MONTPELIER — Vermont recorded 251 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, the highest one-day case total yet.
State officials at Gov. Phil Scott’s March 26 press conference attributed the record-breaking number to a steady rise in cases among young people, especially those aged 20-29.
“This is a concerning number of new cases and should not be dismissed,” said Dr. Mark Levine, Department of Health commissioner. “But it is also not the entire picture.”
Though Dr. Levine noted 251 new cases is a staggering leap from the state’s recent daily reports of 80-120, he said hospitalizations and deaths have decreased. Twenty-six Vermonters with the virus are currently hospitalized and four are in an Intensive Care Unit.
“Why are we seeing this high number of cases?” Dr. Levine asked. “The answer is both simple and complex.”
About half of the cases in Vermont in the last two weeks were reported in Vermonters under the age of 30, he said. Of the 251 cases reported Friday, more than half are under age 30.
Only four of the 251 cases were reported in individuals aged 65 or older, likely due to the age group’s high vaccination rates.
The warmer weather has caused Vermonters, especially those who are young, agile and with public-facing jobs, to be more mobile, Dr. Levine said.
He reiterated the need to stay vigilant — by wearing a mask, social distancing and avoiding large groups, especially during the upcoming spring holidays.
In addition, the B.1.1.7 variant, which originated in the U.K. and is more contagious, was recently found on the University of Vermont’s campus.
“It’s hard to say whether the variants play a major or a minor role, but they clearly play a role here,” Dr. Levine said.
The recent uptick in positivity at UVM, Dr. Levine said, is reflective of the community it is a part of. Chittenden County saw a record-breaking case count on Friday also, with a total of 102 new cases.
Other colleges and universities around the state are not experiencing the same surge.
“Admittedly, the 251 caught me by surprise as well,” Scott said. “But in reflection, when you look at what our strategy is, we wanted to make sure that we prevented loss of life and to reduce the impact on our health system. That’s been our focus since Day One.”