MONTPELIER — During a press conference Tuesday, state officials indicated that a recent surge in daily cases of COVID-19 in Vermont is mirroring a surge experienced in October, and may be tied to Christmas and New Year’s Eve holiday gatherings.
According to Michael Pieciak, commissioner of the Vermont Department of Financial Regulation, the state is currently reporting an average of 166 new cases per day, and has reported more cases in the last five days than in May, June, July, August and September combined.
Pieciak said the state is forecasting that case counts will continue to rise, with the state potentially reporting 300 cases per day going into February.
“Given the sobering information we’ve talked about in today’s presentation … It’s important that every Vermonter continue to step up,” Pieciak said.
Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine reported 167 new cases and two new deaths Tuesday. The seven-day positivity rate remains low relative to surrounding states, at 2.7%.
Pieciak said the case counts in the 10- to 17-day period following Christmas are trending closely to a surge in cases the state saw in a similar period following Halloween. However, Vermont’s hospitals have the capacity to handle the case load that the state is seeing.
Pieciak said the state would need to average 380 new cases per day over a 14-day period to approach the limit of the state’s intensive care capacity. As of Tuesday there were 51 Vermonters hospitalized with 10 in intensive care.
“That’s growth that’s far beyond what we’re experiencing today,” he said.
He said Vermont remains in the top three states in the country when it comes to case suppression, and is tied with Connecticut as the best northeastern state regarding vaccine distribution.
The latest numbers come as officials teased more information regarding the next phase of vaccine distribution, an announcement of which is slated for later this week. Phase 1B will distribute the vaccine according to age bands, starting with Vermonters age 75 and older, as well as those with certain medical conditions.
Levine said there will be an overlap period between when Phase 1A ends and 1B begins so that vaccine doses are not wasted. As of Tuesday, more than 26,000 doses had been administered in Vermont.
Levine also warned Vermonters not to let their guard down after receiving their first dose. He said there have been a few instances of Vermonters testing positive for COVID-19 despite receiving the first dose.
The two vaccines currently authorized for emergency use — one from Moderna and one from Pfizer — both require two doses several weeks apart.
“Just because the needle went in your arm on Monday doesn’t mean you can’t stand next to someone on a Friday without a mask … and get COVID,” Levine said.
Levine said that those who contract the disease despite receiving the first dose should consult with their physician and resolve the diagnosis before receiving the second dose.