CDC modeling presents ‘murky’ future for delta variant in Vermont

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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WFFF) — Vermont’s seven-day case average has risen by 27% since Labor Day, but state officials say it’s difficult to predict where the Delta surge will go from here.

Last week’s delay in case reporting has thrown the Center for Disease Control & Prevention’s ensemble model into uncertainty. The model takes 19 different forecasts into account, and while Department of Financial Regulation Commissioner Michael Pieciak typically aggregates them into one for his weekly presentation, on Tuesday he highlighted their variability:

CDC Ensemble Model (September 18, 2021)

“It’s a moment in time where we’ll just need a little more data to understand the trajectory we’re going to be on,” Pieciak said. “We saw some improvement last week, but again, we also saw some technical issues with the case reporting. Those technical issues make it a little unclear what our forecast is.”

Amid the uncertainty, Gov. Phil Scott stood his ground in rejecting calls for a State of Emergency. He said the data doesn’t support it and his team hasn’t recommended it. He emphasized that there are downsides to another round of restrictions.

“Broad restrictions have harmful impacts in other areas like people not addressing their healthcare needs, isolation of older family members, remote learning and business closures that put people out of work,” Governor Scott said.

Although cases are rising, Scott said that’s not the only thing that should be taken into account these days. He said vaccines have largely lessened the severity of illness, and Vermonters have adapted to making their own judgment calls when it comes to gatherings, masking, and other precautions.

We are not in the same place we were six months ago, and neither are Vermonters, who have been re-evaluating their risks because of the vaccine,” Scott said. “We simply cannot be in a perpetual State of Emergency. It sets a dangerous precedent and would be an abuse of my authority, given that vaccines are proving to be so effective in protecting people.”

He said the most important metric when it comes to those decisions remains hospitalizations and hospital capacity. “We want to make sure we can protect the system we have in place, when that is in jeopardy, then you could see that we might make some changes, but until then it’s not going to be case counts, it’s going to be a number of factors,” Scott said. “We’ll do it as a team.”

Vermont health department officials say they’ll be ready to begin vaccinating children against COVID-19 as soon as a vaccine is approved for use. “We’ve been doing the planning for this literally for months,” Vermont Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine said earlier this month.

On Monday, vaccine maker Pfizer said its COVID-19 vaccine works for children ages 5 to 11 and that it will seek U.S. authorization for this age group soon—a key step toward beginning vaccinations for youngsters. There is no immediate indication of when the vaccine could receive emergency use authorization for children in that age group. Currently, the Pfizer vaccine is authorized for use in children as young as 12.

The Health Department says 72.9% of Vermont children ages 12 to 15 have been vaccinated. Vermont reported 90 new COVID-19 cases on Monday for a statewide total since the pandemic began of more than 31,760. A total of 46 people were hospitalized with the illness, including 15 who were in intensive care, the Vermont Health Department reported Monday.

The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Vermont has risen over the past two weeks from 146.00 new cases per day on September 4 to 217.14 new cases per day on September 18. The seven-day rolling average of daily deaths in Vermont has risen over the past two weeks from 1.00 deaths per day on September 4 to 1.57 deaths per day on September 18.

“Please get vaccinated, watch the Health Department guidance, and pay attention to what you are doing so we can get through this Delta wave and continue to move forward,” Scott said.

The AP is using data collected by Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering to measure outbreak caseloads and deaths across the United States.

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