MONTPELIER – State leaders announced changes to long-term care facilities and out-of-state travel at Friday’s COVID-19 briefing.
Effective Tuesday, Vermonters who are fully vaccinated won’t need to quarantine after travel. That also means people coming to Vermont from other states won’t have to quarantine if they can prove they’ve gotten their shots.
“Of course, they’ll still need to comply with our other health guidance like masking and distancing,” said Governor Phil Scott. “Again, this change is very narrow, focusing on travel and I know there will be a lot of questions and some head scratching about why this is allowed and other things are not.”
Governor Scott said this latest step is in line with the state’s careful and methodical approach, and he’s asking for patience as the vaccine rollout continues.
Meanwhile, 93 percent of long-term care facility residents have received their first dose, and 74 percent are fully vaccinated. Human Services Secretary Mike Smith said the encouraging progress means some facilities will soon be able to follow a new set of guidelines, which are slated to go into effect next Friday for facilities without an ongoing outbreak and located in counties with low positivity rates.
“This means eating together and participating in other group activities within guidelines,” Smith said. “Some modifications to quarantine requirements for residents and, with full vaccinations, having visitors indoors.”
Facilities that have no COVID-19 outbreaks will be encouraged to use full vaccination status as a factor in planning for things such as eating together and participating in other group activities within guidelines. The guidance will also include considerations for safe physical contact and indoor visits.
Smith and other state leaders continue to face questions about why teachers haven’t been moved up the vaccination priority list – something President Biden said he’s in support of Tuesday night.
Right now, teachers are slated for phase six, after the 65-plus population and those with underlying conditions. The state is sending out a survey to educators to get an accurate reading on how many doses are needed.
“There’s no promises here, but we’re looking at those groups in terms of what we need to do for planning, so if I was adding all those up I would say that it’s coming but I don’t have a specific date for you,” Smith said.
With each passing day, the urgent need for federal COVID-19 relief is growing, and this week the spotlight was on relief for those battling addiction. Last year’s increase in overdose deaths has some advocates calling for federal relief to go toward changing Vermont’s response system.
Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine said that rise has more to do with isolation and other factors than any lack of response by the state.
“I don’t want people to think that the substance misuse treatment system shut down because of the pandemic, those who went to our hubs continued to go to our hubs,” Dr. Levine said. “We’ve been pioneers in the rapid access to MAT program, and during the course of the pandemic we’ve actually expanded the amount of hospitals that can provide access to buprenorphine.”
Governor Scott said that in addition to long-term care and travel restriction changes, the next step in easing restrictions for vaccinated people will likely relate to multi-household gatherings and a return to the trusted household policy.