Governor Scott’s Covid-19 Press Conference 12.29.20

Innkeepers are a busy bunch. To save you time, VLA attends Governor Scott’s Covid-19 Press Conferences and takes notes for you. Below is the summary from 12.29.20

Vermont Lodging Association Member Update:
Governor Scott’s Covid-19 Press Conference 12.29.20


Governor Phil Scott and Agency of Human Services Secretary Mike Smith reported that after Vermonters in category 1A have received the Covid vaccines, the state will begin a Mass Vaccination Program. The “Mass Vax Program” will have four locations where Vermonters can get the vaccine: their primary care provider, pharmacies, Health Department District office sites, and Mass Vax sites. The vaccine will be administered and prioritized based on age bands in five year increments – age 75 and older first, then age 70 and older and so on. Those with underlying conditions will be prioritized no matter what age group they are in and the qualifying underlying conditions will be well defined. Commissioner Levine said that they will likely not be requiring proof of an underlying condition.


Governor Scott:

Second straight week – case rate drops. Regional rate stabilizing. Need to wait to see impact of holiday traveling. Hoping to see plateau or even drop in region.

Will take some time to get majority of Vermonters vaccinated – have now vaccinated 10K Vermonters. Looking for ways to do it better. Team has identified ways to improve reporting and rollout.

Protecting the most vulnerable has been our priority. Working with feds to accelerate process.

Secretary Smith

Have vaccinated 8K health care workers, 900 EMT’s, LTC 900 (but have 72 hours to report). By January 8 – should be finished administering first dose of vaccine to all but one of the skilled nursing facilities. Residents at 19 of 37 LTC facilities have received first dose. Kinneys willing to accelerate vaccines, Walgreens interested in accelerating program.

Have been allocated 32K doses of the vaccine – 24.2% have been shipped to hospitals or our depot and the remainder allocated to the federal pharmacy program. 14.8 of Phase 1A have been given first dose. LTC members are lagging. By end of January all of phase 1 should have received the first dose, most received second as well.

Completion of 1A marks the beginning of the Mass Vaccination Program. Mass Vax Program will have four locations where Vermonters can get the vaccine:

Primary Care Provider


Health Department District office sites (12 of them – can handle 7200 a week)

Mass Vax sites.

Vaccines will be prioritized and be given based on age. Easiest way to administer and easiest for public to understand.

Will be age bands established: 75 and over, 70 and older, 65 and older and so on. Underlying conditions will be a priority no matter which age and will be well defined. Also working on how those that may be disadvantaged fall into those priority groupings. Health inequities will be considered in implementation planning.

Will consider what comes from national advisory panels, but looking to implement a system that is easy to implement, understand and protects lives. Definitions such as essential workers and front line workers causes confusion and unnecessary divisiveness.

Vaccine Task Force – made up of AHS, VDH, National Guard, Digital Services – meet frequently. Senior Leadership Team consults with Governor daily.

More to report in coming days and weeks, especially on vaccine in LTC.

Commissioner Pieciak:

7000 VT case this past week. Maine has reported more cases than that in the past 3 weeks. VT has low level case rate.

Clear downward trend in active cases in community.

Positivity rate low.

Hospitalization rates are trending lower.

Deaths – significant increase. December worst month.

LTC Facilities – one new outbreak this week – 513 active cases.

Better projected case count.

Decrease in cases this past week.

Regional heat map – VT has fewest active cases.

Will be monitoring mobility data – travel was down dramatically for Christmas.

Vaccinations – over 2 million Americans have received their initial dose.

Now publishing regional vaccination map.

Vermonters continue to get flu vaccine at a higher rate.

Commissioner Levine:

82 new cases today, 1 additional death.

31 patients hospitalized, 6 in ICU.

41 outbreaks (14 in LTC facilities), 224 active situations. 12 child or home care. 3 from social gathering (one a funeral, one a social gathering of several families in Bennington).

Positivity rate 2%.

Vermonters 80 years and older have the highest number of Covid-19 deaths.

40% of people with Covid-19 have pre-existing conditions.

High risk chronic conditions – heart disease, emphysema, cancer, diabetes, chronic kidney disease – anything that compromises immune system. 40% of Vermonters (with age over 65).

Questions and Answers:

Calvin, will there going to be a gap in Unemployment, PUA?

Scott – No gap.

Thoughts on signing of Coronavirus Relief Bill and $2k payment?

Scott – Glad he did, disappointed it took so long. On payments – know that there has to be some give and take. Now $2k on table – know it puts some people in a tough position because they had to give that up to get other things, but it’s good for Vermont.

Outbreak in Correctional Facility?

Smith – Two that have tested positive at Northeast Correctional Facility. Staff testing tomorrow and facility wide after that. Only one staff person in facility when infectious.

Priorities this legislative session?

Scott – Look forward to this session. Very unique remote process. Hopefully we can get back to somewhat normal in the state house. Will let you know in the state of the state address. Will have budget address a few weeks after that – trying to unravel the federal bill.

Cat, WCAX – How do you do chronic conditions and age groups work together?

Scott – Chronic conditions will be put in priority in their age group – move to front of the line

Levine – Still will depend on amount of vaccine moving into the state. But won’t get into the next phase for a month.

Cat – How will people notified about their ability to get vaccine?

Levine – Through primary care, social media, news. Registration will likely follow same way that we’ve done testing. Will be rolling out details in next month. Have been working on assumption of trust and honesty re: question on proof of chronic condition. Won’t be having rigid enforcement with that.

Lisa, Valley Reporter – Use of antibodies from people who have recovered from Covid?

Levine – Have therapy in Vermont. Use to keep person out of hospital. Controversy over use. Can’t see them used in a preventive fashion. Will see what study says.

Ed, Newport Daily News – Any particular vaccine better for certain populations and are you tracking people who get vaccine?

Levine – Yes. Immunization registry. Phase three trials looking at who benefits more from each vaccine. Hope that studies in pipeline will look at age and chronic conditions.

John, VPR – How are you going to prioritize people of color and marginalized communities?

Smith – Health Department has done a marvelous job reaching out to those communities with testing. Haven’t developed criteria yet. Trying to accelerate program at LTC facilities.

Erin, VTDigger – Front line workers – they won’t have prioritization?

Scott – Will just be done by age banding – and health care workers were in 1A.

Joe, Barton Chronicle – Some people who have contracted disease – there’s been long lasting effects. Data on that?

Levine – Evolving situation with chronic symptoms from Covid. Could be chronic fatigue, mental, cardiac… outlier rate is 10% of people who had covid. Close to embarking on our own study. Long hauler syndrome – need to watch closely.

Tom, Vermont Standard – Listing of facilities that have received vaccine?

Smith – Can make schedule available to you. Facility in Woodstock is one that won’t receive by Jan 8.

Ham Davis – People who won’t accept it?

Smith – Planning that everyone will accept it.

Davis – What happens to those for who the vaccine does not work?

Levine – If you have enough vaccinated or had received it – people will have less of a chance of running into the virus. Or get milder symptoms if it doesn’t have a full effect.

Avery, WCAX – Newbury voting to pull out of union school district – several communities holding similar votes in upcoming weeks – sign that Act 46 mergers not working?

French – Act 46 has been challenging for a number of districts to navigate. Asking legislature to look at issue. Underlying conditions that brought Act 46 into being aren’t going away – not surprised to see some of these issues coming forward.

Jolie, Local 22 – Does 1A have to receive second dose before move onto next group?

Levine – No.

Jolie – Guidelines for restaurants on NYE?

Scott – Bigger concerns for people gathering with multiple households. Strict requirements for restaurants. Lets let 2021 come without a lot of fanfare.

Kurrle – Bars closed. Can dine with household.

Tim, Vermont Business Magazine – Looking to go in different direction with PUC? Do you have an issue that they’re basically a fourth branch of government?

Scott – Sarah Hoffman not seeking to be re-appointed. Looking for someone who’s a moderate and understands values of Vermont. Shares my views. Right temperament and attitude and has 4 C’s that I talk about. The commission that has a lot of power – important to put people on that understand the responsibility. Wouldn’t advocate for disbanding the Commission.

Guy Page – PUC has been drilling down a lot on reducing per kilowatt cost of solar power, net metering subsidies, and keeping energy prices down – do you expect that your appointee would continue in that practice?

Scott – Looking for someone with the 4C’s. One is commitment to my vision and the affordability of Vermont is a problem for us. No different here.

Page – Marijuana Board – Was supposed to be appointees for Nov 4 – you called for another round of candidates – are you unhappy with the first one?

Scott – Haven’t rejected anyone – just asking for a pool of candidates. Want them appointed as quickly as we possibly can.

Greg – County Courier – Correctional facility testing?

Smith – Accelerated testing with PCR testing. Each week doing facility wide testing. Reserving antigen testing for long term care facilities.

Mike – Islander – How many no-shows on vaccines have you seen?

Smith-  Not running program for LTC – first time I’ve heard about no shows at facilities. After 1A – go to Mass Vax program – 1B, 1C no longer. Maybe different directions than some other has. Think this is the fairest and easiest to administer.

Too soon to know what actual vaccine uptake will be?

Levine – Have seen other surveys on health care workers – percentage of people wanting to get receive going up.

What will happen to indoor gathering restrictions with if sports games beginning?

Scott – Have to wait to get through holidays to see.

Seven Days – Any reporting of adverse reactions?

Levine – Common mild ones expected. Haven’t heard results yet of initial administration. But opportunity for reporting of data. Haven’t heard of any anaphylactic ones in VT. Mass had 2 with Moderna. – Usually seen with people who have had previous reactions.

Steve, NEKTV – If case count is up, why hasn’t ICU count increased?

Levine – Only a fraction of our beds being used. Below bar where we would worry about beds access. Seeing lower ICU rates because of change in management of covid. More young people reported.

Steve – Regarding UI computer system – like a coal fired wheezing machine – only one person understands the language to update – maybe put pressure on legislature to update?

Scott – Couldn’t have said it better than you – have asked legislature to do for years. Understand that previously had had lower rates. I think everyone understands the need now.