State News

Legislature allows municipal mask mandates

Cases hold steady at near record highs across the state

By Ethan Weinstein

As statewide case counts remain at or near record levels, reinstated mitigation measures may be coming. The state Legislature reconvened Monday, Nov. 22, passing a bill allowing cities and towns to pass their own mask mandates, which Governor Scott signed Tuesday.

At his press conference Tuesday afternoon, the governor dismissed the potential life-saving benefits of the law. “Masks work, but at this point in the pandemic, mandates won’t,” he said.

As of Nov. 22, the seven-day case count average was 370, an all-time high. There are currently 68 Vermonters hospitalized due to Covid — also a record. And whereas in past weeks Vermont’s high Covid rates were an outlier in the country at large, as of Nov. 23, cases across the country are up 27% in the last two weeks.

There is some reason to believe cases in Vermont may be plateauing, at least for the moment. Cases were up 4% week-over-week, but testing was up 16%, and test positivity rate was down 11%. That said, Gov. Scott and his team warned that Thanksgiving gatherings may cause a surge in cases; the modeling was unclear, but cases are not likely to decrease in the next couple of weeks.

Rutland County reported 30 new cases on Tuesday, bringing the 14-day case total to 848. Rutland County currently has the second most cases in the state, trailing only Chittenden County, which has nearly three times as many residents. Meanwhile, Windsor County reported 40 new cases on Nov. 23, with 443 cases in the last 14 days.

Children 5-11 continue to contract Covid at the highest rate in the state, and though the age group has recently become eligible for vaccination, the rate at which children are doing so has slowed dramatically.

Mike Smith, secretary of the Agency of Human Services, said that 17,500 kids have received or have signed up for a vaccine. Last week, that number was 15,991. Over 14,000 of those children were signed up after the first week.

A hopeful metric was the decline in cases among those 65 and older, down 14% this week. Perhaps as a result of 61% of Vermonters 65 and older having received their boosters, a nation-leading majority.

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