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Governor faces increasing pressure to deal with delta surge

Published: Aug. 25, 2021 at 5:46 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirms that vaccines are less effective against COVID-19 now that the delta variant is a factor, and state data highlighting the recent surge in cases seems to mirror that report. That has some questioning whether additional measures should be enacted to fend off the fourth wave of the pandemic.

When the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines were first rolled out, they had over a 90% efficacy rate at preventing someone from catching the virus. But with the delta variant, the CDC says that rate has dropped to 66%.

“People who are vaccinated are massively protected from infection, but it is just not quite as great as it was before,” said Dr. Tim Lahey with UVM Medical Center.

A look at Vermont case numbers from the last five weeks shows breakthrough cases among the vaccinated represent between 30% and 37% of all new infections. There is another number that is also once again on the rise in Vermont. “We have 35 hospitalizations in the state, nine of them in the ICU,” Dr. Lahey said.

He says vaccines continue to greatly decrease severe illness from Covid-19. However, he added that additional statewide protocols could be warranted because of the new surge in cases. “For me, I think we are seeing enough hospitalizations and death that a temporary mask mandate would make sense. And I sort of wish that they would do that,” he said.

But Governor Phil Scott Tuesday rejected lawmakers’ calls to reimpose emergency powers. “There is no emergency that we are seeing at this point in time that would force us to go into one,” he said. The governor says current cases and hospitalizations are significantly lower than they were at the height of the pandemic.

The most recent data comes as children across the region -- many of them too young to be vaccinated -- head back into the classroom.

“There is not a single parent in Vermont with school-aged kids that isn’t concerned,” said Dave Silberman, a father of two in Middlebury. He’s frustrated the decision on whether to wear masks in schools is being forced to be made at the local level. “We’ve had this experience from the last year-and-a-half and we’ve gone through the whole school year. So, we know what works.”

The governor has said he will continue to monitor the data and act if needed. State officials are predicting cases will level off in the coming weeks, as seen in other areas.

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