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COVID numbers dropping; Scott promises vaccination rollout improvements

Published: Jan. 27, 2021 at 12:33 AM EST|Updated: Jan. 27, 2021 at 5:11 AM EST
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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - Vermont reported 78 new cases of the coronavirus as of Wednesday, the first time in nearly three weeks the state did not go over 100 new cases. As infections begin to slow, vaccinations are on the rise, with the first Vermonters 75 and up getting their shots starting Wednesday.

COVID cases have declined noticeably over the last two weeks, with numbers down 33% nationally, 24% percent regionally, and 20% in Vermont.

“Without a major family holiday in the future, we are optimistic that our trends will continue in this favorable trajectory,” said DFR Commissioner Mike Pieciak.

Long-term care facilities are also seeing far fewer cases, resulting in fewer deaths among the most vulnerable. But forecasts still call for daily case rates of over 200 cases through next month. That’s why officials say it’s still soon to lift restrictions and open the economy further. “I don’t want to overpromise, but the faster we can get there, the better off we all are,” said Gov. Phil Scott.

On the vaccine front, Vermonters 75 and older began getting their shots Wednesday. The governor says he’s pleased with how many people have signed up and how the rollout is going. “We continue to be among the top states for the distribution and the rate for vaccinations. But I can assure you, being one of the best isn’t good enough. Our goal is to be the best,” Scott said.

Officials admit there have been a few bumps in the process such as 1,000 Vermonters who got an incorrect text about their vaccine appointments. And Wednesday, the state learned of a situation at Springfield Hospital where 860 doses -- less than 1% percent of Vermont’s doses -- were spoiled in a freezer set one degree too high and had to be thrown out.

“We’re going to make sure we know the details behind this circumstance and make sure it doesn’t happen again, but these things do happen,” said Vt. Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine.

And as the state still grapples with supply chain issues, the governor says the Biden administration has promised a 16% increase in doses for the next three weeks. They’re still considering how that will affect scheduling appointments and how quickly they will finish the first age band over the next five weeks.

AREA COLLEGES REPORTING NEW CASES

The state is monitoring 63 outbreaks including more than 20 in long-term care facilities, 30 at workplaces, and five in schools.

There are 118 cases in colleges, including returning students at Norwich University and UVM. Officials say some of those who are testing positive are sicker than the cases we saw in the fall, so now the state is looking into whether these students have one of the variant strains of COVID-19. Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine says the U.K strain may not only be more contagious but is also more dangerous. Right now it looks like vaccines work against this strain, but there’s increasing concern that it is not as effective against the strains in Brazil and South Africa.

As of Wednesday, Vermont health officials reported 78 new coronavirus cases for a total of 11,379. There have been a total of 172 deaths. The state’s percent positive seven-day average is 2.2%. A total of 298,176 people have been tested, 155 travelers are being monitored, 12,568 have completed monitoring, and 7,696 have recovered.

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