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New England News

Vermont Still Striving To Reach Vaccination Goal To Eliminate COVID Restrictions

Vermont Statehouse
Pat Bradley/WAMC
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Vermont Statehouse (file photo)

Vermont Governor Phil Scott says the state still hasn’t reached his COVID vaccination threshold goal to completely reopen the state.

In April state officials announced a reopening plan based on projected vaccination rates called Vermont Forward. It set gradual goals to eliminate restrictions and reopen fully on July 4th. On May 21st Vermont’s Republican governor announced that the goals in the plan were being reached sooner than anticipated and said if the state hit an 80 percent vaccination rate he would lift any remaining restrictions and mandates that day.  Based on the pace of shots at the time officials thought that might occur by June 8th.  

During Tuesday’s weekly briefing Governor Scott said Monday’s data shows the state has not yet reached the goal. 

“Vermont has vaccinated 79.4 percent of the eligible population leaving us just 3,139 more to go before we hit 80 percent," Scott said. "And at that point all remaining restrictions will be dropped.”

Scott noted that the vaccination effort has transformed to walk-in and pop-up opportunities. Human Services Secretary Mike Smith says the state has reached a point where expecting hundreds or thousands of people to show up for mass vaccinations isn’t practical. 

“We’re down to the point where if we get you know two, three, ten, twenty we’re happy," Smith said. "That is something that we are striving for now. And it’s been successful in doing this broad approach and maybe on a daily basis getting a hundred to two hundred people vaccinated. That’s what it’s going to take as well as our pharmacy partners.”
 
Following his initial comments Governor Scott left the briefing for a time to join a weekly conference call with other governors for an update from the White House on vaccine distribution.  When he returned he reported that the state’s vaccine allocation would remain the same and relayed concerns expressed by CDC officials. 

“The CDC is encouraging teens and youth 12 and over to get vaccinated," Scott said "So for those parents who aren’t quite sure at this point please know the country’s top doctors are confident in the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine for our youth. They also talked about concerns with misinformation which is keeping some people from getting the vaccine. So I want to remind folks if you have questions, if you’ve seen rumors or claims online about the vaccine being unsafe, think about reaching out to your family doctor and ask those questions. Because vaccines are safe. And if you’re reading something on Facebook you haven’t seen anywhere else it’s probably not true.”

Department of Financial Regulation Commissioner Michael Pieciak’s weekly presentation tracking the course of COVID-19 found that for the second week in the row Vermont is the safest state in the country with its seven-day case average falling 94 percent. As the state prepares to lift pandemic restrictions Pieciak provided an analysis of three other New England states that have already fully reopened. 

“First with New Hampshire which fully reopened on May 7th," Pieciak said. "They have continued to see a steady downward trend in their cases over the last four weeks. Similarly the same story holds for Connecticut which reopened on May 19th and has continued to see a similar downward trend in their cases over the past three weeks. And finally this holds true also for Rhode Island that reopened on May 21st and they’ve continued to see their cases drop over the past few weeks as well. Each of them reopened at a time when their vaccination rates were lower and their case rates were higher than compared to Vermont. All of this should certainly give us confidence that we can safely take the final step and reopen Vermont safely when we hit 80 percent.”

Several questions for Governor Scott focused on concerns that an eviction moratorium will end 30 days after he rescinds the pandemic State of Emergency. 

“We have some safety nets in place that can be utilized," Scott said. "But there are also some out there and I know from what I’m hearing from some of the landlords that some people are taking advantage of the situation and not paying rent because they don’t have to. So we’ll see how this all sugars off. But we will continue to do whatever we can for those who legitimately can’t pay their rent and we’ll make sure that they have some place to go.”
 

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