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The state Department of Health reported Wednesday that Vermont had “low” Covid-19 levels for the fifth consecutive week, as the state continues to emerge from a surge in cases driven by the BA.2 subvariant.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also reported as of July 7 that most Vermont counties had “low” Covid levels. Two counties — Bennington and Rutland — were rated “medium,” the same as the previous week.
Vermont reported an average of 65 cases per day in the past week and about five new hospital admissions for Covid per day, both a drop from the previous week.
As of July 13, hospitalizations have been the lowest since August 2021 with 10 people hospitalized with Covid-19 and zero people in intensive care units.
The department reported one additional Covid death. Four people have died so far in Vermont in July from Covid-19. There have been 687 Covid deaths in Vermont since the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020.
The death toll is based on death certificates that list Covid as a cause or probable cause of death, according to the health department. Because of the time it takes to investigate deaths and prepare death certificates, deaths can sometimes be added retroactively, raising the total for previous weeks and months.
With the new BA.5 Omicron subvariant driving an uptick in cases nationwide, Vermont is reporting an increased proportion of BA.5 cases, according to the surveillance report. However, it does not seem to have driven a spike in overall cases in the state thus far. In New England, BA.5 made up about 46% of new cases as of July 2.
“We estimate in the Northeast it's about 50% of all the whole genome sequencing that is being done, but we're not seeing a super high uptick in disease activity, whether you look at cases or hospitalizations or death,” Health Commissioner Mark Levine said at Tuesday’s press conference. “So that is all good news.”
PCR testing numbers have significantly declined over the past two weeks after the state closed its testing sites June 25. PCR testing had been declining for months due to the rise of at-home antigen testing options, which are not typically reported to the health department.
Vermont officials have emphasized that case counts are less reliable than hospital data or other indicators of severe disease, such as the rate of hospital patients showing certain symptoms. At the same time, the CDC and state health department still rely on Covid case counts, in addition to hospitalizations, to determine the state’s Covid levels.
Seven of the 11 Vermont wastewater facilities participating in the National Wastewater Surveillance System reported data for their facilities, an increase from the zero that reported data last week.
Six locations reported an increase in Covid-19 over a 15-day period, with St. Albans logging the most significant increase at 1,000%. Four sites (Bennington, Johnson, Troy/Jay and Winooski) reported increases of 10% to 99%, and two (Essex Junction and Morrisville) reported increases of 100% to 999%.
Burlington’s wastewater SARS-CoV-2 counts remained relatively level with the previous week, with counts slightly decreasing at the East Plant and counts slightly increasing at the Main and North plants.
Vermont currently compares well to the rest of the nation, according to New York Times data. While Vermont and the rest of New England reported low and declining Covid rates, much of the country has reported an increase.
The number of Covid cases nationwide is starting to climb again, The Times reported. Many other states have followed Vermont’s trend of conducting fewer PCR tests, making it hard to say how accurately national case data reflects the reality of Covid on the ground. Hospitalizations continue to rise but remain far lower than the peak during Omicron in the winter.
Erin Petenko and Mike Dougherty contributed to this report.
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