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2nd day of high Vt. COVID numbers; no verdict on post-holiday surge

Published: Jan. 8, 2021 at 7:35 AM EST
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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - COVID cases continued to soar in Vermont with 202 cases reported Friday and one new death. It was the second day in a row with cases above 200 following the holidays.

Vermont has seen 8,619 cases since the pandemic began with over 1,700 of those just since Christmas. Health officials say the numbers are concerning and indicate a higher prevalence of community spread.

Even as the state is seeing higher case counts, Vt. Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine on Friday said it’s still too soon to tell the full impact of the holidays. He does say they don’t believe the surge stems from the governor’s trusted-household holiday reprieve. “Our Teams are not finding evidence of significant outbreaks occurring related to the types of gatherings allowed for over the holidays,” he said.

Levine says it’s too soon to say whether that temporary loosening for trusted households should be reinstated.

Eighty of the new cases involve three separate Christmas services at the Victory Baptist Church in Vergennes. The state is also monitoring six holiday gatherings and a birthday event for potential spread. Officials say only nine cases in the state have been linked to ski resorts and most of those involve employees. There were three positive cases among school staff this week but the number participating in getting tested was down.

VERMONT VACCINE UPDATE

Officials said 21,000 Vermonters have now gotten COVID vaccinations and that the state is second in the nation in getting the shots into people’s arms. They’re adding another 4,500 frontline EMS workers into group 1A. By February the state is expected to move into age groups, starting with 75 and over. The vast majority of Vermont deaths have been in that age group. “Only 10 have been under the age of 65, so therefore you can see why our primary objective is with those older Vermonters,” said Vermont AHS Secretary Mike Smith. He says details are still being finalized for age groupings and the role of chronic conditions.

The Biden administration announced Friday they hope to release nearly all available vaccine doses to states instead of holding onto some to release later for the second dose. Levine says he likes the idea of getting more doses in Vermonters’ arms but wants assurances that we will get our second doses. “There is no study that tells us how much further out you can get your second dose and get the biggest bang for your buck, if you will,” he said.

Testing has been ramped up at prisons after an increasing number of positive tests involving staff at facilities.

VERMONT RESPONSE TO TRUMP RALLY BUS

State officials addressed the busload of Vermonters who traveled to Washington for the pro-trump rally that ended with the mob takeover at the Capitol. Vt. Health Commissioner Mark Levine said those people should quarantine and get tested to protect themselves, their families, and their community.

Vt. Public Safety Commissioner Mike Schirling says they were able to contact the bus company as that bus was heading back to Vermont and they announced this to the participants en route. He said the charter bus company is being “educated” about their violation of the state’s 50% occupancy requirements.

Ron Lawrence is with Essex Republicans and was one of the organizers of that trip. He hasn’t returned our calls but he wrote on Facebook that his group attended the president’s rally and some of them went to the Capitol. He says to his knowledge none of the group stormed inside. Their bus left Washington at 4 p.m. bound for Vermont.

ED OFFICIALS AIM TO HAVE ALL STUDENTS BACK IN SCHOOL BY APRIL

All Vermont students would be back in school by the end of April under a plan being developed by state education officials.

Only about 0ne-third of Vermont students currently have full in-person instruction and about half are in the hybrid model.

Education Secretary Dan French Friday said they will soon be requiring schools to assess how the students have been impacted by the pandemic in terms of mental health, attendance, and academic success.

Gov. Phil Scott did not attend Friday’s briefing because of previous engagements.

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