Vermont Governor Phil Scott and state officials provided the latest COVID-19 update today. Officials are planning for the impending rollout of the coronavirus vaccine and awaiting the full ramifications of any potential Thanksgiving spread of the virus.
Republican Governor Phil Scott urged Vermonters to continue to follow the guidance set by the Health Department to wear masks, maintain physical distancing, avoid multi-household gatherings and travel as COVID-19 cases continue to grow across the nation and region. “I know many of you are waiting to hear when we might be able to roll back some of our most recent guidance and allow for more travel and gatherings. It’s still too early to know the impact of Thanksgiving. We also have to be aware of our surroundings and what’s going on in other states, which is troubling. Rhode Island, a 3 ½ hour drive from here, has the highest rate of daily cases in the country. New Hampshire just had a 7% positivity rate. And Massachusetts has had over 7,000 cases in last few days. So even if our numbers improve I remain concerned about how our neighbors may affect us.”
Department of Financial Regulation Commissioner Michael Pieciak presented data showing over the past week Vermont experienced its single largest weekly increase in COVID-19 cases, which brought the state to over 5,000 reported cases. “The nation’s hotspots are unfortunately moving closer to the Northeast and that impact is already being felt. For the fifteenth straight week in a row regional cases have increased and we’ve seen the most significant percentage increase in cases in the region since last spring. The active case counts here in Vermont are greater than at any other time during the pandemic. I still want to make a note of caution that we need more data from Thanksgiving to determine exactly what trajectory and trend we’re on.”
State officials expect to receive 5,850 doses of the vaccine later this month. Governor Scott cautioned that the rollout of the vaccine will not mean instant relief from the pandemic and it will be months before enough is received for everyone. Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine clarified plans for initial distribution. “There will likely be a limited early supply of vaccine. The National Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices met on December 1, they advise the CDC, and voted to recommend that vaccine recipients in Phase 1A be high risk health care workers and residents and staff of long-term care facilities. This was not a tremendous surprise. Our implementation advisory group is in agreement. The advisory committee nationally will be making recommendations to the CDC for Phase 1B soon and we will await those recommendations before making further plans.”
Later this week Vermont will implement a new system to notify people by text if they have been identified as a close contact by someone with COVID-19.