Reported COVID cases lowest since October as Vermont inches closer to lifting restrictions


MONTPELIER – More than 10,000 Vermonters have rolled up their sleeves to get vaccinated since Governor Phil Scott announced his threshold for ending COVID-19 restrictions. Meanwhile, the state’s daily case counts are starting to reflect its vaccination progress.

Only 9 cases were reported Tuesday, the fewest since October 28. The state’s weekly case average is also better now than any point in the past six months, and for the first time since November, Vermont has gone over a week without any COVID-related deaths.

Last week, Scott’s said he would lift the remaining COVID-19 restrictions once 80 percent of Vermonters 12 and older receive at least one dose of the vaccine.

Human Services Secretary Mike Smith said the percent of eligible Vermonters vaccinated currently stands at 76.9 percent, a lower rate than was reported Monday.

“We need an additional 17,250 to reach the 80 percent mark,” he said.

Smith said Tuesday that Vermont will adjust vaccination data provided by the CDC after discovering some records were being reported in duplicate.

The duplicates were found in one batch of Veterans Affairs numbers reported late last week, and in a limited number of independent pharmacies from April 6 through May 22. It was originally reported that 78.9 percent of eligible Vermonters had received their first dose.

“We have had great success with our vaccination program, but we are being extremely careful not to overstate our progress,” Sec. Smith said. “We have corrected our reporting and asked the CDC to remove the duplicates.”

Amid the drop in COVID cases and hospitalizations, state officials say Vermont is seeing the benefits of a vaccinated population, but even though things have been trending in a good direction, Governor Scott said there should still be a sense of urgency to vaccinate as many Vermonters as possible.

“With all the infrastructure we have in place and knowing the fall and winter may bring more transmission to the unvaccinated, we want to get that unvaccinated number as low as we possibly can right now,” Governor Scott said.

At the rate Vermont clinics are giving out doses, Governor Scott’s 80 percent goal could be reached sometime next week. Secretary Smith said walk-in clinics are branching out to new territory such as state parks, mobile home parks and music venues.

He added that events like those have the potential to reach people who may not have been as receptive to the state’s vaccine messaging previously.

“Over the weekend at our 30 EMS clinics, many Vermonters changed their mind after their initial hesitation and chose to get vaccinated because it was available and easy to them,” Smith said.

Meanwhile, ahead of a holiday weekend, you may have been getting used to State Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine offering some public health advice on how to protect yourself from COVID:

“Public health is often accused of being a wet blanket,” Dr. Levine said.

On Tuesday, ahead of Memorial Day weekend, Dr. Levine instead offered some suggestions for those who are fully vaccinated.

“You can grill, swim, boat with your friends and family, you can go to a farmers’ market, a concert, a car race or a baseball game,” Dr. Levine said. “I’m not going to try to plan your entire social calendar, and I’ll even skip our list of summer public health safety tips just this once, but it’s on our website if you can’t wait.”

Dr. Levine also urged those who haven’t yet returned for their second dose after the required three (Pfizer) or four week (Moderna) period to schedule an appointment.

“Getting both doses gives you the highest level of protection from COVID-19,” Dr. Levine said. “Participants in the clinical trials who did not receive both doses were not followed (for study) for a long period of time, so we don’t know for sure how well or how long one dose will protect you.” 

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