Vt. health officials push boosters; case counts dropping again

Published: Oct. 26, 2021 at 8:58 AM EDT
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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - Coronavirus case counts remain high, but Vermont Governor Phil Scott on Tuesday again emphasized that more vaccinations are the answer, not more restrictions.

Vermont officials say case counts are dropping again from their pandemic record of a few weeks ago. Cases are down 15% over the past week. After uncertain modeling forecasts, officials now say they believe case counts and hospitalizations are likely to come down in the coming weeks.

Cases are still spiking in the Northeast Kingdom. Orleans County’s infection rate is three times higher than the statewide average. “There’s going to be continued conversations with Orleans County in terms of what they can do, and then opening up the opportunities with towns for barnstorming events,” said AHS Secretary Mike Smith.

Vermont Health officials say immunity is beginning to wane for some, leading to mild infections and increased transmission of the virus. “The last thing anyone wants is for themselves to be contagious, especially for someone who may be at higher risk for a serious outcome, like hospitalization or death,” said Vt. Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine.

The governor urged everyone who is eligible to get a booster now, especially those over 65 years old. And officials say they recommend getting tested after big gatherings and before spending time with those at higher risk, as well as wearing a mask indoors.

Vt. education officials say universal masking recommendations for vaccinated students across the state have been extended until January 18th. The masking guidance was originally envisioned to end once a district reached an 80% vaccination rate, but the delta wave has postponed that several times. “We think it’s prudent to wait on the implementation of our masking change until we get through the holiday period,” said Vt. Education Secretary Dan French.

School winter sports guidelines were released Tuesday. Officials say among the guidelines are that all student-athletes be vaccinated. They say masks should be worn by athletes in all indoor practices and games except running events and other sports where masking is not practical -- wrestling, gymnastics, cheer and dance skills. Athletes in those sports should instead be tested weekly.

“The best way to ensure that practices games and competitions are able to take place without disruptions over the months ahead is by observing these simple mitigation measures,” said Vt. Natural Resources Secretary Julie Moore.

The governor this week continued to face calls from some lawmakers, educators, and health experts for a new state of emergency and targeted mask mandates. Gov. Scott again stressed that Vermonters don’t have the appetite for more restrictions. “If I thought it would help in any way, I would impose it. But I don’t believe it would,” he said.

The governor said he believes Vermont will get through the delta surge by Vermonters taking self-responsibility, including COVID vaccinations and flu shots.

The governor and other administration officials rolled up their sleeves Tuesday to get their own flu shots.

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