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Vermont at 79.6% vaccinations; remains safest state

Published: Jun. 8, 2021 at 6:23 AM EDT|Updated: Jun. 8, 2021 at 6:12 PM EDT
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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - Vermont is closing in on its goal of reaching 80% of the eligible population with one COVID vaccine. State leaders say with about 79.6% of the eligible population partially vaccinated as of late Tuesday, an estimated 2,385 Vermonters need to get the shot before all remaining restrictions are dropped.

An additional 754 individuals were vaccinated Tuesday. At that pace, the 80% goal would be reached on Saturday.

“Every single dose can save a life and every vaccination counts,” said Gov. Phil Scott Tuesday.

Following a Memorial Day slowdown, thousands of people got the shot over the weekend and the state is standing up more pop-up clinics at hospitals, workplaces -- and even the local dump.

Still, AHS Secretary Mike Smith, says recent clinics have seen diminishing returns compared to recent long lines. “We’re down to the point where if we get 2, 3 10, 20 -- we’re happy,” he said.

While the state continues the inoculation blitz, the state’s efforts are making a difference according to the latest data and modeling. “Vermont continues to lead the nation in every vaccine category,” said DFR Commissioner Mike Pieciak. That includes the most doses administered per capita in those over 65 and the highest percentage of the total population. Daily cases and deaths have also plummeted.

Meanwhile, vaccination uptake in other parts of the U.S., especially the south, is lagging behind. Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine says some in public health are worried about a summer surge and that getting the shot now will protect Vermont leading into the fall and winter. “We know the vaccine does not respect state borders, so our vaccinations and testing are our protection now and into the future,” he said.

Vaccination rates in Canada have also improved in the last week -- with 66% having had their first shot -- giving hope that the border closure will end by June 21, the latest Canadian closure extension date.

“Hopefully this means they will be able to negotiate something between the U.S. government and the Canadian government to open the border as soon as possible,” Gov. Scott said.

Vermont’s congressional delegation is also urging President Biden to work with Canada on reopening the border, calling for additional expanded essential traveler status. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is also reportedly considering loosening restrictions for those who have been vaccinated, though there would still be a testing and quarantine requirement.

The governor says that on his call with the White House, the CDC encouraged people 12 and over to get vaccinated. He said federal officials remain concerned about misinformation circulating online about vaccines. The governor says that if you read something unusual or surprising about vaccines on social media, it’s probably not true. State health officials urged Vermonters to talk with trusted their trusted care providers and also check out the FAQ page.

VERMONT MOBILITY DATA GIVES SNAPSHOT OF PROGRESS TO ‘NORMAL’

With Vermont inching towards the 80% mark, administration officials Tuesday made the case that the state is ready to reopen and put even more people back to work.

“I’m happy to report that for the second week in a row, Vermont is the safest state in the country,” said DFR Commissioner Mike Pieciak. He made the case that with daily COVID-19 cases staying in the single digits, it’s safe to reopen. Pieciak pointed to New Hampshire, which fully opened a month ago and continues to see their cases drop, despite having a lower vaccination rate and higher cases than Vermont. “All of this should certainly give us confidence that we can reopen safely when we hit 80%,” he said.

The state’s mobility data show officials what sectors are back to “normal” and what aren’t. Shopping is at or higher than pre-pandemic levels.

More people are also visiting nursing homes as restrictions loosen. Drug store visits are up a lot too thanks to vaccinations. Dentists and veterinarians are at or above pre-pandemic levels. But visits to hospitals and doctors offices are still down.

Restaurants are -- on average -- back to normal, but fast-food restaurants are about 20% higher than full-service restaurants.

The entertainment sector continues to see the most impact. Parks visits are up -- that’s a bright spot -- but visits to museums, spectator sports, movie theaters, and hotels are anywhere from 40% to 80% percent below normal. While the number is still down 40% from a typical year, it’s shaping up to be a better summer than last year.

When it comes to the “returning to the office,” about 35% of Vermont workers still have not gone back. That’s higher than New Hampshire, Maine, or the national average. We asked the governor if he thinks more companies will reopen offices again or if remote work is here to stay. “I believe it will be a combination of the two. It will be interesting to watch,” Scott said.

The governor also says he thinks as more summer programming for kids takes effect, more people will return to working in-person.

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