Vermont Governor Phil Scott gave his 100th pandemic briefing since he declared a state of emergency and his last briefing of 2020 on Thursday morning.
Governor Scott began his briefing reiterating guidance that has been issued for schools as they plan to reopen in the upcoming week. “First winter sports teams may begin practicing as long as they follow the guidance. And as I’ve said we’ll continue to watch the data with hopes of getting games restarted just as soon as possible. Next schools do not have to include a question on their daily health checker about multi-household gatherings. I would however remind everyone that we all have a responsibility to keep our schools safe.”
Every week since mid-November, staff at about a fourth of schools across the state are tested. Since the program began there has been a positive test rate under zero-point-two-six percent. Agency of Education Secretary Daniel French says the state is formulating a plan to address the disruption caused by the pandemic on students. “When students return the holiday vacations many schools will be returning to some form of hybrid learning. As we shift into what will be the recovery phase it’ll be important that all schools prioritize increasing the amount of in-person instruction. Our recovery work in education will be predicated on the restoration of in-person instruction, in-person routines and in-person relationships.”
Agency of Human Services Secretary Mike Smith reported that nearly 14,000 Vermonters had been vaccinated by Wednesday night. “It is hoped that vaccination pace will accelerate over the next few weeks. However I’m concerned because our federal vaccine allotments have been cut from what we were expecting to what we are receiving next week.”
Smith added that they are reaching out to federal officials. “We’re really trying to understand what is going on. You can’t have a program where there’s no predictability in what you’re getting. So we are looking to our federal partners and saying what is going on here and what is precipitating these sort of wild swings. We’ve got to get the vaccine here in the state.”
As Governor Scott ended 2020 he thanked Vermonters for their work to contain the virus and urged people to remain patient. “I know this has been an incredibly difficult year. As we move forward into the new year let’s remember the 136 Vermonters who lost their lives to this pandemic and keep in mind that that number likely would have been much higher if not for our collective action. But let’s also understand the risks that remain. It’s important that we stay vigilant. So as you celebrate please remember to make the right choices. I’m so grateful to all Vermonters for all you’ve done as we’ve moved through this pandemic and we’ll get through this together.”