MONTPELIER – As the number of Vermonters who receive the COVID19 vaccine continues to increase, Gov. Phil Scott said Tuesday he has his eye on a target vaccination rate that would allow Vermont to fully reopen, perhaps ahead of his July 4 target date.
Meanwhile, following last week’s decision to allow fully-vaccinated Vermonters to go without a mask in most settings, Scott and State Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine said it’s okay for Vermonters to take time to adjust to the new guidance.
“Just like it took some time to get used to wearing masks after asking Vermonters to do so over a year ago, it’s natural that for some, the adjustment back to normal won’t happen overnight,” Governor Scott said.
Dr. Levine said you should still have your mask handy, and if someone asks you to put it on, there’s likely a good reason.
“Please don’t judge — none of us can know anyone’s unique situation,” Dr. Levine said. “Maybe there’s a staffer who goes home to people who can’t be vaccinated, or might be immunocompromised. Patience and understanding is what’s required during this transitional time.”
Dr. Levine noted that many businesses are still requiring masks, especially if their employees aren’t fully-vaccinated yet.
“That is totally fine and I applaud their concern for the health of their staff,” Dr. Levine said. “This is why you should continue to keep a mask with you when out and about – to respect the policies of businesses and the settings you might find yourself in.”
As of Tuesday afternoon, nearly 400,000 Vermonters had received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, or 71.8 percent of the 16+ population. Meanwhile, nearly 300,000 have completed vaccination, accounting for 54.5 percent of the 16+ population.
Some had questions about other aspects of normal life that could return early, like a later curfew for bars, restaurants and social clubs. Governor Scott said he’d like to have the 10 pm curfew lifted when it’s safe to do so, but for now, waiting could be beneficial.
“I’m hoping that it’s still an incentive, because we’re still watching that 18 to 29 age group,” Governor Scott said. “We’d like to see that higher, and get to where we are with other age groups before we open up bars.”
Meanwhile, Governor Scott also had an update from his conversation with other New England governors and leadership in Canada regarding the border shutdown, which is scheduled to end on Friday. Scott suggested there’s a slim chance it will reopen.
“A couple of the premieres we spoke with had said they’re having difficulty getting the vaccine, so we’ll have to see,” Governor Scott said. “I expect it’ll be continued, I still believe before the summer is over that it will be opened back up.”
In Vermont, there may be changes soon regarding the state’s intake of vaccine doses – Human Services Secretary Mike Smith said the state will likely be ordering fewer doses of the Moderna vaccine going forward, while trying to boost its Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson supplies.
He said that’s because Moderna can’t be used for anyone ages 12-18, while the Pfizer vaccine has that versatility and the J&J vaccine offers convenience because it’s only one dose.
However, the department warns that because walk-in supplies are sometimes limited, the best way to guarantee your vaccination is to register for an appointment.
“We have great vaccination rates here in Vermont, and we’re going to keep doing even better,” Dr. Levine said. “This is why we can ease up on masks and distancing for fully vaccinated people. And why the Vermont Forward plan makes sense – and is even possible.”