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MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — Vermont state officials are attributing the high number of COVID-19 cases in Orleans County in the Northeast Kingdom in part to the lower vaccination rate in the area.

The county is reporting scattered COVID-19 outbreaks and a high degree of community transmission, state officials said Tuesday during the governor's weekly virus briefing. In the last two weeks, the county has reported 293 cases, according to Thursday's data from the Vermont Health Department.

“From my perspective, I think, you have to just look at the vaccination rates around the state and see that there's a higher population of unvaccinated up in the Northeast Kingdom than there is anywhere else so that would lead me to believe that it's again a pandemic of the unvaccinated at this point,” Gov. Phil Scott said during the briefing.

Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine said he agreed that the higher population of unvaccinated people is a significant part of the increase in cases.

According to state data, 74.6% of Orleans County residents ages 12 and older have gotten at least one dose while statewide 87.4% of eligible Vermonters have started vaccinations.

To prevent the spread of the virus, the Newport City Elementary School has switched to remote classes for the rest of the week, WCAX-TV reported. Derby Elementary School decided to go remote a week ago.

“We are not able to definitively determine that cases are being transmitted in school but we started to have situations where we can’t rule it out,” said North Country Supervisory Union Superintendent John Castle.

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THE NUMBERS

Vermont reported 268 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, its second-highest daily total since the start of the pandemic, Vermont Public Radio reported.

The Health Department reported 40 people were hospitalized with the illness, including 14 in intensive care.

The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Vermont has risen over the past two weeks from 148.14 new cases per day on Sept. 7 to 213.57 new cases per day on Sept. 21.

The seven-day rolling average of daily deaths in Vermont has risen over the past two weeks from 0.71 deaths per day on Sept. 7 to 1.29 deaths per day on Sept. 21.

The AP is using data collected by Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering to measure outbreak caseloads and deaths across the United States.

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