Vermont’s Covid-19 community levels remained “low” this past week, the state Department of Health reported Wednesday, rounding out the month of February with consistently low community levels.
The number of cases, hospital admissions and people in Vermont hospitals for Covid have remained relatively flat in recent weeks as XBB became the dominant strain in Vermont. The state reported 37 hospital admissions for Covid in the past week, compared to 42 the week before, according to the department.
As of March 1, 34 people were hospitalized in Vermont for Covid, including four patients in intensive care, according to the health department.
The department reported 350 Covid cases in the past week, compared to 433 cases the week before.
Health department spokesperson Ben Truman said in an email that the department stopped reporting PCR testing data on Feb. 15 because it was no longer “a good picture of COVID information in Vermont.”
The department has reported PCR test data since March 2020 to provide a picture of how many Vermonters were seeking Covid testing and to contextualize Covid case numbers. More than 3.9 million PCR tests have been performed in Vermont since the start of the pandemic. At the peak of the virus in January 2022, more than 10,000 Vermonters were tested for the virus every day.
But use of self-administered antigen testing has surpassed PCR testing in the past year, Truman said. Antigen tests are slightly less accurate than PCR tests but provide faster results and are available at pharmacies for at-home use.
About 500 PCR tests per day were being performed in Vermont as of Feb. 11, according to the department data.
The department collects self-reported antigen test results but does not publish the data publicly.
Truman said the archived version of the PCR test data would remain public until May 18.
“After May 18, updated COVID-19 information will continue to be found in the COVID-19 Surveillance Report,” he wrote.
The number of people arriving at emergency departments with Covid symptoms is similar to February 2022, when the state was recovering from the peak of the Omicron wave, according to the department data.
Average daily hospital admissions for Covid this month were somewhat lower than in February 2022 — down to about six per day from about 10 per day, according to the department and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Covid cases are far lower, currently at about 49 per day, than the roughly 200 per day last year, but the potential influence of antigen testing on those figures is unclear.
About 78% of counties nationwide are reporting “low” Covid community levels, according to the CDC.
Twelve of Vermont’s 14 counties had “low” Covid community levels in the past week, according to the CDC. Bennington and Rutland were the only counties that reported “medium” Covid community levels. This is the fifth week in a row Bennington has reported “medium” levels.
Both the CDC and Vermont Department of Health’s Covid levels are based on Covid cases, hospital admissions and the percent of state hospital beds taken up by Covid patients.
The health department reported eight additional Covid deaths this week, bringing February’s total to 23. In total, 925 people have died of Covid in Vermont since the pandemic began in March 2020.
Erin Petenko contributed reporting.
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