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Vt. officials say high vax rate key strategy to fending off delta surge

Published: Jul. 27, 2021 at 9:19 AM EDT|Updated: Jul. 28, 2021 at 5:58 AM EDT
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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - While coronavirus cases continue to surge in unvaccinated areas of the country, Vermont officials on Tuesday said they remain confident that the state’s nearly 84% vaccination rate will continue to keep new cases and hospitalizations in check.

“As a country, we’re in an unfortunate stage of the pandemic,” said Vt. Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine.

Coronavirus cases are on the rise driven by the spread of the delta variant among those who have not been vaccinated, leading to vaccination requirements in some areas and new guidance from the CDC recommending masks indoors for everyone in areas with viral spread.

“As the director of the CDC put it, ‘this is becoming a pandemic of the unvaccinated.’ On a much smaller scale, that is bearing out here in Vermont as well,” said Gov. Phil Scott.

But with Vermont’s vaccination rate at 83.6% keeping hospitalizations low, leaders say new restrictions aren’t on the table for Vermont right now.

Vermont over the past several weeks has also seen increased infections, from daily cases in the single digits for most of June, to a projected 50 per day by the middle of August.

As cases surge in some states, Levine suggested that anyone who travels to those hotspots should get tested upon their return.

Ultimately, state officials say the best defense is more vaccinations. There are still an estimated 90,000 eligible Vermonters who are no vaccinated. “If someone decides not to be vaccinated, they are choosing to not only endanger themselves, but those who they live with, work with, and socialize with, and are ultimately helping prolong the pandemic,” said DFR Commissioner Mike Pieciak.

As for so-called “breakthrough cases” -- infections in people who are fully vaccinated -- the state still maintains they’re very rare, accounting for only about five cases every 2 weeks out of 420,000 fully vaccinated Vermonters. “People who have been vaccinated are far far less likely to experience serious illness, hospitalization, and death if they do become infected,” Levine said.

Levine says vaccination rates for younger Vermonters continue to lag compared to other populations. The state continues to offer free walk-in clinics around the state.

Even as cases are slated to increase in the coming months, the state is asking schools to prepare for full in-person learning this fall. Guidance on masking in schools will be announced next week. The CDC on Tuesday recommended people wear masks in kindergarten through 12th-grade schools.

As of Tuesday, Vermont health officials reported 11 new coronavirus cases for a total of 24,760. There have been a total of 259 deaths. The state’s percent positive seven-day average is 1.7%. A total of 412,464 people have been tested, and 24,190 have recovered.

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