Officials plead heavy workload due to surge in cases
By Guy Page
The Vermont Department of Health no longer reports the number of unvaccinated Vermont Covid-19 deaths on its daily dashboard or weekly reports. Nor will it, at least as long as the current surge of Covid-19 cases lasts.
Despite repeated references by state officials to the Vermont Covid-19 pandemic as “a pandemic of the unvaccinated,” and their approval of employer vaccine mandates, the Vermont Dept. of Health has since last month dropped any specific mention of unvaccinated Vermonters from its reporting of Covid-19 death statistics. The State now uses just two categories: “not fully vaccinated” and “fully vaccinated.”
The Vermont Daily Chronicle has repeatedly asked State Health Dept. officials, via email and at the governor’s weekly press conferences, for up-to-date information on Covid fatalities among both the unvaccinated and the vaccinated. This morning we received this firm ‘no, at least for now’ response from Vt. Dept. of Health spokesperson Ben Truman:
“With the data team having to analyze, process and prepare for public information, thousands of cases a day, it is our hope that the version of the information you are asking for — provided daily on the dashboard, and weekly in the data summaries can suffice,” Truman said.
Vermont is indeed in the grips of an unprecedented number of daily new cases. Today’s dashboard reported 2,217 new cases. Just over a month ago, the one-time high was 604 cases.
The record high number of cases does not appear to have overwhelmed the state’s hospital capacity. 32% of Vermont inpatient hospital beds are empty today, according to federal data. One patient bed in 10 is in use to treat Covid patients. 19% of ICU beds are empty, with 24 of Vermont’s 96 total staffed ICU beds in use for Covid patients.
At the Jan. 11 press conference, senior administration officials attempted to explain the recent lack of publicly-shared information about unvaccinated Covid deaths. “Having a single dose or having no doses, there’s a difference but at this point, it’s not anywhere near the difference between being fully vaccinated and being boosted on top of that,” Dept. of Financial Regulation Commissioner Michael Pieciak said.
Health Commissioner Mark Levine then assured that most of the “not fully vaccinated” are likely completely unvaccinated. “While I can’t give you the exact numbers, we know throughout the pandemic that the number of people who only got one dose and were still waiting for a second dose were in the single digit percents. A very small number generally and that number shrinks over time. So I would anticipate most of the people in the not fully vaccinated category are truly unvaccinated. And even if a small percentage of them don’t fit that profile, most of them are going to fit that profile.”
About 14% of Vermonters age five and over have not received even a single dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, the Dept. of Health vaccine dashboard reports.