by Doug McClure
MONTPELIER – According to state-level data, Orleans County is the third highest in the state for total new COVID cases, trailing Rutland County, which has nearly 50% more people, and Chittenden County.
In the past two weeks, Orleans County has had 356 new cases and Caledonia County has had 153. In total cumulative cases relative to population since the start of COVID, Orleans County now ranks only behind Bennington County.
According to the Vermont Department of Financial Regulation (DFR), Orleans County’s active case count relative to population was double the next-highest, in Bennington. As of last week. Orleans County continues to lag behind the state in terms of vaccination rates for children, with barely over half those seventeen and under vaccinated.
The news comes as the state continues to revise daily reported cases upward days after the reports, and the DFR estimates the actual number of cases to be four times what the state knows about. Thus far, the impact locally has not been significant. Whereas Springfield’s entire school system was shut down due to case overload, no crisis yet exists in the Orleans Southwest Supervisory Union (OSSU) or at Twinfield Union.
OSSU Superintendent Adam Rosenberg said that since school opened there have been thirteen cases, and that it would be far higher if not for the community’s vigilance. He said “Our feeling is that community members have been great about reaching out to us when they learn of a positive case, keeping students home when sick, and following health and safety protocols. Thank you!”
At the same time, Rosenberg said I that, in part because staff members were following guidelines and staying home when sick, staffing had gotten tight due to a lack of available substitute teachers. “Several times we narrowly avoided having to close a school,” he said, adding “I think things are as normal as they can be in the face of continuing layered health and safety interventions.”
Twinfield Union did not have the most auspicious start to the 2020-2021 school year, with the entire elementary school sent home on one of the first days open due an outbreak in Plainfield. Most of three elementary school grade levels quarantined for two weeks. Now, principal Mark Mooney said, things have stabilized.
Mooney said “After a tough few weeks, we have settled down. We don’t have any students or staff on official quarantine. We still have individuals getting COVID tests because they have possible symptoms. We are on a good streak of negative tests for staff and students!”
Every Vermont county is now rated at the highest level of COVID transmission by the CDC. Three dozen people were hospitalized for COVID as of Monday. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, only Copley Hospital in this area has much capacity left, with half its 32 beds available. The University of Vermont Medical Center in Burlington is now down to 17% of inpatient beds and 20% of ICU beds, and Central Vermont Medical Center has a quarter of its inpatient beds and 36% of its ICU beds available. Northeastern Vermont Medical Center in St. Johnsbury has dropped from 32% of its beds available to 24%.
Booster shots are available for the Pfizer vaccine, with those sixty-five or older or with severe medical conditions eligible as of Friday. Northern Counties Health Care has multiple clinics available.
Northern Express Care, St. Johnsbury, Tuesdays & Thursdays, 3 – 7 p.m., Saturdays 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Northeastern Vermont Regional Hospital, St. Johnsbury, Mondays 1 to 3 p.m., Wednesdays 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Hardwick Area Health Center, Wednesdays 1:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., Fridays 8 a.m. to noon.