Vt. COVID cases continue sharp decline
BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Coronavirus cases in Vermont continue to drop as more people get vaccinated and spend more time outside, and state officials say the state is on course to meet reopening benchmarks.
Tuesday marked nine straight days that Vermont has reported fewer than 100 cases, the longest stretch in five months. That, along with the rate of vaccinations is giving administration officials confidence they are on track. “Our cases are in a steady retreat and over the last seven days Vermont has had the second-fewest hospitalizations and deaths on a per capita basis in the country,” said DFR Commissioner Mike Pieciak.
Cases are down 61% in April so far. The state saw an 82% drop last year in April also, but the difference this year is the vaccine. Thirteen of 14 counties saw cases fall, including a 42% drop in the Northeast Kingdom and Pieciak’s forecast calls for cases in the single digits by the end of June.
Lamoille County was the only area that saw a slight bump in cases. The administration is urging caution for Northeast Kingdom residents because there has been a large increase in cases in northern New Hampshire and Maine. Coos County, New Hampshire, now has the highest case growth in the Northeast. Overall, cases are down in the region by 27%.
Officials say vaccines and behavior are driving the drop. With the Johnson & Johnson vaccine coming back online Tuesday, they say there will be more opportunities for the state to bring vaccines to schools and worksites. Governor Phil Scott says the Vermont Forward reopening plan is on track to its July 4 goal but that it all hinges on everyone getting the shot. “Everyone has a role to play to reach the level of vaccination we need for us to get back to normal, so I’m asking everyone to do your part,” he said.
VT. OFFICIALS REACT TO CDC OUTDOOR MASK GUIDANCE
State officials responded to new CDC guidance Tuesday on the need to mask outdoors. The CDC says those who are fully vaccinated don’t need to wear masks outside while exercising alone or with family members, or when they attend small outdoor gatherings. However, they say you should still wear a mask at large outdoor gatherings. Dr. Levine says it’s similar to Vermont’s guidance already and called it a common-sense public health step. “There are times in the outdoor setting that you can take your mask off because you’re distanced from anybody,” Levine said.
LABOR OFFICIALS TO REINSTATE WORK SEARCH REQUIREMENT MAY 9
And because restrictions are being lifted and more businesses can open, the state is lifting the unemployment work search requirement on May 9th. As many sectors of the economy face acute labor shortages, Vermonters seeking unemployment will have to apply to three jobs a week to get benefits. “Claimants are obligated to accept offers of suitable work, and refusing suitable work may result in the loss of benefits,” said Vt. Labor Secretary Michael Harrington.
There are about 20,000 in the unemployment line, though there are exemptions for the self-employed, people who have to stay at home, and parents with kids attending remote classes.
Governor Scott said the current labor shortage can’t be blamed entirely on unemployment recipients opting not to re-enter the workforce and that it’s been a problem long before the pandemic. “Some people just can’t get back to work. Some people have kids they have to take care of. They’re not in school because of remote learning. It’s all coupled together and it’s put us in an extremely vulnerable position,” he said.
As of Tuesday, Vermont health officials reported 59 new coronavirus cases for a total of 22,675. There have been a total of 245 deaths. The state’s percent positive seven-day average is 1.1%. A total of 378,353 people have been tested, and 19,704 have recovered.
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