Vt. COVID cases down 40%; Scott urges pivot from pandemic
MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - Vermont officials say COVID cases continue to drop in the state, mirroring similar downward trends in the Northeast.
“There’s not much new for me to say on the COVID front other than I’m encouraged,” Gov. Phil Scott said Tuesday.
The latest state modeling shows a 40% drop in cases over the past week. Severe illness is steady with 96 people hospitalized and 26 in the ICU Tuesday, but those numbers are also beginning to decline.
The governor and health officials say the positive trend signals a time for the state to focus on transitioning from a pandemic to an endemic footing. “It may seem like we’ve been stuck in the Bill Murray “Groundhog Day” movie repeating the same day again and again for the past two years, but we are moving forward,” said Vt. Health Commissioner Mark Levine.
Leaders say Vermont’s increase in rapid testing to quickly detect infection and ramping up of booster shots is helping drive the recovery. “We need to balance the COVID and non-COVID impacts of the pandemic. Vermonters’ mental health will be front and center as we turn to recovery,” said AHS Interim Secretary Jenny Samuelson.
Next month, schools are also shifting to recovery mode to provide additional emotional and social re-engagement. “We need to get school back to normal as soon as possible. That’s what is going to keep our students safe and healthy,” said Education Secretary Dan French.
To help pivot away from the pandemic, Scott says he wants to make big investments in the state’s mental health framework including new options for crisis care and 20 new mental health beds in Chittenden County. He says the recovery process is an opportunity to grow Vermont by reducing education costs for people enrolling in the trades, a pilot program for equipment and tools, and using $45 million to modernize the state’s Career Technical Centers. “We can’t let this moment pass because the time to invest is now,” he said.
Levine says the time will come where COVID is managed through vaccines, and treatment and prevention to protect the most vulnerable Vermonters. But he says not everyone will get there at the same time. “This means we all need to approach this future with healthy doses of civility, empathy, equity, compassion, and respect as each person navigates their own comfort levels challenges and rationales,” he said.
Levine says that will give the state more time to address other related issues inc\luding food insecurity, mental health, and substance use.
As of Tuesday, Vermont health officials reported 354 new coronavirus cases for a total of 104,837. There have been a total of 542 deaths. The state’s percent positive seven-day average is 9.3%. The current number of hospitalizations is 94 with 26 in the ICU.
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