By Ethan Weinstein
Following another week of near-record case counts, Governor Phil Scott announced no new restrictions but assured the public that the state will be ready to roll out vaccines for kids 5-11 as soon as they are approved.
“I’m more hopeful today than I have been in weeks,” Scott said, citing boosters and the immanent approval of vaccines for younger Vermonters. “I believe that we will get through this.”
Mike Smith, secretary of the Agency of Human Services, highlighted Vermont’s plan for student vaccine rollout. “We will have school-based clinics for this vaccination effort,” he said.
Rutland County reported five new cases on Tuesday, Oct. 26, bringing the 14-day case total to 258. Meanwhile, Windsor County reported six new cases, with 253 cases in the last 14 days. The statewide, seven-day rolling case average is 201 as of Tuesday.
The state has again pushed back the date it plans to stop recommending masks for schools that achieve 80% vaccination. Secretary Dan French said Vermont will make that decision Jan. 18.
Discussing the state of school testing, French said that 19 supervisory unions and 12 independent schools have received or will soon receive antigen tests for their test-to-stay programs.
Agency of Natural Resources Secretary Julie Moore discussed the state’s recommendations for high school winter sports.
Masks will be required except for sports that may involve “inversion,” including wrestling, gymnastics, dance and cheerleading. Indoor track will also not require masks.
The state recommends that athletes who do not wear masks get tested one a week, Moore said.
Whether or not to allow spectators will be up to individual schools.
Booster doses were also a focus of the Oct. 26 press conference. Thus far, 52,000 Vermonters have received a booster dose. “Demand hasn’t nearly been as high as when we first rolled [vaccines] out. And that’s something we need to change,” Gov. Scott said of boosters.
Effective Friday, the State is expanding its Covid-19 booster shot program to include the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines.
Vermont currently recommends that anyone 18 or older who received their second dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine six months ago, or Johnson & Johnson vaccine more than two months ago, make an appointment for a booster.
Gov. Scott stressed that booster doses are particularly important for those 65 and older and anyone else who is at an increased risk of severe infection.
Following CDC approval, Vermont is allowing mix-and-match boosters, allowing people to receive any vaccine for their booster regardless of which vaccine they received for their first shot or shots.
Until then, Vermonters must sign up to receive a booster that matches their first doses.