Henry Richards, 9, of Brattleboro, Vt., and his mother, Elizabeth, wait to get called for the first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine during the first COVID-19 vaccine clinic for children 5-11 years old at Brattleboro Memorial Hospital, in Brattleboro, Vt., on Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021.

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MONTPELIER — With higher COVID-19 case counts in recent weeks and the holidays on the way, Gov. Phil Scott on Tuesday repeated a refrain heard at many of his news conferences since the start of the pandemic. He encouraged people to wear masks indoors, test for the virus, think about the size of their gatherings and whether attendees will be vaccinated, and stay home when sick.

“If we make smart decisions in the coming weeks and make an extra effort to protect the vulnerable, we can prevent hospitalizations,” he said at his weekly news conference. “We want everyone to enjoy Thanksgiving and the holidays that follow.”

Health Commissioner Mark Levine said at future news conferences, state officials will talk about testing techniques people might want to consider for holiday gatherings.

COVID-19 cases increased by 42 percent last week and 55 percent in the last two weeks. The state reported 696 more cases last week compared to the week before.

Michael Pieciak, commissioner of the Department of Financial Regulation, said cases had generally stayed at about 200 per day in the last six weeks. The number is now up to about 300 per day.

Over the last seven days, testing in Vermont increased by 9 percent and the positivity rate went up 30 percent. Pieciak said Bennington County and the Northeast Kingdom are seeing higher case counts.

When asked, Scott couldn’t pinpoint an event or issue driving the high numbers in Bennington. He said communities experience spikes at any given time and the Delta variant spreads so quickly.

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Cases aren’t anticipated to decrease in Vermont over the next four weeks, according to federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention modeling. At recent news conferences, the forecast had been unclear.

Long-term care facilities have 103 cases right now compared to 166 last week. Seven active outbreaks include 32 cases at Crescent Manor Nursing Home & Rehab in Bennington and more than five at the Vermont Veterans’ Home in Bennington.

Vermont has one of the lowest hospitalization rates in the country but there still have been strains on the hospitals, Scott said. COVID-19 cases currently make up 10 to 15 percent of the use of intensive care units.

About 67 percent of COVID-19 patients in Vermont hospitals haven’t been fully vaccinated, Pieciak said. He noted the milestone that more than 1 million doses of COVID vaccines have now been administered in the state.

Mike Smith, secretary of the Agency of Human Services, said more than 30 percent of children in the newly eligible 5- to 11-year-old age group have registered for vaccination against the virus or already begun the process.

“We’re doing very well in that age range,” he said. “Our goal is to get the vaccine into as many children’s arms as possible before the holiday break.”

About 70 percent of infections in Vermont are among the unvaccinated, Scott said.