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Nearly 30K Vermonters vaccinated; virus widespread in Bennington, Franklin, Rutland counties

Published: Feb. 9, 2021 at 7:23 AM EST|Updated: Feb. 9, 2021 at 7:05 PM EST
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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - Nearly 30,000 Vermonters are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus and regionwide cases are dropping, but elevated numbers continue in three Vermont counties and that is forecast to fuel virus spread next month.

Vermont’s Walgreens pharmacies will receive upwards of 2,000 doses weekly and start taking appointments for one of their 20 locations later this week. Like with other vaccination sites, you’ll have to sign up online. “If you are 75 or older you can register online and we will share the link as soon as we have it,” said AHS Secretary Mike Smith.

State leaders say the Kinney Drug and Walgreens clinics are a plus for getting more shots into the arms of Vermonters. But they acknowledge it could bring complications if someone signs up through Walgreens and through the state. They say the bottom line is that Vermont just needs more doses. “The better way for us to do this is for us to have more opportunities for Vermonters and let us figure out how to accommodate all of that,” Smith said.

And Governor Scott said federal officials are promising more vaccines. During a call with every governor Tuesday, Scott says White House officials said Pfizer is increasing its production by 30%. “They’re going to go from 100 million to 150 million, which is significant,” Scott said.

Vermont will receive 500 Pfizer doses over the next three weeks with 250 of them going to community health centers. The state has given 240 doses to homebound Vermonters who are getting home health services and they will be expanding this effort to more counties. After the 2,000 or so homebound Vermonters who get services are vaccinated within the next few weeks, they will then move to those who are homebound who don’t get home-health services.

Health officials say they have so far not detected variant strains of COVID in Vermont. The CDC last week said they expect the more contagious U.K. strain to become the dominant form of the virus by March. “We are continuing this work to help Vermonters understand any changes in the virus that may require even stronger adherence to our prevention efforts,” said Vt. Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine.

With the number of registrations for the 75-plus age starting to level off, health officials say that they’ll be announcing the opening for registration of the 70-plus age group in the near future.

BENNINGTON, RUTLAND, AND FRANKLIN COUNTIES PROVE EXCEPTION TO DROPPING CASE COUNTS

There’s good news in coronavirus data from around the country and the region, but elevated numbers continue in three Vermont counties and case numbers are forecast to increase in the coming weeks.

Cases have dropped by 55 percent nationally in the last month and are expected to continue to go down. And around the region, there are 27 percent fewer cases in the last week. But in Vermont, Bennington, Rutland, and Franklin Counties are proving to be the exception. “The steady pattern we’re seeing in the state is at odds with the decline in cases in the region,” Dr. Levine said

Those counties are, in part, what’s driving Vermont’s active case forecast to increase in the coming weeks. While other states in the region are forecast to see a drop in cases, Vermont is the only one forecasted to go up. But state data experts say this might not be what ultimately happens, because if neighboring states’ cases go down, that could help us too.

Vermont cases have remained roughly flat for weeks -- an outlier among other New England states that are seeing their cases drop. That’s a lot in part due to Rutland and Bennington counties, which saw a 76 percent combined increase over the last month compared to other counties which saw a 39 percent drop. State leaders are asking people in those counties to take extra precautions and get tested.

Vermont is seeing fewer cases in long-term care facilities, where there are currently five outbreaks. New cases are virtually nonexistent when compared to the general public.

We also got a preview of what the data COULD look like in the future as more people in the general public get vaccinated. Officials pointed to Israel, where severe cases and deaths dropped in seniors after vaccinations were widespread there.

As of Tuesday, Vermont health officials reported 59 new coronavirus cases for a total of 13,105. There have been a total of 186 deaths. The state’s percent positive seven-day average is 1.7%. A total of 313,166 people have been tested, 187 travelers are being monitored, 12,957 have completed monitoring, and 9,866 have recovered.

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