Governor Scott Press Conference Notes 1.15.21

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 1.15.21

Vermont Lodging Association Member Update:
Governor Scott’s Covid-19 Press Conference 1.15.21

During Friday’s press conference, Governor Phil Scott and his administration officials provided an update on vaccine distribution, school sports guidance, and other related items.

Governor Phil Scott’s notes:

  • Governor signed an executive order this morning to extend the state of emergency for another month.  As we begin vaccinating, it is my hope that we will be lifting the restrictions.  For now we need to follow the guidelines.
  • Effective January 18, we are entering Phase 2 in our Sports and Recreation guidance.  Spread of the virus in schools remains low.  Phase 2 will allow for schools to hold practices, no games and scrimmages between schools, masks will be required at all times, outdoor sports (like Alpine and Nordic skiing) are allowed in small groups.
  • We are entering the next phase of vaccinations.  Starting January 25 we will start vaccinating population ages 75 and older.  Data shows that the older you are the more vulnerable you are, that’s why we must focus on the older population first.  Our vaccine supply is limited.  It will take several weeks to get through each phase/group.
  • Governor recognized the hard work of the school employees.  South Burlington school is celebrating Dom Marabella this week.  This weekend was his 90th birthday.  He’s worked in the public education for 60 years.  Thank you Dom for your service to your community!

Secretary French:

  • Data from schools (as of the end of December):
  • Number of COVID cases stays relatively low.
  • 30% of students are attending in person, 50% are in hybrid learning, 20% – fully remote.  More students are attending in person at the elementary level. This is mostly due to distancing requirements that are different at the high school level (6 feet) vs. elementary (3 feet).  This means it’s more difficult for high schools to have more students at the location at the same time.
  • Schools have been operating consistently, even when virus cases have increased.
  • Each week there’s been PCR surveillance testing in about 25% of our schools (starting mid-November).  This week data shows that schools have lower positivity rate than general population.  Schools and staff deserve credit for keeping the numbers now.
  • Epidemiological data continues to show little evidence of in-school transmission of the virus; this means that students and staff bring it through the outside community interactions.


Secretary Smith:

  • Vaccine distribution is our highest priority.  Vermont is focused on using all available doses.  As long as the supply is steady, we will get vulnerable groups of Vermonters vaccinated by the end of winter.
  • We are making good progress.  We will learn as we go and will make the process faster and easier.
  • 1st dose was administered on December 15, 2020 to the front line workers, nursing facilities residents and staff, hospitals.
  • As of today we’ve administered nearly $35,000 doses and Phase 1A is almost finished.
  • We are ready for Phase 2 – distribution by age.
  • Beginning 1/25/21, population 75 years old and older will be able to register for vaccinations.
  • There are about 49,000 Vermonters in the 75+ age group.
  • The vaccination of this group will take about 6 weeks to complete (based on the number of vaccines available).
  • Registration will be on-line and by phone.  The on-line link and phone numbers will be provided prior to 1/25/21.  We expect more calls than on-line registration.  Please help your elderly family members whenever possible to make on-line registration (our preference) instead of phoning in.
  • Once appointment is made, it’s very important to keep it.  Doses will spoil if there’s a no-show.
  • 2nd doses – expect to make an appointment at the time and place where you receive your 1st dose.  We will do everything we can to ensure supply for the 2nd vaccination.
  • For next week we will grant hospitals permission to use vaccine available in their inventory (and not needed for Phase 2) for most vulnerable population (75+ and who are inpatients)
  • After 75+ population is vaccinated, next group will be 70+, then 65+, and so on.  We expect to be finished with the 65+ group by the end of winter.

Dr. Levine:

  • Many people are anxious to know when they will get vaccinated.  We understand your concerns.  We wish we had enough to give it right now to everyone.  It’s a complex process.
  • Wait until we provide phone number and on-line link.  Do not call your healthcare provider.
  • Once 65+ group is finished with vaccinations, 18 – 65 with severe illnesses and conditions that will put them at higher risk will be eligible to the vaccine.  The definitions of severe illness and “special” conditions are:
  • Hospitalization
  • Admission to the ICU
  • Intubation or mechanical ventilation
  • Current cancer
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • COPD
  • A variety of heart conditions
  • Weakened immune system
  • Severe obesity
  • Pregnancy
  • Type II diabetes
  • Down syndrome
  • Sickle cell disease
  • We are committed to addressing the historical and current factors that contribute to health disparity.  There’s no question that members of certain demographic groups have been disproportionally overrepresented in VT COVID-19 infection and death rates.   We need to prioritize these groups to reach our goal of preserving lives and protecting those at risk.  Black, indigenous, and people of color will get info and access they need as part of our vaccination efforts.
  • While we wait for vaccine, we must stay committed to keep the virus from spreading (masks, 6-feet distance, get tested if exposed – it’s free).
  • Health update for today:
  • 142 cases yesterday
  • 2.7% positivity rate
  • Deaths total (from beginning of pandemic):  163

Outbreak data:

  • Only 11% of cases are associated with outbreak.
  • Addison County has highest positivity rate.
  • Largest outbreak (115 cases) related to the church in Addison county.
  • We continue to work with all communities of faith to help them understand and implement the operating requirements as set out in our Executive Order.
  • Ski areas – most of the cases are among employees in a range of positions – the same type of mix related to other businesses.  We are not seeing the cases of transmission from skiing itself.
  • Youth sports – there have been no cases of spread of the virus.  It is due to strong adherence to our guidelines.


Q:  You mentioned that we’ve administered 50% of the vaccines we received.  CDC says that we administered only 40%.  Where is the disconnect between this information?

A:  Federal pharmacies have had a gap between recording the data and administering the vaccines.  That’s part of the reason.  VT still is #7 in the nation in terms of distribution.

Q:  How does the state plan to reach out to the communities with demographic groups that are misrepresented?

A:  We have racial equity task force and community leaders who will get this information out.  Our biggest focus is that the communities are eager to be vaccinated, are comfortable.  Because congregate living is common and there are large households, we need to make sure we can educate the entire household.

Q:  Any update on the new PPP program?

A:  There were some entities that were allowed to move forward (some banks).  By Tuesday all eligible lenders will be able to accept applications.  The message to small businesses:  get your application early.  Even if your particular bank doesn’t accept the application until Tuesday, it’s important to be ready, since it’s first come first serve.  If small businesses don’t have a relationship with a lender, VITA is ready to help.

Q:  What’s your advice to Vermonters re:  next week?

A:  My hope is that we are overprepared.  We all need to do our part to make a peaceful transfer of power in DC.

Q:  Federal Government is saying that population 65+ is eligible first for the vaccine.  You are saying first group is 75+.  Why the discrepancy?

A:  We want a simple and effective procedure.  When we have more doses we will open it to more people.  We based this plan on the allocation of the 1st dose and 2nd dose coming.

Q:  What are your thoughts on the President-elect Biden’s proposal for almost 2 trillion dollar relieve package?

A:  There are some areas of concern, but we will see how it plans out.  It would be great news for VT.

Q:  Inaudible Q.

A:  Everyone in the H-band except for those who are with chronic conditions we talked about; we are taking care of those who are in the greatest risk of dying when contracting virus.

Q:  There’s large population of vulnerable people who do not have healthcare agents or other people working with them.  How will you reach out to them?

A: We are hoping to have help of the media.  We will have clinics in every part of the state.

Q:  Is the timeline for vaccination strategy realistic?

A:  Some already have been vaccinated through long-term care facilities; some won’t take vaccine.  The timeline is realistic.

Q:  If another COVID vaccine type is approved, will it change your timeline for distribution and administering of vaccines?

A:  Yes, absolutely.  The timeline is based on available vaccine.

Q:  Is vaccine production going pretty well?

A:   The government stated that by summer time 200 million of Americans will be vaccinated.  A reminder:  at the beginning we were promised 12,000 doses, but we only received 8900.

Q:  Will the population 65+ get vaccine by early March?

A:  March 15 – early April.

Q:  Are you concerned about lifting restrictions for school sports?

A:  Our health experts felt comfortable moving to 2nd phase.  The 2nd phase allows a little more contact but it’s not a dramatic change.  If we haven’t seen such an exemplary safety as we see now, we wouldn’t implement phase 2.

Q:  Among conditions to qualify for getting a vaccine – smoking wasn’t listed.  Is this accurate?

A:  In Vermont we chose not to select it.  It’s not a condition.

Q:  Will we have to prove residency to get a vaccine?

A:  Yes, in most cases.

Q:  We are seeing reports of businesses boarding off storefronts as a cautionary measure for the coming week.  Have you heard any from the stores in VT?

A:  We are watching and monitoring situation, particularly during inauguration.

Q:  Is there a concern about the volume of calls to register for vaccination?

A:  Yes, we are concerned about it.  Please help elderly family members when you can to register on-line.

Q:  Asthma is not on the list of the pre-existing conditions.

A:  Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) will put you on the list.  Asthma is not on the list; it’s on the list of the conditions that can possibly put you at risk.

Q:  Will people in the congregate living situation get a vaccine in addition to those with age eligibility?

A:  Yes.

Q:  What if people who make an appointment don’t keep it?

A:  We have a call-back system; we will have a list of people within 30 minutes if there’s a vacancy.

Q:  Is there an acceptable loss percentage (for vaccine spoilage)?

A:  No, we are trying not to have any spoilage.  Back-up plan – a list of people who are available, or move up a visit to a homebound person.

Q:  Is there any funding that will float through the second stimulus package to the lodging sector?

A:  Most of it is through PPP – bank approved.  We don’t have the discretionary money – the businesses should apply thru the PPP program.

Q:  Can you provide more detail re:  vaccine clinics (how many, etc.)?

A:  They will be put up along the district lines.  14 total.  There will be a receptionist, a person to check you in, someone to confirm identity, someone who gives you a shot, and someone who observes you for 15 minutes after.

Q:  Are you confident in the software to register for vaccines?

A:  We are fairly familiar with this platform (based on the testing software, it’s centralized).  At the same time we need to reset expectations.  It’s the call-ins that will be the issue.  Right now we have 200 call center representatives.  We are hoping to increase to 400.

Q:  Is there a concern with any issues with high school sports moving to phase 2?

A:  Not aware of any.  I feel comfortable with next step.

Q:  How do we restore transparency with requesting public records list of outbreaks?  The wait times are too long.

A:  We are trying to give all the information we can.  I can look into getting your requests expedited.

Q:  PCR testing – getting it in Bennington county is not as easy.  Are there plans to expand?  There’s a local private clinic that is charging $200 for testing.  Is it a reasonable price?

A:  If you sign up on the health department website, it’s free.

Q:  Different grade levels distancing requirements – will the guidance change?  In our school (grades 7 – 12) students are only in person 2 days a week.  How do we increase the amount of days?

A:  We expect conditions to improve; therefore, our guidance will adapt.

Q:  Town by town map is not accurate.  Can the data be sorted by 911 address (rather than the mailing address)?  Several communities get cases logged with other towns.  There’s frustration in the communities near Waterbury who don’t have their own zip codes.  On the paper/map they don’t have any COVID cases, when in fact they do.

A:  Our healthcare surveillance and statistics will look into it.  The message today:  do everything you can to prevent transmitting the virus to one another.  Be constantly vigilant.

Q:  Is there an update what can happen in the upcoming days?  Are there any protests planned?

A:  No known threats in VT.  We continue to ask Vermonters to follow “you see something say something” procedure.

Q:  Are you aware of a couple of potential gatherings this Sunday?

A:  We recognize people’s rights to exercise their rights within the 1st amendment on a variety of topics; but take into account everything what’s going on:  the heightened anxiety of the nation, etc.  Stay safe and think whether it’s the right timing for these gatherings.

A:  There was a request to use state house lawn for a gathering this Sunday.  We reached out to convince and pick another day to keep everyone safe.

Q:  Governor, you issued an executive order to reorganize the natural resources board.  The measure will not go into effect until July 1.  Isn’t there enough time to take a normal course to allow the legislature to refuse you to do it?

A:  It’s in a realm of our ability to do so.  We’ve done this before; it’s not a part of a previous bill that legislature didn’t move forward.  We think there’s some common interest here; we are going to work with legislature.  We will ask for their approval.

Q:  Will there be an opportunity to make an appointment (register on-line) for both husband and wife at the same time?

A:  Yes.  You would put two names and register at the same time.

Q:  What if the spouse is under 75?

A:  We want to adhere to the rules (75+).

Q:  Why prioritize really unhealthy people for vaccinations?

A:  Our data shows that below the age of 65 is when the risk of death drops tremendously.  Anyone with chronic conditions who contracts the virus has higher risk to have serious consequences (hospitalization, critical care, ventilation, death).

Q:  Will Phase 2 in Sports allow 2 hockey teams in the outdoor rink?

A:  As long as it’s within the same school.  No competition between schools.  Interschool scrimmages only.

Q:  Governor, have you been questioning your affiliation with Republican Party lately?

A:  The Republican Party will have to do some soul searching, what our values are, whether it’s a party of Trump, and if they are going to continue with white supremacy, dominating, etc.  We will all have to make some decisions.  I am hopeful the party will get back to its roots.  Time will tell.

Q:  Leaders of Republican Party have been spreading conspiracy theories about election, last week’s events, etc.

A:  I believe it was a fair election.  It was more about the President trying to manipulate the system to continue to be President.

Q:  Do you agree that the Chair of Republican Party should resign?

A:  Some officials in the party will have to do some soul searching what the party represents.

Q:  President-elect suggested to drop doses from 2 to 1.  Have you assessed this possibility?

A:  We have our reservation to give just 1 shot, it’s most effective with 2 shots.  There’s no science-driven guidance that we should be giving just 1 shot.  We have high hopes for more manufacturers to come through which will increase the supply.

Q:  There’s a rumor that Windham Southwest school district has received vaccine.  Can you confirm?

A:  I have no knowledge of this.

Q:  Can 2nd home owners receive the vaccine in VT?

A:  They will not be eligible.  If they have moved and have a job and have intention to become resident, then yes.

Q:  Last week there was no data of vaccine acceptance rate.  Also, what side effects were reported?

A:  Don’t get hung up on numbers.  It’s a moving target.  People change their minds.  As of now about 80% in nursing homes (for residents) and 80% in healthcare facilities – acceptance rates.  I can’t give the final numbers.

There’ve been 25 adverse events (side effects) reported total so far.

Q:  Why focus on older Vermonters?

A:  This is about keeping the people alive.  Those at greatest risk will get vaccinated first.  This is up to us to limit the community spread.

Q:  Do you have a deadline when we move to Phase 3 in winter sports?

A:  We’ve talked about extending the season to end of March.  We understand that our window is short but we need to be comfortable before moving to phase 3.

Q:  Do you have a limit to a number of games to have this season?

A:  We are asking people to keep an open mind.  Everything is very fluid right now.

Q:  The CDC just approved a rapid antigen test for travel to the US.  Why don’t we use these cheap tests and end lockdown and open businesses?

A:  The antigen test has lost of settings.  The thing you fear the most is someone who has no symptoms but might be infections.  The antigen test is more vulnerable to producing false negative results.

Q:  What kind of adjuvant do they use to provoke an immune response?

A:  I will get back to you on use on mRNA.

Q:  Are churches being monitored whether they follow the guidelines of the state?

A:  We don’t specifically monitor the churches.  We have a portal where we receive tips from community.  We follow up as necessary.

Q:  Is there an ability to enforce guidelines for COVID with businesses and churches?

A:  We receive compliance through education.

Q:  Is there going to be opportunity to choose one vaccine over the other?

A:  At this time it won’t be possible.

Q:  Should people address questions whether they should get vaccine to their own healthcare providers (not the call center people)?

A:  Yes.

Q:  Will the clinics that administer vaccines have the same availability as testing locations?

A:  In terms of hours of operation the availability will be more limited.