Three months after the World Health Organization officially marked the end of the global COVID-19 emergency, new cases are slowly rising in Vermont once again.

Data from Vermont’s Department of Health shows the state is currently going through its steepest increase in COVID hospitalizations since January, when overall numbers were quite a bit higher.

From August 6 to August 12, 25 people with COVID-19 were admitted to hospitals statewide, and so far this month, four people who caught the virus have died. Adding even more significance to the statistics, health officials confirmed one of the four deaths marked the one-thousandth COVID-related death in Vermont, a grim milestone for the state.

“I think it reminds us that we’ve been very seriously impacted by this,” said John Davy, an epidemiologist with the Vermont Department of Health. “There are individuals who are at very serious risk of poor outcomes, there are individuals whose health is very negatively impacted by COVID still.”

But even with those facts in mind, health experts in Vermont aren’t jumping to sound the alarm just yet on the latest hospitalization spike.

Experts say COVID-19 is here to stay, so some cases will inevitably happen. But as long as there aren’t anymore major outbreaks like the ones we saw at the height of the pandemic, they say small and even regular-sized outbreaks are manageable.

“While we think we’ll probably see an uptick (in cases this fall and winter), I don’t think it’s anything that anyone is particularly concerned about at this stage,” said Dr. Todd Gregory, the Chief Medical Officer at Rutland Regional Medical Center. “We know really how to manage these potential exposures.”

“We’ve learned a lot about what we can do to protect ourselves and each other from COVID-19, and that’s going to continue to be the case when there’s a new variant or a new season,” Davy said.

That being said, experts still recommend the well-known preventative measures like handwashing and vaccinating to make sure average-sized outbreaks don’t become extreme. They say the upcoming fall and winter seasons in particular will be important times to keep those protections in mind.

“Many of us, myself included, have gotten away from that a little bit,” Dr. Gregory said. “Those are things that, again, we know are really effective, and we probably should resume using, especially in the height of cold and flu season.”

“The more we can do to protect folks, the better,” Davy said.

Vermont’s Department of Health will be releasing COVID-19 data from August 13-19 tomorrow, Wednesday, August 22, which are likely to give even more insight into the severity of the current rise in cases and hospitalizations. We’ll provide updates as they become available.