Nationwide Covid levels are ‘low’ as PCR testing continues to fall

Community Covid-19 levels remain “low” in Vermont this week, the Department of Health reported in its latest surveillance update on Wednesday.

The department reported slightly elevated cases, hospitalizations and hospital admissions, but all were below the “low” threshold.

The latest numbers also show the need to interpret case data with caution: the department is reporting the lowest PCR testing rates since the early days of the pandemic in spring 2020.

About 750 PCR tests have been performed daily for the past week, compared to more than 17,000 at the peak of infections in January 2022. The testing rate even declined compared to July of this year, when the department nevertheless reported about 1,400 tests per day low covid levels.

At-home antigen testing became widely available in pharmacies and health centers in the fall of 2021, giving Vermonters an alternative to PCR testing, which can take days to produce results. The department scaled back state PCR testing centers in June 2022, leaving doctor’s offices as the main place where testing is still available.

The health department now relies on other data points, such as: B. Covid-related hospital admissions and emergency room visits for Covid-like symptoms to get a real-time picture of the virus status. At this point, none of these indicators are pointing to an increase in Covid levels.

However, experts warn that the unreliability of case data can make it difficult to accurately track the virus or provide detailed information on how it is spreading in the community.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday classified 12 of Vermont’s 14 counties as having “low” levels of Covid. Only Rutland and Bennington counties were classified as “medium”.

The health department reported 581 Covid cases last week, around 31% more than in the previous week.

In the past week, 39 patients were newly admitted with the disease, compared to 37 the week before. As of Wednesday, a total of 38 patients with Covid lay in Vermont hospital beds, including two in intensive care.

The department reported four more deaths, bringing the total to four in September, compared to 19 in August. In total, 719 people have died since the pandemic began in March 2020.

The department also began releasing data on Wednesday on how many young children have received their recommended Covid vaccines. According to the data, about 8% of children under the age of 5 were vaccinated.

Experts said early in the rollout of vaccines for young children that uptake could be low due to parents’ reluctance and the fact that the vaccines are being given on a regular basis rather than through a dedicated campaign. The vaccine is primarily distributed through paediatricians and other medical practices, but is also available in government clinics.

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