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Facing uncertain COVID forecast, Scott urges ‘personal responsibility’

Published: Oct. 19, 2021 at 9:57 AM EDT
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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - As Vermont continues to see a growth in COVID cases over the past week, Governor Phil Scott Tuesday pleaded with Vermonters to exercise “personal responsibility” when it comes to protecting the most vulnerable.

Despite case counts in some parts of the Northeast coming down, Vermont’s delta wave continues. The latest data modeling shows Vermont cases have increased 39% over the last two weeks and the forecast for the coming days is not clear. Infections are highest among kids under nine who are in school and ineligible for vaccination. And the highest rate of spread in the state is in Orleans County in the Northeast Kingdom.

Governor Scott called on Vermonters to use personal responsibility to keep the elderly and others with pre-existing conditions safe and admitted it’s going to continue to be a “bumpy ride” from going from a pandemic to managing an endemic disease. “What we did for 15 months before vaccines was necessary, but isn’t sustainable,” he said.

The governor says the primary emphasis remains to get as many Vermonters vaccinated as possible and that 75% of those in the hospital right now are not vaccinated. He also urged everyone to get flu shots and get tested for COVID before visiting the elderly and those with underlying conditions, even if they are vaccinated. He says those measures will relieve pressure on Vermont’s overloaded hospital staff. “Each of us, whether vaccinated or not, need to step up and protect the old and sick in our lives,” Scott said.

He also again urged unvaccinated Vermonters to wear a mask indoors or in crowded settings. Health officials say in half of all new cases, those infected say they don’t know where they contracted COVID, but that they attended unmasked gatherings. “To use a seasonal metaphor, what happens in deer camp may not stay in deer camp,” said Vt. Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine.

Levine says booster vaccinations will play an important role and that some 39,000 Vermonters have already received the third Pfizer shot. There’s no official word yet on Moderna and J&J boosters or whether they can be mixed.

Vermont education officials say they continue to make progress rolling out the Test to Stay program, which aims to keep students who have had close COVID contacts in the classroom. They say 13 public schools and 10 independent schools are on their way to standing up the program this week. “Our focus here is to make contact tracing more concise and also less labor-intensive,” said Vt. Education Secretary Dan French.

As of Tuesday, Vermont health officials reported 137 new coronavirus cases for a total of 37,651. There have been a total of 347 deaths. The state’s percent positive seven-day average is 3.4%. A total of 504,658 people have been tested, and 32,167 have recovered.

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