State health officials say the surge in cases following Thanksgiving have led to the highest number of Vermonters hospitalized for COVID-19 since the pandemic began.

On Tuesday, the Vermont Department of Health reported 90 people were hospitalized for COVID-19, more than two dozen requiring intensive care. Gov. Phil Scott 90 percent of the 31 people currently in the ICU have not been vaccinated.

Michael Pieciak, commissioner of the Vermont Department of Financial Regulation, says unvaccinated Vermonters are 15 times more likely to require hospital care.

“As we’ve said before they’re likely to spend a longer time in the hospital and consume more hospital resources,” said Pieciak.

While state leaders predicted an increase after Thanksgiving, cases were higher than they anticipated. The state’s infection rate jumped by 51 percent in the past two weeks. The post-Thanksgiving surge is driven by the Delta variant, which continues to be the state’s primary strain, health officials said. 

The state is managing hospital capacity by continuing to stress the need for vaccination, transferring patients who don’t need hospital care to sub-acute beds and bringing in contract workers from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.  

“Frontline and emergency hospital workforce are seeing and telling me very consistently and with increased frequency that unvaccinated Vermonters with COVID are routinely showing up in the emergency room quite seriously ill,” said Levine.

He said Vermonters shouldn’t consider themselves “fully protected” until they’ve gotten the booster. Levine recommends those who don’t plan to get vaccinated to prioritize getting tested and do so early if feeling sick.  

Levine recommends those planning to gather for holidays should know each other’s vaccination status, keeping the gatherings small and having a testing strategy in place.