The same day that Vermont shattered its single-day record for most new COVID-19 cases, so did the Northeast Kingdom.

This week the Vermont Health Department also reported several more NEK residents died of COVID in recent days, bringing the regional total to 40 deaths.

While Vermont reported 498 new coronavirus cases were identified Wednesday, 29% of them were from the Northeast Kingdom where Caledonia County set a new record with 59 cases, Orleans added 67 cases and Essex added 20 cases, also a high mark for the county. The deaths this week were reported across the region. There have now been 20 deaths in Caledonia County and 18 in Orleans County, while Essex County remains at 2 deaths thus far.

Gov. Phil Scott issued a statement outlining concerns about the potential impact on Vermont’s hospital capacity following the release of the record numbers on Thursday. Friday saw the state’s second-highest day with an additional 377 new COVID-19 cases.

Scott urged everyone to vaccinated if eligible and to wear a mask while indoors, regardless of vaccination status.

“For those choosing not to receive the vaccine, you have an added responsibility to wear a mask indoors, keep 6 feet apart and get tested regularly, but certainly before gathering or avoid gatherings altogether,” said Scott. “Choosing not to take these steps is leading to unnecessary illness, hospitalizations and death in our communities.”

Scott noted recent cases are predominantly among the unvaccinated and even singled out the Northeast Kingdom.

“The simple fact is, this pandemic is being driven by the unvaccinated, including 53,000 eligible adults. The three lowest vaccinated counties account for 25% of today’s cases, yet they only make up 10% of our state population,” said Scott. “Unvaccinated Vermonters are up to 5 times as likely to contract COVID in Vermont and they account for 70-85% of our hospitalizations and ICU stays. Unvaccinated adults are directly contributing to the strain on our hospital capacity. Enough is enough, it’s time to step up and get vaccinated – something over 90% of your fellow Vermont adults have done.”

The three lowest vaccinated counties are Essex, Orleans and Caledonia counties.

“Today’s data underscores the urgency for parents and caregivers to sign their children up to be vaccinated if they are eligible,” added Scott. “Vaccines are safe, effective and free. Not only will they limit the spread of the virus, but also limit disruptions, like the need to quarantine after exposure, which leads to kids missing school and other activities that help their social and emotional wellbeing.”

The regional total is now 5,437 following Wednesday’s 146 cases, 14 on Thursday and further revisions up on preceding days.

Prison Outbreak

Some of the recent cases in Caledonia County can be attributed to an outbreak at the Northeast Regional Correctional Complex. Earlier this week Department of Corrections announced 7 cases had been identified among incarcerated individuals in the general population. Following a facility-wide test on Tuesday 9 additional cases were detected, said DOC Public Information Officer Rachel Feldman.

Another round of testing was to be conducted on Friday in the facility, which has been on lockdown for the week.

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