By Polly Mikula
Governor Phil Scott was cautiously optimistic as he addressed Vermonters at the regular news conference Tuesday, Dec. 15. The arrival of a Covid vaccine coupled by recent data about Vermont’s plateauing infection rates, were reason for hope, he said.
But Scott refrained from hinting at possibilities for holiday gatherings or youth winter sports to resume.
“It’s simple too early for us to tell about youth sports and holidays,” Scott said. “We’re taking this day by day… Hopefully by the end of the week we will have additional information and be able to make a more informed decision.”
Data from the two weeks after Thanksgiving shows that most Vermonters complied with the state health regulations around the holiday and, thus, avoided a “surge upon a surge,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine said.
But Covid levels remain high in Vermont, in the Northeastern U.S. and throughout America. Scott pointed to two “unfortunate milestones” reached this week: Vermont recorded its 100th death due to Covid-19, and the U.S. surpassed 300,000 deaths.
On Tuesday, the state reported 66 new cases, but prior to that the state was averaging over 100 per day.
Commissioner of Financial Regulation Michael Pieciak said that despite not seeing a projected surge after Thanksgiving (due to better-than-projected compliance), Vermont still recorded it’s highest number of weekly cases this week. “Our active case count is now just about as high as it’s ever been,” he said. Therefore, “your risk of being exposed, is greater than any point in the pandemic.”
“We still have months of hard work ahead,” Scott said Tuesday. The vaccine “marks the beginning of the end, but not the end. That’s why we have to continue to stay focused. As we see over 100 daily of cases Covid, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I’ve extended state of emergency to Jan. 15,” he added.
“With the end of the pandemic in sight, the rising death tolls remind us that we must do everything we can currently within our power — wear a mask, physically distance — to ensure that we make it together to that finish line,” Pieciak said.
“One of the things I’ve always appreciated about Vermonters is our perseverance,” Scott continued. “It probably comes from our ability to endure those long, tough, cold, winters, followed by a difficult and still cold mud season. But that’s what so special about being a Vermonter. We know that just around the corner is spring, with a beautiful summer on the horizon, so we toughen up, put our heads down and carry on.
“But admittedly this crisis has tested our strength especially during these holiday months where we want to be with our families and feel normal again.
“And I know, I’ve asked a lot of you over the past nine months and now I’m asking to do just a little more: to go a little longer without seeing your loved ones in person, not travel out of state without quarantining, passing up on sports and so many other sacrifices feels like a lot — maybe too much for some — but the fact is I need you, each and everyone of you, to make sure we get through the last of this on solid footing: With as little loss of life as possible, with our healthcare system in tact, with our kids getting as much in-person education as possible. Because if we can get this right we’ll also be in a better economic position, and we’ll be able to return to opening spigot, and return to traveling around the region… Only together can we keep each other safe as we approach the end of the tunnel,” he said.