Health Care

As Vermont’s cases slow, officials worry about neighbors

Covid testing sign
Signs direct patients to a pop-up testing site behind the Barre Memorial Auditorium on May 19, 2020. Photo by Mike Dougherty/VTDigger

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Vermont continues to see a decline in new Covid-19 cases and deaths, even as the state loosens its social distancing rules, according to the latest models presented by Department of Financial Regulation Commissioner Michael Pieciak.

But as Vermont’s situation improves, neighboring states and Quebec are experiencing reams of new cases and deaths, a sign that the state needs to be careful in its attitude to reopening and allowing out-of-staters access to the state, Pieciak said.

“We need to watch our neighbors closely,” he said. “We are not an island.”

Massachusetts reported 8,500 new cases in the past week, Pieciak said. And while Vermont has had 54 deaths total during the epidemic, New Hampshire has had 40 in the past week.

Vermont’s case trajectory has slowed to the point where it would take 46 weeks for cases to double. New Hampshire has a doubling rate of only six weeks, according to the presentation.

Where is Covid-19 still spreading in Vermont?

Vermont has few new cases. The Department of Health reported only two new positive tests and no new deaths Friday. However, there are still active cases remaining in many parts of the state.

One analysis by ArcGIS, a mapping company, shows that six counties are considered to still have viral spread, meaning the number of cases continues to tick up. But those counties are not seeing a huge growth in new cases, meaning it is unlikely to be spreading out of control.

One sign of progress is that the hardest-hit county, Chittenden, is considered to be “controlled” — in other words, the growth of new cases is falling to the point that experts believe it has successfully curbed its outbreak.

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Franklin and Chittenden counties both had high numbers of cases linked to institutions. In Franklin County, there was an outbreak at the Northwest State Correctional Facility in St. Albans. Many of the cases confirmed in Chittenden County were linked to several long-term care facilities.

Five Vermont counties — Grand Isle and several Northeast Kingdom counties — have such a low rate of new cases that experts believe their epidemic has ended.

Looking at a county level, there are still signs of concern for the surrounding states. Washington County in New York, which borders Southwestern Vermont, is believed to be at “epidemic” level.

Almost every other county that borders Vermont is considered to be “spreading” besides Coos County, in northern New Hampshire, and Berkshire County, in Massachusetts.

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Erin Petenko

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