Vermont Keeps Cases Lowest in U.S. Throughout Pandemic

After months of unchecked virus growth in the U.S., tiny Vermont has emerged as an unlikely, early victor in the fight against Covid-19 spread.

The Green Mountain State, whose 624,000 residents make it more populous than only Wyoming, has managed to maintain the lowest per-capita share of cases of any state in the U.S. since the beginning of the pandemic. It’s remarkable, given that the state is next to New York, an early epicenter now grappling with a renewed surge that drove positivity rates to 9% in New York City on Sunday.

Coronavirus can seep through porous borders, exposing cracks in out-of-sync state policies, as it did between Illinois and Wisconsin in the fall. New Yorkers have crossed into neighboring New Jersey just to eat indoors.

But Vermont has somehow kept cases low. The state reported 165 new cases Tuesday, and 38 patients currently hospitalized with Covid-19, according to the state health department. There were spans of weeks in the fall when no Vermonter died of the virus.

Vermont Keeps Cases Lowest in U.S. Throughout Pandemic

The state’s Republican governor, Phil Scott, implemented and lifted lockdown policies in tandem with positivity rates. He eliminated capacity restrictions for lodging and eased dining restrictions in September, allowing something unthinkable to New Yorkers -- socially distanced bar-side seating. More than 15,000 vaccines have been administered statewide, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. That’s nearly half of its allotted doses, well above the national average of 30%.

“Our policies have been strong, I think the communication has been impeccable, and people work extraordinarily well together,” said Jan Carney, associate dean for public health and health policy at the University of Vermont’s Larner College of Medicine.

The school this year surveyed a thousand residents about their needs and feelings on Vermont’s approach. Carney, who previously worked as the state’s commissioner of health, said the survey found high levels of agreement and adherence to protective measures like mask mandates and closures. She emphasized the success isn’t permanent, and maintaining it requires continued effort from residents. “We’re clearly not out of the woods,” she said.

Cases are rising or flat in most of the U.S., and Vermont’s success could still reverse. As cold weather keeps people indoors and living-room spread persists, the winter months will be pivotal as the country struggles to distribute vaccines.

Nationally, the U.S. recorded 214,378 new Covid-19 cases on Tuesday. In total, the virus has killed about 357,390 people in the U.S., according to Johns Hopkins University data.

According to Covid Tracking Project data:

  • Arkansas and Alabama posted single-day record case counts on Tuesday.
  • Those states also reported the most new cases per million people.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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