Did Vermont’s COVID-19 Cases Rise 16,700% in 4 Months?

We took a closer look at the numbers in this viral tweet.

  • Published
A tweet claimed that Vermont COVID-19 cases were up 16700 percent over four months but missed the mark.
Image via ED JONES/AFP via Getty Images

Claim

In early November 2021, COVID-19 cases in Vermont had risen 16,700% over four months.

Rating

Origin

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On Nov. 10, 2021, the Twitter account @ianmSC tweeted that “Vermont now has one of the highest infection rates in the US and cases are up 16,700% in the past 4 months.” The tweet also said that “92% of adults & 91.2% of everyone 12+ [are at] least partially vaccinated” in the state. The same tweet was also spotted spreading in the wild as a screenshot on Facebook.

A tweet claimed that Vermont COVID-19 cases were up 16700 percent over four months but missed the mark.
This tweet missed the mark.

The Twitter account’s many tweets about COVID-19 appeared to largely receive engagements from people who leaned toward anti-science, anti-vaccine, and anti-mask rhetoric. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), vaccines and masks are both effective in the fight against the deadly disease.

This tweet contained several figures that we researched.

Population and Vaccination Rate

According to the Vermont Department of Health, the official population number used for the state on its COVID-19 Vaccine Dashboard is 594,946 people.

On Nov. 10, VTDigger, an independent online news website for Vermont, published that “roughly 91% of Vermonters 12 and older” had started the vaccination process. In other words, the first part of the tweet contained accurate numbers that were used to build up to a misleading conclusion.

Infection Rate

According to the tweet, as of early November, Vermont had “one of the highest infection rates in the U.S.” This was true, but again, it was also used in the effort to later show an incorrect and misleading number for the rise in the state’s infection rate.

On Nov. 11, The New York Times published that Vermont had one of the highest COVID-19 case counts per capita in the country, with 50 in every 100,000 of its citizens being reported as infected in the previous seven days.

‘Cases Are Up 16,700%’

In the tweet, it said that “cases are up 16,700% in the past 4 months” in the state of Vermont. This was false.

According to the bottom of the chart in the tweet, it was sourced from The New York Times. It also noted that the black line was meant to show seven-day averages for case numbers in the state.

We compared the chart in the tweet to the chart on the Times’ website that was available on Nov. 11. It appeared that the chart in the tweet showed numbers that ended around Nov. 9.

According to the Times, the seven-day average for daily cases in Vermont was 315 as of Nov. 9, not around 500 as shown in the tiny numbers on the left side of the chart in the tweet.

A tweet claimed that Vermont COVID-19 cases were up 16700 percent over four months but missed the mark.
On Nov. 9, 2021, Vermont’s seven-day average of daily COVID-19 cases was 315. (Credit: The New York Times)

Also, the tweet claimed that the seven-day average jumped 16,700% in four months. Four months earlier, on July 9, the Times’ data showed that the seven-day average was five cases in the state. This represented a rise over those months of 6,200%, not 16,700%. It’s unclear how the larger percentage was reached.

Perhaps more important is the fact that the tweet’s text included a percentage instead of the actual number of cases. This appeared to be an attempt to mislead. The figure 16,700% is far more dramatic than reporting a rise in the seven-day average case count, over the course of four months, from five cases to 315.

Vaccine Passports and Testing

The final part of the tweet read: “Hard to imagine a less scientifically justifiable policy than vaccine passports to keep others ‘safe.'” However, this missed the mark. Since the time that COVID-19 vaccines became available, the vast majority of cases, hospitalizations, and deaths have been in unvaccinated patients, according to data made available by the CDC.

The latest data from the Vermont Department of Health showed that the vast majority of recent cases, hospitalizations, and deaths, have been in unvaccinated individuals. As of Nov. 5, the state had reported that a “small portion” of 1.3% of its fully vaccinated residents had experienced breakthrough cases. From the start, the CDC stated that it expected breakthrough cases to happen.

On Nov. 5, Burlington, Vermont-based TV station WCAX-TV reported that “part of the reason for the higher case counts is more people are getting tested.” This might bring to mind the genuine quote from former U.S. President Donald Trump. In June 2020, he said: “If we stop testing right now, we’d have very few cases.” However, as the CDC previously published, testing is important because it “helps to identify unknown cases so that measures can be taken to prevent further transmission.”

An Unvaccinated Crisis in Vermont

WCAX also reported that unvaccinated patients dominated the state’s hospitalizations:

Data shows up to 80% of Vermont’s hospitalizations are among the 53,000 eligible unvaccinated Vermonters. “We’ve seen the unvaccinated positives really increase, whereas the vaccinated has really stayed steady,” said AHS Secretary Mike Smith.

Part of the reason for the higher case counts is more people are getting tested. This week saw near-record levels of tests conducted. Vermont is leading the nation in tests per capita, surpassing the second-highest state by 20%. But Governor Phil Scott says if cases stay this high, we could see hospitalizations top 80.

Vermont hospitals say they are already stressed. Administrators say unvaccinated coronavirus patients put an avoidable strain on the system. As of Wednesday, Vermont had just 11 open ICU beds across 14 acute care hospitals. “The challenges are becoming greater as we see unvaccinated COVID patients coming into our ICUs, because instead of staying three or four days, they’re staying 21 days,” said Dr. Gil Allen, chief of critical care at the UVM Medical Center.

In sum, as of early November 2021, it was true that a very high percentage of Vermont residents were at least partially vaccinated. It was also true that the state had one of the highest daily case counts per capita at the time. However, this data was used in an attempt to prop up a false claim that the 7-day case average was up 16,700% over the previous four months. Not only was this not true, but some of the figures in the chart were not the same as what was shown on the Times’ website as of Nov. 11.

For these reasons, we have rated the claim as “False.”

Sources:

CDC. “Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 11 Feb. 2020, https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/variants/delta-variant.html.
 
CDC. “COVID-19 Vaccination.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 11 Feb. 2020, https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/effectiveness/why-measure-effectiveness/breakthrough-cases.html.
 
“Coronavirus in the U.S.: Latest Map and Case Count.” The New York Times, 3 Mar. 2020. NYTimes.com, https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2021/us/covid-cases.html.
 
“COVID Data Tracker.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 28 Mar. 2020, https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker.
 
“Healthcare Workers.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 11 Feb. 2020, https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/testing-overview.html.
 
“COVID-19 Vaccine Dashboard.” Vermont Department of Health, 22 Dec. 2020, https://www.healthvermont.gov/covid-19/vaccine/covid-19-vaccine-dashboard.
 
Cutler, Calvin. “COVID Spike Triggers Concern over Vermont Hospital Capacity.” Https://Www.Wcax.Com, https://www.wcax.com/2021/11/05/covid-spike-triggers-concern-over-vermont-hospital-capacity/.
 
News, A. B. C. “Trump Looks to Act on Call to Slow down Testing He Falsely Blames for Surge in Cases.” ABC News, https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/trump-act-call-slow-testing-falsely-blames-surge/story?id=71878569.
 
Petenko, Erin. “Vermont Reports 201 Covid Cases, Begins Reporting Child Vaccine Data.” VTDigger, 10 Nov. 2021, https://vtdigger.org/2021/11/10/vermont-reports-201-covid-cases-begins-reporting-child-vaccine-data/.
 
“Vermont COVID-19 Data Summary.” Vermont Department of Health, https://www.healthvermont.gov/sites/default/files/documents/pdf/COVID19-Weekly-Data-Summary-11-5-2021.pdf.