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Vermont Governor’s Weekly Briefing Focuses On In-Person School Guidance

School bus
Pat Bradley/WAMC

Vermont students will return to school this fall for in person classes.  Much of Governor Phil Scott’s weekly briefing Tuesday focused on guidance being prepared for administrators and parents.

Vermont remains among the top vaccinated states in the country with 84.1 percent of those eligible having received at least one dose.  Republican Governor Phil Scott says with the state’s high vaccination rate the Agency of Education is poised to issue an advisory to schools to conduct in-person instruction this fall.  

“We’re recommending all students under the age of 12, who are not eligible to be vaccinated, to wear a mask in schools," Scott said. "For students age 12 and older eligible for the vaccine we’re going to take a similar approach as we did when we ended the State of Emergency. Once 80 percent of eligible students have gotten at least one dose we’re advising schools to drop masking requirements for those over 12. In order to help achieve these goals we’ll have more vaccine clinics in schools leading up to and after classes start. We hope this inspires parents to do the right thing and sign their kids up to be fully vaccinated.”

Education Secretary Dan French clarified that due to elimination of the State of Emergency the guidance is advisory and schools can opt to not follow it or implement stricter requirements.  

“We are recommending that schools require the start of school with everyone in the school wearing a mask, all students, all staff," French said. "And then we’ve tied a change in our recommendation to the student vaccination rate not the staff vaccination rate.  We did that intentionally knowing that staff, based on the data from last spring, across the state are already over 80 percent vaccination rate and probably much higher than that now. So once the student rate in a specific school reaches 80 percent then our recommendation is that only the unvaccinated students and staff should wear a mask.”

Data presented during the briefing shows that fewer than 90,000 state residents remain unvaccinated and over the past week there was a 14.6 percent increase in people getting their initial shot. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention COVID Data Tracker shows Chittenden County, Vermont’s most populous, with a substantial level of community transmission. Governor Scott was frustrated that the national data doesn’t reflect the state’s small population. 

“We’ve heard a lot about Chittenden County and the increase in the number of cases," Scott said. "The seven-day average is about 13 cases a day. Thirteen! With a population of about 145,000 that’s not many cases. When you look at Burlington for instance, I’ve heard a lot about Burlington as well, the average case count per day is 2.9. So we need to take a step back and just wanted to level set you know the expectations and again highlight how well we’ve done.”

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