Vt. appears to have avoided Thanksgiving surge; Christmas up next
MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - Vermont health officials Friday said while it appears the state has avoided a Thanksgiving COVID surge, new outbreaks and case growth remain a concern going into the holidays.
“We’re still seeing high levels. Even though it leveled off, it leveled off at a high rate. Again what we did helped. We just don’t want to exacerbate the situation and make it worse,” said Gov. Phil Scott.
As of Friday, the state reported an additional 113 cases, bringing the cumulative count to 5,541 since the pandemic began. The death toll has increased to 93.
Vt. Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine says it’s been about two weeks since Thanksgiving and at this point he’s not anticipating a huge increase in cases because of that holiday. He says it appears Vermonters mostly avoided or kept gatherings small. The high daily high case count is still giving the governor pause on starting high school winter sports and lifting more restrictions.
Outbreaks in long-term care facilities are still a major problem -- 300 cases and counting among residents and staff. The outbreaks have led to a worker shortage, so the state is now contracting with Williston-based TLC HomeCare to bring on 40 workers to provide care at facilities with cases. If you are able to help, State leaders ask you to go to https://www.tlcnursing.com/vermontheroes to help. Increased testing will hopefully prevent potential cross-facility contamination by people who work at more than one site.
“We have daily testing in skilled nursing facilities and twice a week testing in other facilities for long-term care. There is abundant testing among staff,” said AHS Secretary Mike Smith.
There’s a new informational source for Vermonters. Officials say Vermont Emergency Management has expanded the Vermont Alert System to include COVID information. Those interested in signing up can go do that at VTALERT.gov. That site is usually used for emergency alerts in the state.
VACCINE EXPECTED TO ARRIVE NEXT WEEK
After a federal advisory panel gave the green light to Pfizer’s COVID vaccine Thursday, the governor says the FDA is expected to give approval its approval in the next couple of days. He says the first doses could arrive in Vermont as soon as next week.
The vaccine will go to hospitals and long-term care facilities. Right now, the first shots could begin on December 21. Hospitals will do workers. And in long-term care facilities, pharmacy workers will give shots to residents and staff over a three-week period.
Moderna is also expected to seek emergency use authorization soon, eventually giving Vermonters multiple options. “Moderna we believe we will get even more doses than what we have of Pfizer, in terms of what’s ready to be deployed when they get their authorization. But there will not be just a doubling of doses, there will probably be a little more than a doubling based on the fact that Moderna has a little more stockpiled at this point in time,” Levine said.
He says it’ll be early February before the first people to get the shots have any expectation of immunity. So, the vaccine isn’t going to really affect death rates nationwide until after that. “The stark statistics on the TV of hospitalizations and deaths and cases aren’t going to change like the snap of a finger because there’s a vaccine on the market, but they are going to change,” Levine said.
The state also doesn’t know how much of the other vaccines it’s getting yet, so that’s a big wild card and it makes it difficult for them to predict exactly when the general public will get vaccinated. They’re hoping by spring.
As for vaccine mandates, Levine says no one can force you to get one because it’s considered investigational still. They’re instead going to be focusing on educating people about why it’s important to get it when it becomes available.
The governor says we’ll learn more about state guidance surrounding Christmas and other upcoming holidays in the next week or so.
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