RRMC announces vaccine standby list
By Polly Mikula
Vermont reported 251 new Covid cases Friday, March 26, the highest ever one-day total and a significant rise over recent trends which had plateaued around 100 cases per day.
“This is a concerning number of new cases and should not be dismissed,” said Dr. Mark Levine, state health commissioner, at the Covid-19 press conference, Tuesday, March 30 .
“Our strides in vaccination, the beginning of spring, hope for the future, may be enticing us to take additional risks — and such risks may be seen as more acceptable to some now that our most vulnerable Vermonters are protected with vaccination. But wanting the pandemic to be over and it actually being over are not the same thing,” he said.
Half of the new Covid cases over the past two weeks were identified in people under 30, which Levine attributed to multiple reasons: Young people being more mobile and social, warmer weather encouraging activity, and the spread of the variant, particularly on the University of Vermont’s college campus.
Along with the statewide total, two counties broke records Friday for their one-day case total. Rutland County had 41 cases (up from its previous record of 40 in February) and Chittenden County had 102 cases (up from 87 in December).
Locally, many Rutland County schools have decided to go back to remote learning temporarily and many restaurants and businesses have also closed this past week due to Covid, including the Killington town offices, which closed Monday, March 30, after at least one confirmed positive case was identified. Contact tracing is currently underway for all town employees, residents and others that may have been exposed.
Officials say it is unclear what specifically is causing the surge. “Admittedly, the 251 caught me by surprise as well,” Scott said. “But in reflection, when you look at what our strategy is, we wanted to make sure that we prevented loss of life and to reduce the impact on our health system. That’s been our focus since Day One.”
Lowered cases among the older population, Vermonters age 65 and above, is likely due to the higher rate of vaccinations in that age group.
Over a third of the Vermont population has now received at least one dose — 202,300 Vermonters — including 90% of people 70 and older and 75% of people 60-69, according to Mike Smith, secretary of the Agency of Human Services, who kicked off the press conference, Tuesday. Vermont is leading the nation with 86.3% of its population 65 and older receiving one or more doses, noted Mike Pikeck, commissioner of financial regulation.
Vermont recently reopened bars and loosened restrictions around the number of people who can sit at each table in restaurants. And it loosened gathering limits to allow fully vaccinated people to gather with one non-vaccinated household. But Gov. Phil Scott said they haven’t been open long enough to affect the data and he defended the reopening measures, pointing to data that shows hospitalizations in Vermont have remained mostly flat even as cases rise.
Statewide 25 people were hospitalized as of Tuesday, March 30, which Pikeck and Levine called “stable” and the state recorded six more deaths last week, March 20-28.
It’s unclear exactly how many cases could be attributed to Covid variants that have been shown to be more transmissible than the original strain. The state sends a small percentage of samples of positive cases for sequencing, which has identified that four out of five UVM samples were the most contagious B117 variant (a.k.a. the U.K. variant).
But Anne Sosin, a fellow at Dartmouth’s Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy, said behavior is likely the leading cause of spike, not the variants. “We should look to public health and policy decisions and not variants as a first explanation for increases in transmission,” she wrote in a message.
Schools have also been cited as places of transmission, but the data illustrates a different picture with case counts at schools (K-12 and higher ed) generally matching the amount of virus in the communities in which they reside. Statewide, higher education institutions have consistently contributed about 10% of Vermont’s total cases.
“I think we’re jumping to the conclusion that they spread within the school, and I’m not sure that’s the case in every situation. I think it’s actually coming from the outside in,” Scott said. “So it’s about the community, their families and they’re bringing it into the school.”
Vermont only reports K-12 school cases among students and staff if the person was infectious while spending time in person in school and therefore posed a risk to transmission.
Levine said he had confidence that school officials were taking appropriate action to respond to cases in their community. “The schools are very quick to be on top of cases,” he said.
Get vaccinated sooner
On Monday, March 29, at 9 a.m. Rutland Regional Medical Center opened an End-of-Day Vaccine Standby List for to ensure any additional doses don’t go to waste.
The vaccines are being dispensed at the Holiday Inn located at 476 Holiday Drive in Rutland. Sign ups for each week begin on Mondays. If you don’t received a call, you will need to submit your information again to be placed back on the list for the next week.
“The prior week’s list is deleted every Monday morning,” RRMC stated.
The End-of-Day Vaccine Standby List is specifically intended for only those individuals who do not meet the Vermont Department of Health vaccine criteria eligibility.
As of Monday, March 30, any Vermonter age 50+ is eligible to enroll for a vaccine appointment at healthvermont.gov/myvaccine. Next Monday, Vermonters age 40+ will be eligible.
Those interested in either making a vaccine appointment or signing up for the standby list must first create an account first.
Additionally, for the standby list, residents will be asked for their phone number and “How quickly can you get to the Holiday Inn located at 476 Holiday Dr, Rutland, when you are called?”
RRMC “reserves the right to call people with closer proximity to the Holiday Inn first… due to vaccine expiration time,” he hospital stated.
While there is no guarantee how many, if any, extra doses will be available on a given week, RRMC encourages residents to apply. They also note:
- Be sure to answer your phone – calls are made between approximately 5-6 p.m.
- We only call each person once and then move on to the next person on the list
- We do not leave messages, and our phone does not accept incoming calls
- If you miss a call from us, you will need to submit your information again the following week to be placed back on the list.
Erin Petenko/VTDigger contributed to this reporting.