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80% Vt. vax reopening goal expected by end of week

Published: Jun. 1, 2021 at 6:08 AM EDT|Updated: Jun. 2, 2021 at 1:45 AM EDT
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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - Vermont’s race to an 80% vaccination rate is nearing the finish line, with an estimated 8,708 shots to go. Governor Phil Scott and state officials Tuesday said they expect to hit the reopening goal within the next week if the pace of vaccinations holds up. With the latest numbers released late Tuesday, we’re at 78.4% of the eligible population.

But the distance to that finish line could be growing after the recent average of 2,500 shots a day began to fall off over the weekend. “That number has dropped off, demonstrating a slowdown,” said AHS Secretary Mike Smith.

We’re now averaging less than 1,450 shots as of Friday and 1,500 on Saturday. If 1,000 people get the shot each day, we’ll open on June 10th. If 2,000 step up, it’ll be June 6th -- both dates still well ahead of the initial July 4 timeline.

That’s why the state is standing up dozens of more clinics this week including the Holiday Inn in Rutland, Killington Resort, The Woodstock Inn and Resort, Higher Ground in Burlington. “We’ll continue to do this work so access is not a barrier,” Governor Scott said.

But even as Vermont is days away from lifting all restrictions, one will remain. There have been no updates from the federal government on the Canadian border, which has remained closed since the onset of the pandemic. Officials say Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wants to see 75% of eligible Canadians with at least one dose. “It looks like in the next three to four weeks they would meet those numbers, and their cases have been coming down across the country, particularly in Quebec,” said DFR Commissioner Mike Pieciak.

But even as vaccinations are up in Vermont, Scott says the state shouldn’t give up in the fight against COVID. “Vermont continues to lead the nation, but even after we hit 80% we’re not going to declare victory,” he said.

The governor says the state will continue to bring shots to employers, primary care providers, and other settings. That way, they say we’ll be in a better position this fall as activities move indoors. “The higher we can get Vermont’s vaccination rate, the higher the probability we will truly suppress coronavirus activity in this state,” said Vt. Health Commissioner Dr. Mike Levine.

And that means protections for the immunocompromised and the youngest Vermonters who aren’t yet eligible for the shot.

VERMONT LEADS NATION IN VIRUS SUPPRESSION, VACCINATION

As vaccination rates continue to go up and virus cases drop, Vermont is only getting safer, according to state officials. “With the country’s lowest new case rate, the lowest fatality rate, the lowest hospitalization rate, and the highest vaccination rate, Vermont is again the safest state in the country from the risks of COVID-19,” Pieciak said.

It’s been two weeks since Vermont has seen a death from the virus, bringing the state closer to what it looked like last summer, when there were months without a fatality from the virus.

Six people died in Vermont in May -- on the lower end of what officials had predicted. This month they’re expecting even fewer deaths -- five or less -- thanks to more vaccinations and fewer cases among the more vulnerable age groups.

All counties and all age groups are seeing declining cases, including the younger age groups. In all, cases are down 57% in the last week and 93% since the start of April. Officials expect to see a lot more single-digit case days like Tuesday. State officials say that’s a good sign, considering that their mobility data shows Vermonters are on the move again. Retail and recreation traffic are back up to their pre-pandemic levels. “Vermonters are spending less time at home than at any point in the last 14 months,” Pieciak said.

But where people are not eager to return is the office. While some Vermonters have gone back to worksites, that number is still about 30% below what it was before the virus hit. And other than a couple of ups and downs during the holidays, it appears to have remained there for about a year now.

As of Tuesday, Vermont health officials reported 2 new coronavirus cases for a total of 24,224. There have been a total of 255 deaths. The state’s percent positive seven-day average is 1%. A total of 394,267 people have been tested, and 23,115 have recovered.

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