I’ll give you one guess on which day the Vermont Department of Health chose to reveal that it had undercounted Covid-19 deaths in 2022 by a mere 86.
If you said “Friday,” well, you know your newsdumps.
The Health Department announced that its pandemic death toll was now 877, up from the previous 791. And the increase meant that 2022 was the deadliest year of the pandemic in Vermont.
Isn’t it nice to know that we’re over this whole Covid thing? And with a scary new variant on the march, too.
But you know what’s bothering me? One of the stated reasons for the undercount. Health Commissioner Dr. Mark “Nothing to See Here” Levine said his department had fewer staffers compiling Covid data than earlier in the pandemic.
So, not enough staff to keep good data? Great.
The primary stated reason was a failure to manually enter Covid death reports from the state medical examiner. But if you ask me, that sounds less like a separate reason than an unfortunate consequence of staff cuts.
Who ordered the staff cuts?
How many staff were cut or moved elsewhere?
How does the current count compare to pre-pandemic?
Did the Scott administration make any other cuts in the Health Department or in other Covid-related areas of the government?
To me, this looks like (a) management failure in the Health Department or (b) premature and excessive cuts imposed by Team Scott. Neither option is particularly edifying. I do hope someone asks these questions at the next gubernatorial presser, but I’m not optimistic.
As he always does when there’s bad news, Levine assured us that the undercount didn’t make any difference: “…having this additional data would not have really influenced our view of the entire pandemic as it was being managed at the time.”
Good to know that inaccurate data is just as good as the accurate kind. But it seems to me that it might have affected Covid policy at least a little bitty bit if we knew that Covid deaths were actually on the rise in Vermont.
Might have conflicted with the administration’s general tone that the pandemic was in the rear-view mirror, which would have been a real drag during an election season.
The good news is that even with the increase, Vermont’s Covid death rate is the second lowest in the nation. That’s especially noteworthy because we have an aging population and more folks at elevated risk.
But still. Every time we get an oopsie the administration’s credibility takes a hit, and that’s not good for them or for us.