The Vermont Department of Health has been forced to find new ways to report Covid-19 data after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stopped requiring hospitals across the country to report their Covid admission counts. 

For nearly two years, the health department has shared the number of new hospital admissions for the virus in its weekly surveillance report, along with metrics such as wastewater testing, case counts and deaths. Before two years ago, the department would report the number of Covid patients in Vermont hospitals at any one time.  

Beginning with next week’s surveillance report, the department plans to use a new indicator that is similar to, but not quite the same as, the current one: the number of visits to emergency department settings that involve a Covid diagnosis. 

According to department epidemiologist John Davy, this would include both emergency and non-emergency visits to 14 Vermont hospitals with an emergency department. This captures a “similar phenomenon” as hospitalizations, and the two are closely correlated, he said. 

“This measure provides us (with) a very useful indicator of COVID-19 activity and burden, and one that performs similarly to the indicator that it replaces,” he wrote in an email. “We do not feel that this reduces our ability to track COVID-19.”

The department plans to add retroactive data, so the public can continue to see changes over time, according to health department spokesperson Ben Truman. The CDC provides similar data, but in a different format, using the percentage of all emergency department visits. 

The change comes after the number of Covid-related hospital admissions nationwide hit its lowest point since the beginning of the pandemic, according to a CDC update on April 20, the last one before the reporting requirement ended. 

Hospital admissions in Vermont have also lowered significantly in recent weeks. For the past two weeks, the health department has reported only three new hospital admissions for the virus — the lowest counts in two years. 

Wastewater levels at three Vermont testing sites also showed low levels of Covid, according to WastewaterSCAN, a company that collects wastewater data. 

The fall and winter seasons proved less deadly than previous years, although deaths continued to occur. The health department reported 114 Vermonters died of Covid between October and March, compared with 153 deaths during the same time period a year ago. 


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