By Guy Page
Omicron strain Covid-19 cases and ICU hospitalizations are dropping in Vermont, state officials reported today. Also, most of Vermont’s 43 Covid-19 deaths this month resulted from the waning Delta variant.
Total number of Vermont Covid-19 Omicron cases are down 27% in the last week and 37% in the last two weeks. The decline is expected to continue, Dept. of Financial Regulation Commissioner Michael Pieciak said at today’s press conference.
The case decrease isn’t just a testing-related statistic. “It does appear to be a real decrease,” Pieciak said. For example, college campuses are showing much lower numbers than the peak earlier this month. However, the exception is in Vermont’s long-term care facilities, where 25 outbreaks have been identified.
As a result of the decrease, there’s a 4% decrease in the use of ICU beds. That shift has occurred “over the last few days,” Pieciak said. “We’re starting to see more availability through the hospitals.”
“Only a handful of patients are on ventilators,” Health Commissioner Mark Levine said.
However, the news isn’t all good from Vermont’s hospitals: inpatient use for Covid-19 rose 7% last week. But even these numbers are below recent weeks, Levine said.
The relatively good news about Omicron extends into January’s mortality statistics. Of the 43 deaths so far, “the majority of those [illnesses were contracted] when the Delat Variant was the dominant,” Pieciak said. “A minority occurred under Omicron.”
Pieciak expects fatalities to be up for a few weeks, but he emphasized that these fatalities, too, will mostly be victims of the Delta variant.
Burlington wastewater statistics also show reduced levels of Omicron, Health Commissioner Mark Levine said.
Although conceding the milder effects of Omicron, Levine opposes the ‘get it an get it over with’ strategy.
“Should we all just get Covid and get it over with?,” Levine asked rhetorically. He said no because:
- “We cannot always predict who will become seriously ill.”
- Hosptials remain strained, albeit due to workforce issues. “You may experience delays in care and will be adding to the strain.”
- Sick people may transmit the disease.
- Missing work and school is inconvenient.
- Data is lacking on Omicron and Long Covid, including the possibility of re-infection.
Instead, Vermonters should strive to improve its 63% vaccinated-and-boosted status to about 90%, and should continue to mask up, Levine said. V n’ B Vermonters are less likely to land in the hospital or die, he said.
Don’t expect to hear the health commissioner use the term “fully-vaccinated” anymore.
“The word fully-vaccinated is archaic,” Levine said. “We should use ‘fully protected and up to date.’ If you really want to consider yourself protected, you need to be boosted.”
Gov. Phil Scott added that Covid-19 won’t just go away: “there’s going to be other variants” of unknown strength, he said.