Covid-19 updates, Featured

Vermonters 65+ to be vaccinated 

Enrollment opens at 8:15 a.m. Monday, March 1

By Polly Mikula

Vermonters ages 65 or older can register for the Covid-19 vaccine beginning at 8:15 a.m. on Monday, March 1, officials said at a press conference Tuesday, Feb. 23.

State officials recommend that the 42,000 Vermonters in this age category make appointments on the Department of Health’s website or through Kinney Drugs or Walgreens websites.

Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine said that 90% of the deaths from Covid-19 in Vermont have been residents over 65 years old. Thus, the state has chosen to prioritize accordingly, allocating its doses to “protect our most vulnerable from hospitalization and death.”

The next group of people who will be eligible for the vaccine — Vermonters with underlying health conditions — should be able to register in the next few weeks, said Mike Smith, secretary of the Agency of Human Services. That group will include roughly 75,000 people.

As of Tuesday, 91,000 Vermonters have received at least one dose of the vaccine — a rate of 22.67 doses administered per 100 residents, which puts Vermont second highest in the Northeast and 10th nationally.

Commissioner of Financial Regulation Michael S. Pieciak reported that the U.S. is on its sixth straight week of declining cases. Since Jan. 11, the nation has seen a 74% decline in cases, putting daily Covid cases nationally about the same as the were in the third week in October, he said.

“The light at the end of the tunnel has never been brighter,” he said. Though cautioned that the new, more contagious variants of Covid-19 could still play a spoiler role in the continuation of a positive trajectory. “This is no time to let up… or let down our guard,” he said.

Vermont has not seen quite the same decline, but we didn’t have the spike other states did, either. This past week Vermont recorded 727 new cases. Vermont’s peak (the week of Jan. 11) 1,193 cases were recorded. By contrast, the third week in October the state had just 71 cases.

Accordingly, Pieciak reported that the Johns Hopkins University, using the Oliver Wyman Forecast Model, now projects that Vermont will experience a slow decline in cases over the next six weeks — hitting an average of 50 per week the first week in April.

Levine attributed the decline nationally, regionally and in Vermont to the end of holiday gatherings. “From Halloween through New Years, we saw cases spike,” he said. “Some have also postulated that the decline could be attributed to more adherence to public health guidance… but that probably contributes to lower degree,” he admitted.

The increased pace of vaccination should also contribute to a greater decrease in cases — especially the most severe cases — in the coming weeks and months, too, Levine said.

Updated guidance

People who have been fully vaccinated can gather with people of one other household at a time, regardless of whether people in that other household have been vaccinated, Gov. Phil Scott said Tuesday.

That means someone who has received both doses of the vaccine can spend time with their non-vaccinated friends and loved ones. “If your parents are fully vaccinated, you can go to their house for dinner, or vice versa. Or if you’re a nurse who was vaccinated in phase 1A, you can visit a friend, even if they’re not vaccinated yet,” Scott said.

The allowance applies to only one household at a time, he said.

There is still a prohibition on multi-family gatherings of any kind for those not yet vaccinated, state officials reminded viewers on Tuesday.

The rule was adopted after the Centers for Disease Control said the Covid vaccine likely prevents transmission of the virus, in addition to protecting the vaccinated person from getting a case of the virus.

The news comes on the heels of the Friday, Feb. 19, announcement that vaccinated travelers no longer have to quarantine. Friday, Scott also loosened restrictions around activities and visits in long-term care facilities.

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