Health Care

New state data released on age, health conditions of Covid-19 deaths

CVMC emergency tent
A new tent outside the emergency department at the Central Vermont Medical Center may be used for intake if the hospital receives a surge of patients. Photo by Mike Dougherty/VTDigger

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The state reported five new cases of Covid-19 Wednesday, up from two new cases the previous day but still a relatively low number compared to the rate of spread a few weeks ago. There were no new deaths reported.

At Wednesday’s press conference, Department of Health Commissioner Mark Levine said the lower rate of cases was paired with a smaller number of people coming to health centers with Covid-19-like illnesses. 

Between 2% and 3% of visits to hospitals and urgent care centers were for Covid-19-like illnesses over the last week, compared with 4% to 5% toward the end of March, according to a chart Levine presented. 

“Providers are finding that there’s less illness out there at this point in time,” he said.

Levine also presented the latest information about the demographics of the first 29 people who died of Covid-19 in Vermont. In total, 40 people have died from the virus in the state since the start of the crisis. 

Out of their sample, 13, or 45%, of the people who had died from the virus were residents in long-term care facilities like nursing homes. They ranged in age from 70 to 95, with a median of 80. Eleven of the 13 long-term care residents died in the facility where they were living.

The average age of the other 16 people who died of the virus was also 80, and two were under the age of 65. Only two had traveled recently outside of Vermont, and only five had contact with a known Covid-19 case. “Almost all” were hospitalized and put on ventilators, Levine said.

All of the people who died of the virus both in and outside of long-term care had prior conditions, such as lung disease, kidney disease, or a condition that suppressed their immune system.

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“It doesn’t take much with some elderly, vulnerable people who have a lot of strikes against them already, with all of the illnesses that they’re living with, sometimes for many years,” he said.

Levine said of the 26 victims they had collected race and ethnicity data on, 24 were white, non-Hispanic residents. However, broader data on 38 people who died from the Department of Health website shows that 35 were white, non-Hispanic residents, two were Asian, and one was classified as “other.” 

Two-thirds of the people who died from the virus were male, according to health department data.

“Every life that we’re discussing is special to many people, and it’s a devastating occurrence,” he said.

Levine said it was tempting to look for conclusions in death data, but it’s hard to do that comprehensively.

“It really is interesting that these cases reflect that we’re seeing nationally, and around the world,” he said. “Older adults and people who have serious underlying medical conditions appear to be at higher risk for severe illness for Covid-19.”

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Erin Petenko

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