are now more widely available at local pharmacies and the cost should be reimbursed by your health insurance provider.

Federal COVID rapid tests are now available at COVIDtests.gov – Free at-home COVID-19 tests

Each order will contain two test kits and each kit contains two tests, for a total of four tests per order.

Test at Home: Vermont School COVID-19 Testing Protocol Winter 2022

Scenario 1: Rapid Testing for Presumptive Contacts

(Revised: January 14, 2022)

This scenario applies to both school-based and community-based contacts. This scenario applies to both staff and students. PreK students attending programs that are attached to K-12 school buildings are eligible to participate in this program.

Process

1. School learns of a positive case in a student or staff member.

2. School notifies students/families that there is a case in their class. Classmates are considered “presumptive contacts.”

3. Students and staff who are presumptive contacts should pick up take home antigen test kits.

• For example, in high school and middle schools, students in impacted classrooms could be sent to the office for test kit pick up.

• In elementary schools, test kits could be delivered to classrooms for backpack drop.

• Schools should not monitor compliance of kit pick up or use of kits.

4. Presumptive contacts receive a different number of kits depending on their vaccination status.

• If individuals are fully vaccinated (and have received a booster for adults), they should receive 2 tests and use them on the fourth and fifth days after learning of their presumptive exposure.

• If individuals are not fully vaccinated, they should receive 5 tests and use them for the next 5 consecutive days after receiving them.

For individuals with continuous household exposure:

• If individuals are fully vaccinated (and have received a booster for adults), it is recommended that they test every 3 to 5 days while their household contact is in isolation and for 5 consecutive days after the household contact ends isolation.

• If individuals are not fully vaccinated, it is recommended that they test daily while their household contact is in isolation, and for 5 consecutive days after the household contact ends isolation.

Individuals with presumptive school contact do not need to otherwise quarantine during their testing periods. Individuals who are close contacts to a case outside of school are recommended to quarantine according to Vermont Department of Health guidance, but may attend school according to the above protocol.

Kit Distribution and FERPA

School district personnel with a need to know may access any FERPA protected information without any need to get consent or provide disclosure. If student vaccination status is used to create resources for the sole purpose of assisting with test kit distribution, those resources become part of the student’s educational record, pursuant to FERPA. For more information, please refer to U.S. HHS and U.S. ED. Joint Guidance on the Application of FERPA and HIPAA to Student Health Records.

Scenario 2: Diagnostic Testing

School nurses will have access to rapid testing (antigen and/or LAMP) for the following purposes:

• School-based testing for students or staff with symptoms at school.

• School-based testing for families who need school assistance in administering tests under Scenario 1, above.

If antigen tests are used, school nurses will conduct one test in school and send a second test home with the family to be completed approximately 24 hours after the first test.

Schools will require consent from families to do in-school testing.

If a student does not attend school due to illness, their parent/guardian may access 2 rapid antigen tests by picking them up at school. These tests should be taken as close to 24 hours apart as possible. Staff may do the same.

Symptomatic students and staff who have two negative tests, have symptom improvement and are fever free for 24 hours may return to school.

School testing guidance and information can be found on the Agency of Education website at education.vermont.gov/covid19/testing.

State officials want to keep kids in schools and schools open. Remote learning does not count as an official school day, unless granted a waiver by the Department of Education.

Because self-reporting of cases will not be as high as cases found via PCR tests, several metrics should be used to judge the impact of COVID-19 on the state.

DFR Commissioner Pieciak said many factors should be looked at to gauge Omicron impact, including statistical estimates of viral load, hospitalizations, ICU stays and deaths.

Also, people should upgrade their masks to N95 or similar because Omicron is better able to get through a regular cloth mask. Dr Levine urged Vermonters to wear a double mask if an N95-type mask was not available.

As for the adult population, the state will begin to roll out free antigen test kits for the general public beginning Wednesday on the healthvermont.gov website starting at 10 am. The state has 250,000 kits (each kit has two tests and an individual should take both at least 24 hours apart).

The federal government will release similar kits in the coming weeks.

The state and federal kits are on a first-come basis.

Pharmacies also may have kits available, though that is more hit or miss. However, most insurance will cover the cost of kits (about $25) either upfront or reimbursed.

The state began distributing 500,000 at-home rapid antigen tests starting on January 12 at 10 am trough the healthvermont.gov website. The first allotment of 350,000 was allocated by the afternoon.

The State opened registration for COVID-19 booster shots for children 12 to 15 years old on Thursday, January 6, following approval by CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky.

This age group can receive their Pfizer booster as early as five months after their second Pfizer dose. Children ages 16 and 17 have already been eligible for a Pfizer booster but can now also get their booster shot as soon as five months after the second dose.

The new five month wait time for a booster shot also applies to anyone 18 and older who received the Pfizer vaccine. They can get a Pfizer or Moderna booster.

To make an appointment, parents and caregivers can go online effective immediately at healthvermont.gov/MyVaccine or by calling 855-722-7878.

  • In addition to expanding booster eligibility to those under 12, the FDA also shortened the waiting time between the primary series of the Pfizer vaccine and the third shot (booster) from six months to five.
  • The FDA also authorized a third primary-series dose for immunocompromised children over 5 years old.

In addition to being vaccinated and boosted, Vermonters should continue taking these common-sense precautions to protect against the spread of the virus in our communities.

  • Stay home if you feel sick.
  • Get tested if you have any symptoms – even if mild, or if you may be a close contact, or have taken part in activities that could put you at risk, such as large gatherings or travel.
  • Wear a mask at indoor public settings and around anyone at higher risk of COVID-19.
  • Gather with others safely, which means small group sizes and testing before holiday celebrations.

For more information:

Learn more about the Omicron variant from the CDC: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/variants/omicron-variant.html

See Case and Vaccine Dashboards Below

This map includes Health Department, pharmacy and other testing sites.

See this map displayed full-screen.

Where to Get Tested

ANTIGEN TESTS AVAILABLE SOON

Vermonters will soon be able to pick up a free antigen test at sites around the state. Information will be posted here as soon as it is available. Read more about antigen tests

INFORMATION ABOUT TESTING

You can be tested at a Health Department testing site, through your health care provider, or ask about testing at your local pharmacy. People with or without symptoms can be tested at most testing locations.

Learn about how to isolate and notify your close contacts if you test positive

FREE HEALTH DEPARTMENT TESTING

Our testing and vaccination clinics are busy right now. It’s important to make an appointment ahead of time so you will not be turned away. Make an appointment online, or call 802-863-7240. ASL interpretation is available by video at all Health Department testing sites.

MAKE AN APPOINTMENT Use if you have had testing or a vaccine through the Health Department.

CHECK FOR RESULTS Log in after you get an email saying your results are ready.

CREATE AN ACCOUNT Use if you have never had a test or vaccine through the Health Department.

How to create an account

Frequently asked questions about Health Department Testing

Bennington
Southwestern Vermont Medical Center (this site is not Health Department testing)
Gymnasium at former Southern Vermont College campus
981 Mansion Dr.
Mon – Sat 8:00 am – 12:00 pm Closed on Fri, 2/4 due to weather
No appointment necessary. See details and download a consent form here: https://svhealthcare.org/COVID-19/testing

Berlin
1311 Barre-Montpelier Rd.
Mon, Thurs, Sat 9:00 am – 4:00 pm
Tues 12:00 pm – 6:00 pm
Wed, Fri 2:00 pm – 7:00 pm
Sun 10:00 am – 4:00 pm

We recommend you schedule an appointment at the 1311 Barre-Montpelier Rd location. If there are no appointments, walk-ins are accepted at the Berlin Mall.

282 Berlin Mall Rd
Mon, Tues, Thurs, Sat 9:00 am – 3:30 pm
Wed, Fri 9:00 am – 6:30 pm
Sun 10:00 am – 3:30 pm

Brattleboro
417 Canal St.
Tues, Wed, Thurs, Sat 2:00 pm – 6:00 pm

Burlington
405 Pine St.
Mon, Tues, Fri  8:00 am – 4:00 pm
Wed, Thurs 12:00 pm – 7:00 pm
Sat 9:00 am – 2:00 pm

Burlington
294 North Winooski Ave., Suite 125
(satellite location of Community Health Center of Burlington)
Mon 8:00 am – 12:00 pm Closed Mon, Feb 7 and Feb 21
Tues 11:00 am – 3:00 pm
Wed, Thurs 8:00 am – 12:00 pm
Fri 8:00 am – 12:00 pm

Enosburg Falls
Cold Hollow Family Practice (this site is not Health Department testing)
84 Water Tower Rd. Fork Suite 1
Mon – Fri 8:00 am – 6:00 pm
For appointment for this site call: 802-933-6664

Fairlee
5445 Lake Morey Rd. E
Mon, Wed, Thurs, Sat, Sun 9:00 am – 12:00 pm
Tues, Fri 4:00 pm – 7:00 pm

Glover
Glover Ambulance
48 County Rd.
Tues & Thurs 10:00 am – 4:00 pm
Wed 12:00 pm – 6:00 pm

Hardwick
Hardwick Fire Station
333 Wolcott St.
Mon 7:30 am – 11:30 am
Wed 1:30 pm – 5:30 pm
Sat 8:00 am – 12:00 pm

Island Pond
Brighton Fire Department
102 Railroad St.
Tues 8:00 am – 12:00 pm
Thurs 2:30 pm – 6:30 pm
Sat 8:30 am – 12:30 pm

Johnson
62 Wilson Rd.
Mon – Wed 8:00 am – 4:00 pm
Sat 8:00 am – 12:00 pm

Middlebury
1396 Route 7 South (Middlebury South Plaza)
Mon – Fri 9:00 am – 7:00 pm
Sat, Sun 9:00 am – 5:00 pm

Montpelier
134 State St. (parking lot)
Thurs 3:00 pm – 6:00 pm

Morrisville
Copley Hospital (this site is not Health Department testing)
528 Washington Hwy
Mon – Fri 10:00 – 11:00 am, 4:00 – 5:00pm
Sat: 10:00 – 11:00 am
For appointment for this site call: 802-888-8888

Morrisville
Lamoille Health Partners
609 Washington Highway
Mon – Fri 11:00 am – 3:00 pm
Sat 9:00 am – 1:00 pm

Newport
Newport Ambulance Services
830 Union St.
Mon, Tues, Thurs 8:00 am – 4:00 pm
Sat 8:00 am – 12:00 pm

Newport
North Country Hospital
189 Prouty Dr.
Mon, Thurs, Fri 8:00 am – 4:00 pm
Tues, Wed 10:00 am – 6:00 pm

Northfield
31 Dog River Rd.
Mon 9:00 am – 1:00 pm
Tues, Fri 4:00 pm – 7:00 pm

Randolph
Gifford Medical Center (this site is not Health Department testing)
44 S Main St, South parking lot
Mon, Tue and Fri 10:00 am – 12:00 pm
For appointment for this site call: 802-728-7000

Richford
53 Main Street
NOTCH Partner Project (not Richford Health Center)
Mon 10:00 am – 2:00 pm

Rutland
Rutland Regional Medical Center
160 Allen St.
Mon – Fri 9:00 am – 10:00 am and 4:00 pm – 5:10 pm
Sat 10:00 am – 11:50 am

Springfield
Springfield Health Center
51 Pearl St., Level 2
Mon, Tues, Fri 8:00 am – 12:30 pm
Wed 8:00 am – 11:00 am
Sat 8:00 am – 12:00 pm

Stratton
Carlos Otis Stratton Mountain Clinic
78 Founder’s Hill Rd.
Mon, Wed, Fri 8:00 am – 11:00 am

St. Albans
Northwestern Medical Center (Valley Crossroads Building)
27 Fisher Pond Road (north side of the building)
Mon, Tues, Fri 10:00 am – 2:00 pm
Wed, Thurs 2:00 pm – 6:00 pm
Sat 9:00 am – 1:00 pm

St. Johnsbury
Caledonia Home Health Care & Hospice
161 Sherman Dr. (parking lot)
Mon, Wed, Fri 8:30 am – 1:30 pm
Tues, Thurs 3:30 pm – 7:30 pm
Sat 8:30 am – 12:30 pm

Waitsfield
Waitsfield United Church of Christ
4355 Main St.
Fri, Sat 9:00 am – 2:00 pm

Waterbury
1727 Guptil Rd.
Mon, Tues, Fri 9:00 am – 6:00 pm
Wed 1:00 pm – 7:00 pm
Thurs 1:00 pm – 5:00 pm
Sat 9:00 am – 5:00 pm
Sun 9:00 am – 3:00 pm

Wells River
65 Main St. N.
Mon, Tue, Wed, Fri 3:00 pm – 5:00 pm
Thurs 4:00 pm – 6:00 pm

Williamstown
249 Meadow St.
Wed 9:00 am – 2:00 pm

Williston
UVMMC Clinic – Taft Corners
300 Interstate Corp. Center
(Next to TD Bank and across from Friendly’s)
Mon – Fri 9:00 am – 12:00 pm and 1:00 pm – 3:30 pm

Windsor
Mt. Ascutney Hospital and Health Center
289 County Road
Mon – Fri 9:00 am – 4:00 pm

Winooski
32 Mallets Bay Ave.
Mon 1:00 pm – 3:50 pm
Tues – Fri 8:50 am – 12:30 pm
Effective Mon, 2/7
Mon, Wed, Fri 3:00 pm – 8:00 pm
Tues, Thurs, Sat, Sun 9:00 am – 2:00 pm

Vaccination & COVID-19 Dashboards

February 22: Sections of the dashboard that are updated on a weekly basis will be updated tomorrow, Wednesday. This includes the weekly information on the Case Rates by Population tab, the Hospitalization & Death Rates by Population tab and the Weekly Demographics tab.