Vermont reports just two new COVID-19 cases; closes in on goal for lifting restrictions

Coronavirus

MONTPELIER – Vermont health officials reported just two COVID-19 cases Tuesday, the fewest one-day case count since Sept. 24.

At Tuesday’s briefing, Gov. Phil Scott said Vermont is the only state that hasn’t had a death from COVID-19 in two weeks and says the state is down to three people hospitalized with the disease as of Tuesday morning.

Scott says about 78% of eligible Vermonters ages 12 and older have received at least one dose of vaccine against COVID-19 as of Saturday, nearing his goal of 80% when he will drop the remaining pandemic-related restrictions.

“It takes time for this to sort of really settle in, the fact that we’re all of a sudden down to very modest numbers of cases every day,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine.

The latest data shows that, as of late last week, 77.9 percent of eligible Vermonters have gotten their first dose. Vaccinations administered Sunday or Monday won’t be tallied until Wednesday morning.

Scott estimated that roughly 11,000 more Vermonters will have to step up to reach his goal, and when they do, all state COVID-19 restrictions will be lifted.

The state is continuing to add walk-in and other vaccination opportunities at workplaces, houses of worship, libraries, mobile home parks and other locations. A clinic at Thunder Road Speedbowl in Barre originally scheduled for last weekend has been rescheduled to Friday, June 4 due to rain.

Dr. Levine also urged people to consider contacting their primary care doctor for a vaccination.

“If you’ve been waiting to get vaccinated by your doctor or primary care practice, it might be time to call and see if they are participating, and if they are, get scheduled for your shot,” Dr. Levine said.

Vermont is the only state that hasn’t had any COVID-19 deaths in the past two weeks, but as people begin to go about their normal lives again, employers say that hasn’t necessarily translated to vacant jobs getting filled. Governor Scott was asked Tuesday if Vermont needs an incentive for people to return to the workforce. He said it hasn’t been considered yet.

“We’ll have to see come this fall and winter what it’s going to take,” Governor Scott said. “This is not only a Vermont problem, this is a U.S. problem, and we need to do everything we can in Vermont to get more people to come to the state.”

One of the other unknowns hanging over Vermont’s grand reopening is access across the Canadian Border. As we reported Friday, Governor Scott and other New England governors have escalated their efforts in hopes of avoiding a second consecutive summer without the benefits of Canadian tourism.

“We sent a letter as New England governors to see what we could do, and share any excess vaccines we may have,” Governor Scott said.

New England’s leaders have yet to hear a response, and despite progress with vaccinations in Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Monday that he doesn’t want to risk having to close the border again. He wants at least 75 percent of Canadians to have at least one dose before considering it, and Vermont Department of Financial Regulation Commissioner Michael Pieciak said they’re close.

“Right now, Canada is about 58 percent, and they’ve been adding anywhere between four or five percent of their population every week,” Pieciak said. “It looks like in the next three or four weeks, they’d meet those numbers.”

Dr. Levine also said once Vermont reaches its vaccination goal, the work doesn’t stop.

“The higher we can get Vermont’s vaccination rate, the higher the probability we will truly suppress coronavirus activity in this state,” Dr. Levine said. “This leads to less opportunity for the virus to be spread between susceptible people, meaning less likelihood of mutations and more virulent strains, and boding well for the fall and winter respiratory virus season.”

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