Gov. Phil Scott says he is exploring new measures to get more Vermonters vaccinated, including the possibility of requiring theshots for some state employees, a measure that previously appeared to be off-the-table.
“To help set the example, I’m announcing today that my team is working to do the same,” Scott said at a briefing Tuesday. “Starting with certain state institutions like the Veteran’s Home, correctional facilities, and our psychiatric hospital.”
Scott did not signal that a wider vaccine mandate is on the immediate horizon, and employees will likely be able to opt-out in favor of frequent COVID-19 testing. He said “we’re going to take it one step at a time.
“It’s not something that we’re ready to impose at this point in time, but as we’ve said from the beginning, we’re watching the data, we’re listening to the science, and trying to do what’s best for Vermonters.”
As the state watches COVID-19 cases rise, fueled almost entirely by the highly-contagious Delta variant, Scott is urging private employers to incentivize and require vaccinations, particularly in high-risk settings like hospitals and long-term care facilities.
But it’s not only the case numbers that raise concerns. Hosppitalizations are on the rise, we well. As of Tuesday morning, 24 people were hospitalized with COVID-19, and 9 were in intensive care.
“”This isn’t where we wanted to be, but we need to accept that we’re going to be managing this for quite some time,” Scott said
Despite a rise in hospitalizations, Vermont is still among the best in the nation when it comes to hospitalization rates. Still, State Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine said we may only be just starting to see the impact of the Delta surge in Vermont’s hospitals.
He tripled down on some familiar advice. “Let me start out with just three key words – vaccination, vaccination, vaccination,” he said. “It’s not politics, it’s not an agenda, it’s public health and medical science. Plain and simple.”
Nearly 85 percent of eligible Vermonters have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, but as the last several weeks have shown, the Delta variant has taken root among the roughly 85,000 people who haven’t gotten a shot.
“Unfortunately, that’s still a large enough number for the Delta to spread,” Scott said.
In recent days, both the University of Vermont and the City of Burlington introduced new guidance on indoor masking. UVM is requiring it for all students, staff and visitors, while city officials are recommending mask use indoors. Governor Scott was asked whether something similar should be done on the state level, particularly in counties that are above the CDC threshold for high transmission.
“I still think it’s a personal choice. I think you have to make decisions depending on your risk – who’s in your family, who’s in your household,” Governor Scott said. “Whether you should be going to events inside where you might pick up the variant. I think you have to do your own risk-assessment and make your own decision at that point.”