As Vermont reports higher-than-ever COVID-19 cases, state health officials have been trying to understand why.
How can a state that did so well during the early part of the pandemic—and even gained national recognition—do so much worse?
“There isn’t one easy answer,” said Vermont Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine at a press conference Tuesday. “But there are clearly factors that have come together to create the situation we are in now.”
Slowing the spread is critical right now to prevent Vermont’s hospitals from being overrun with people sick with the virus, Levine said. He encouraged Vermonters to take the same preventive measures that have been preached during the pandemic: wear masks, keep physical distance, stay home when you’re sick, and get vaccinated.
“There isn’t one single solution to stop it,” Levine said. “We have to live with it and take the simple and common sense measures to protect each other as much as possible.”
Case Rates in Vermont Now
Positive cases have soared in Vermont in recent weeks, despite the state having one of the highest vaccination rates against the virus in the US. lowest case rates in the country.
Cases in Vermont have increased about 55% in the past 14 days, according to a model report by Financial Regulation Commissioner Mike Pieciak. In recent days, the number of daily cases has risen above 400 — the highest Vermont has seen since the start of the pandemic.
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According to Pieciak’s report, Vermont had the 12th highest number of new cases in the US in the past week.
Unvaccinated Vermonters are still the people who get sick and are hospitalized with the highest rates. Infection rates among 20-somethings and children also contributed to the most recent rise, Levine said.
Why is this happening?
Levine cited a few reasons for the increased number of positive cases.
The highly contagious delta variant is still one of the main factors influencing cases in Vermont, as it has been for most of the year, Levine said. The variant has even been able to spread among vaccinated people.
“An infected person can spread the virus to five or more people, much faster than the original strain,” Levine said. “This means it could spread faster than we can trace and alert contacts.”
The state’s early success during the pandemic has also proved to be one of the factors in this year’s downfall, Levine said. There were fewer Vermonters getting sick early in the pandemic, but this also meant fewer residents were able to build up any degree of immunity to the virus.
Studies estimate that 3% or less of Vermonters had some immunity to COVID-19 before the delta variant hit, Levine said.
Vermont’s success in rapidly vaccinating its residents, starting with the oldest Vermonters, means that the immunity of the highest-risk people in the state is now likely waning, Levine said.
“As one of the oldest states, the percentage of Vermonters in this situation is higher than most other parts of the country,” Levine said.
Finally, Vermonters also travel more and receive visitors, often participating in indoor activities, more often than they would have around this time last year. They also wear a face mask less often. These behavioral changes have also contributed to the current situation, Levine said.
“I know it can be frustrating for many of us to see Vermont look so different than we once did during the pandemic, but even after all this time, the virus is not something we have absolute control over,” Levine said. .