State Calls For Volunteers To Ensure Vaccine Clinic Capacity

COVID-19 cases in the Northeast Kingdom shot to a new high this week and one additional resident died as the Delta surge crept across nearly the entire state.

State officials addressed the return to rising cases during their media briefing Tuesday.

DFR Commissioner Michael Pieciak noted that cases rose in 12 of 14 counties last week, with cases still elevated above most others in the Northeast Kingdom as well as now Bennington County.

Essex County this week reported the highest case rate of any county in Vermont during the entire pandemic, noted Pieciak in his data and modeling presentation. During the week of Nov. 2-8, Essex County saw 63 additional cases. With a county population of roughly 6,300 people, that means 1% of the entire county tested positive for COVID-19 within the last week.

During the same week, Orleans and Caledonia counties also saw some of the biggest week-over-week increases in cases in the state.

In recent days another Orleans County resident died, bringing the county total to 19 and the NEK total to 41 total deaths since the pandemic began. On Tuesday Caledonia County reached 2,000 cases and Orleans County crossed 3,000 cases just a couple of days prior. The NEK also reached a new high for a 7-day average of just over 56 cases per day this week.

The infections, hospitalizations and deaths continue to occur predominantly among the unvaccinated. And while hospitalizations and deaths are impacting older adults, a large portion of recent new infections have been among 5- to 11-year-olds, who became eligible for vaccines last week, said state officials - urging families to sign their children up and get them vaccinated as soon as possible.

Volunteers Needed

During the press briefing, both Agency of Human Services Secretary Mike Smith and Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine encouraged Vermonters to volunteer with the Medical Reserve Corps. They said this was a proactive step to ensure there was adequate staffing to maintain the elevated pace of vaccination clinics being held around the state for continuing first dose efforts, boosters and now pediatric vaccinations.

While the need for volunteers has not been a limiting factor in the state’s ability to hold vaccination clinics just yet, Smith said the state has had to scramble a bit to line up staff in some spots.

“Volunteers do not need specific medical training or experience to join the Medical Reserve Corps, a variety of people and skills can be of use,” He said. “We do need people in our vaccination sites as we ramp up our effort.”

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