Vermont officials said they did not believe federal guidance that rated three counties as having “high” Covid-19 community levels should be cause for concern. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Thursday that Washington, Essex and Windsor counties had high Covid community levels, while Orleans, Caledonia and Orange counties had medium Covid levels. But Health Commissioner Mark Levine said at a press conference on Tuesday that the metrics the CDC uses can be skewed because of Vermont’s relatively small size and recent health care staffing patterns. “Small states, especially small states with rural counties like ours, appear to have more unpredictable and variable case rates in these counties. And the difference between a count or a color on the map can literally be a few cases,” he said. The CDC metrics are based on three data points: recent Covid cases per 100,000 people, new hospital admissions for Covid and the percent of hospital beds occupied by Covid patients, a proxy for health care capacity. Levine said in counties like Essex, with a population of about 6,000, a “small number of cases moves to a very high rate.” Essex has reported 46 cases in the past two weeks, according to the Department of Health. That’s a rate of about 736 cases per 100,000 people. By contrast, Washington County has reported 235 cases over that time period, according to the health department. Windsor County has reported 219. Both have a population of more than 50,000 people.
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