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Vermont weekly COVID-19 briefing includes update on school transition to at home testing

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

Vermont’s weekly briefing on the COVID-19 pandemic today included updates on the declining virus spread and program transitions as it declines.

Vermont Governor Phil Scott opened his weekly briefing noting that COVID-19 trends show continued improvement across the region. He said other than being encouraged he didn’t have much new to say regarding COVID.

The Republican then focused on workforce development needs in the trades where Scott said there are thousands of job openings across the state.

“That’s why I’ve proposed several initiatives this year to make a real difference. My budget includes $10 million to reduce education costs for those working towards jobs in the trades. We also need to work to end the stigma around CTE (Career and Technical Education). It’s time we recognize that going into the trades is just as impressive, and in fact can be just as lucrative, as a four year degree," said Scott. "So we’ll be launching a $1.4 million recruitment campaign for CTE enrollment. Additionally with a projected $90 million surplus in the education fund I’m asking that half of it, $45 million, be used to upgrade our CTE centers.”

State Education Secretary Dan French said over the past week agency staff have been answering a number of questions about schools’ transition to Test at Home. He said the focus has been on a new concept called presumptive contacts.

“The shift from close contacts to presumptive contacts is at the heart of a fundamental shift in thinking that’s underway in our schools right now as they implement Test at Home," French explained. "Instead of seeking out specific cases and their contacts we’re casting a wider net with presumptive contacts and deploying testing in real time to influence decision making on safety. The decision making on safety now shifts to students and their families. It is necessary to identify cases more quickly since antigen tests give results immediately.”

Vermont Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine offered a brief update on a sub-variant of Omicron called BA.2.

“This has been identified in one Vermont specimen," Levine said. "These types of mutations are normal and are being studied. It’s not a new variant but rather a more transmissible version of the original Omicron. Besides the fact that it can spread even faster, scientists have not yet found other traits that are cause for concern.”

Levine also made note of the FDA’s full approval of the Moderna vaccine for individuals 18 and older.

“The vaccine itself is the same vaccine people have been getting for months," Levine said. "This step just means there’s even more data proving that it works and is safe. Along with the Pfizer vaccine we can have even greater confidence that these two approved COVID-19 vaccines have cleared every level of review that’s required of any vaccine in the U.S.”

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