Health Care

Vermont reports 81 new cases as state heads into Thanksgiving

A ticket agent assists a passenger at the Burlington International Airport in on Wednesday morning. Recent data suggests that Vermonters are heeding the recommendation that they avoid traveling for the Thanksgiving holiday. Photo by Glenn Russell/VTDigger

Vermont reported 81 cases of Covid Wednesday, a drop from recent record-setting days but still higher than the daily average only weeks ago, according to Department of Health data.

Chittenden County, the state’s most populous, had the most cases at 21; Washington County reported 15; and Orange County reported 10. Washington County was the epicenter of an outbreak last month that began at a Montpelier ice rink.

State officials noted that Washington and Orange counties had a sustained rate of increase in recent weeks, even though the outbreak itself has slowed down.

The state reported 20 people currently hospitalized for the virus, down from 22 Tuesday, with five people in the ICU. No new deaths were reported.

Get ready for data to get weird

With Thanksgiving and Black Friday on the horizon, the state’s data dashboard will not be updated Thursday, but should resume Friday.

The state’s weekly reports on Covid data and its town-by-town tallies will not update at all this week, but update instead on the following Friday, Dec. 4. Its school report will update Dec. 1.

Data nationwide could look strange in the following days for a number of reasons, according to the Covid Tracking Project. Cases, hospitalizations and deaths might appear to drop as states don’t update their dashboards and testing slows down. 

Numbers may appear higher in the following days and weeks as states add the delayed figures. That could give the appearance that cases are falling, then surging again.

Vermonters complying with guidance

On Tuesday, state officials warned that Thanksgiving could cause an explosion in cases. If 38% of people defy state orders banning multi-household dinners, as one study suggested, it could cause another 3,200 to 3,800 infections in the state.

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But other data suggests that Vermonters are less likely to hold multi-household dinners. A New York Times survey of 150,000 people found that fewer than 20% of Vermonters planned to do so, third-lowest in the nation.

The survey responses, collected from Nov. 13 to Nov. 23, may be a reflection of people trying to follow state orders. Not all states have banned gatherings between members of different households, as Vermont has.

It’s unclear whether, or how much, that 20% of Vermonters could cause new infections. State officials said the rate of growth depends on how many people hold dinners, how many people with infections come to those dinners, and how many people get infected during those dinners. 

Another New York Times survey of epidemiologists found that the vast majority planned to avoid a Thanksgiving gathering, and those who were holding them planned to take extreme measures to prevent infections, such as quarantining beforehand, hosting the dinners outside, limiting time spent eating together, and avoiding cross-contamination of food dishes. 

Dr. Mark Levine, head of the Vermont Department of Health, said anyone hosting a multi-household gathering should plan to quarantine for 14 days afterward or get tested after seven days.

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Erin Petenko

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