Vermont Governor Phil Scott delivered his latest COVID-19 update today. Among the topics was a review of economic aid available to businesses in the latest federal relief bill and a response to concerns about less supply of the vaccine than originally anticipated.
Governor Scott started by explaining that he signed a bill authorizing local officials to take alternative measures for March’s Town Meeting Day elections and gatherings to assure safety. “H.48 gives municipalities greater flexibility for upcoming local elections due to COVID-19. This means they can if they choose mail ballots to all registered voters in place of more traditional town meetings or the typical in-person elections used by many cities and towns. As you might remember we mailed ballots for the general election in November when the virus wasn’t as prevalent as it is today. I want to thank the Legislature for their quick action on this very important bill and I strongly urge local voters or local officials to take advantage of this and use the mail-in voting for Town Meeting Day and upcoming local elections.”
Last April the state formed the Economic Mitigation & Recovery Task Force to inform businesses about relief programs and help them with recovery. Former Barre Mayor Thom Lauzon is a member of its Employer Financial and Technical Support Team. He provided an overview of key programs in the latest federal relief package. “We were given one charge when he formed the Economic Recovery Task Force. The governor explained that we needed to touch every business in every corner of Vermont and give them the opportunity to get as much relief as they can. That’s exactly what we’re going to do.”
Concerns are growing nationwide about states receiving less than their promised allocation of the COVID-19 vaccine. Vermont officials had hoped to receive at least 8,800 doses this week. The state will receive 9,075 doses this week but 2,925 doses must be allocated to the federal pharmacy long-term care program. That means the state will have 6,150 doses to finish Phase 1A.
Vermont Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine says the Trump administration’s distribution policy appears to have changed and he is hoping for more clarity. “Originally General (Gustave) Perna made sure that for every dose that went out to states that the stockpile held on to the second dose and then released that in time for the person in the state to get their second dose. They seem to have changed that policy now and basically sent everything out of the stockpile and chose not to replenish it and indicated that now somehow second doses are going to be arriving with the first doses. But it’s very unclear exactly what that means.”
Tuesday marked 10 months since the state’s first death from COVID-19. Since then 163 Vermonters have died. Governor Scott ordered flags to be flown at half-staff in their memory.