Staff testing samples at the Vermont Department of Health lab
Vermont has recorded more than 400 new coronavirus cases since Wednesday, the highest two-day total since the disease was first found in the state last March. Health officials are keeping tabs on transmissions stemming from holiday gatherings and announced positive tests among staff at four state prisons.
The Vermont Department of Health reported 226 cases on Thursday and 202 on Friday. The numbers have pushed the state to record-high weekly case growth, though the figures continue to compare well with those in other states. Twenty-nine people are currently hospitalized with the disease.
The rate of transmission in long-term care centers has tapered in recent weeks, but a dozen facilities are still dealing with active outbreaks.
Health officials have identified six holiday gatherings and a birthday party "that have the potential for further spread," Health Commissioner Mark Levine said.
Gov. Phil Scott allowed limited gatherings between households during the Christmas week. "Our teams are not finding evidence that significant outbreaks have occurred related to the types of gatherings that were allowed for over the holidays," Levine said.
One of the steepest increases in new cases was in Addison County, where Christmas services at Victory Baptist Church in Vergennes were linked to at least 80 infections.
Addison County has recorded 404 cases over the last 10 months, with about 40 percent of those coming since Christmas, according to state data.
While some ski towns have seen case upticks in recent weeks, Levine said contact tracers have connected only nine cases to people who have been at ski areas, mostly employees. He said the data indicate a "good start" to the ski season.
Meanwhile, staffers at four of Vermont's six prisons tested positive over the last couple of days. Regularly scheduled testing regimes turned up one staff case each at Northern State Correctional Facility in Newport and Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility in South Burlington. Independently conducted tests also revealed single cases at Northwest State Correctional Facility in St. Albans and Southern State Correctional Facility in Springfield.
A second employee tested positive at Southern on Friday, according to the Department of Corrections. There are seven active cases among prison employees in Vermont.
No prisoners have tested positive within the last two weeks, according to the department's daily COVID-19 dashboard.