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Vermont weekly COVID briefing targets unvaccinated individuals

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

Vermont Governor Phil Scott addressed a number of issues during his weekly briefing including continued criticism over his decision not to implement a statewide mask mandate.

Vermont Governor Phil Scott addressed a number of issues during his weekly briefing today including continued criticism over his decision not to implement a statewide mask mandate.

Vermont’s Republican governor began his regular briefing acknowledging that most people are tired of the pandemic. But he said COVID is not going away anytime soon. Scott noted that Vermont has the highest vaccination rates in the nation and, despite the prevalence of the Delta variant, one of the lowest hospitalization and death rates in the country.

“But the virus is crafty and persistent and it keeps spreading and mostly amongst the unvaccinated. If you are still unvaccinated I want to be clear: you’ll be infected sooner or later," Scott said. "It’s just a matter of time. And if you’re unvaccinated and you get it the data is clear. Over the last several weeks in Vermont you’re about 30 times more likely to be hospitalized if you’re not vaccinated and boosted.”

Scott cited data showing 5 percent of unvaccinated adult Vermonters account for about 75 percent of hospitalizations. He said unvaccinated patients took up 90 percent of ICU beds last week. But he will not impose a statewide mask mandate that some have been urging him to impose.

“I’m not going to put broad restrictions back in place because the vast majority of Vermonters have stepped up, done the right thing and gotten vaccinated," the governor said. "And as a result they’re not the problem. I simply can’t justify going back into a state of emergency, putting restrictions on the 95 percent of Vermont adults who have done the right thing and gotten vaccinated when the problem is being driven by less than 5 percent of that population, meaning unvaccinated adults, who by now have had every opportunity to get vaccinated and have decided not to.”

Vermont Secretary of Human Services Mike Smith outlined the state’s three-part strategy to reduce stress on hospitals including preventing admissions with vaccination and monoclonal treatment programs; transferring those who need care but not necessarily within hospitals, and expansion of ICU bed capacity. Smith noted the bulk of those who are unvaccinated and can get the shot are instead clogging the medical system.

“We are spending considerable amounts of money and resources to accommodate those that are not vaccinated and end up in our hospitals. It puts a stress on the system and takes away a hospital bed that may be needed for other hospitalizations that are not COVID-related. And frankly it’s unfair to those that have done the right thing and gotten vaccinated but now must pay for the actions of those that aren’t vaccinated." Smith continues, "I realize that Vermonters have a choice. But some choices have consequences. In this case refusing to get the vaccine results in higher hospitalizations and stress on the health care system at significant cost.”

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