Governor Scott’s Covid 19 Press Conference 2.16.21

Governor Scott’s Covid-19 Press Conference 2.16.21

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 2.16.21

During Tuesday’s press briefing, Governor Phil Scott and his administration officials provided an update on vaccinations, COVID-19 data, and other related items.

Secretary Smith began the conference due to Governor being tied up in another meeting with the White House officials.

  • Any Vermonter age 70+ can now register for vaccine
  • Over 11,000 of Vermonters in the age group 70 – 74 registered in the first few hours (that’s 1/3 of the eligible population in this age band)
  • The most expeditious way to register is on-line (vs. phone)
  • Today all the vaccination sites are open except for one (at Champlain Valley Expo) even despite the weather alerts
  • If you don’t feel comfortable driving today, reschedule
  • As of today, 78,200 of eligible Vermonters have been vaccinated (40,800 received their 1st dose, and 37,000 received their 2nd dose)
  • 51% of Vermonters in 75+ age group as wells as nearly 850 of homebound Vermonters received 1st dose of vaccine
  • Hospital and primary care offices are used to reach out to homebound Vermonters
  • In the nearest future we will be moving to Phase 4 (ages 65+)
  • There was a sudden death of a 62-year old inmate in the correctional facility in Mississippi.  Cause of death is being determined.

Commissioner Pieciak provided weekly COVID-19 update:

  • Favorable COVID-19 trends continue
  • Throughout the U.S. weekly cases decrease.  Reasons:
    • We are past the holidays
    • We acclimated for being indoors
    • We follow the public health guidelines
  • Hospitalizations and death cases declined
  • In VT last week 114 new cases have been recorded – it shows gradual improvement
  • Less cases are being noted in ages 75+
  • Improvement in Bennington and Rutland counties
  • Increase in cases in Essex and Franklin counties
  • VT forecast for the next 6 weeks:  improvement, but the future outcomes are really up to us (how we follow the guidelines)
  • College data:  60 new cases this week (the lowest so far)
  • VT is ranked #10 in the nation (re:  people administered the vaccine on per capita data)

Dr. Levine:

  • On Monday, there were 53 cases and 1 death reported in VT
  • VT positivity rate is 1.7%
  • More than 6,000 tests per day were administered last week
  • 37 patients are hospitalized, 12 in ICU – today’s data
  • Variant strain in the U.S. is expected to become the dominant strain in the month of March (according to the CDC)
  • See CDC website for double-masking advice and tips
  • In the first 60 minutes today, the Health Department received 7,000 calls to register for vaccine.
  • Benefits of vaccination:  in long term-care facilities it will open doors to visitations, communal dining, group activities.

Governor Scott joined the press conference and provided an update on his meeting with other governors and the White House officials:

  • Nationally, weekly vaccine allocation is increasing from 11 million to 13.5 million – that’s good news.
  • If Johnson & Johnson vaccine is approved by the end of the month, 100 million doses will be distributed by the end of June.  It would mean a lot for VT.
  • Pharmacies will increase their allocation nationally (they are increasing their program from 1 million to 2 million).
  • The weather we are seeing throughout the nation can cause delays and cancellations in vaccine availability.
  • Phase 3 (ages 70+) has started.  Anyone who was part of Phase 2 and hasn’t signed up – please sign up.
  • After Phase 4 (65+), we’ll be moving to Phase 5 (those with health conditions).
  • Continue following health guidance.
  • The trends are moving in the right direction.
  • CDC issued a new quarantine guidance for those who’ve been vaccinated.  VT state officials are reviewing this guidance and will announce changes to VT on Friday.


Q:  When will you open registration to ages 65+?

A:  We need to make sure 70+ population is registered, slots are available, and then in a week or two we’ll hopefully announce 65+ registration timeline.

Q:  What’s driving cases in Essex county?

A:  No specific outbreaks.  We are looking at it closely.  We are constantly meeting with community officials.

Q:  There’s been a fair amount of frustrations from those who had appointments cancelled today (due to the storm).

A:  All clinics are open today except the one at the Champlain Valley Expo location.  All appointments will be rescheduled within a week, with a special clinic on Saturday.

Q:  How far out are appointments made?  What is the role of pharmacies?

A:  The appointments are made not too far out.  We are in close coordination with Kinney Drugs – you can go on our website and link there to schedule an appointment.

Q:  The Neck of the Woods childcare center (designated HUB from last fall) in Waitsfield is reducing its capacity due to the mandate to install a new water system by month-end.

A:  This childcare center has been operating under temporary license for over 6 months.  We need to have high quality water for children.  Bottled water is a temporary solution.

Q:  What do you have to back up your weekly numbers?

A:  The Health Department is reporting numbers as they’ve been from the beginning.  We have checks and balances built in, we have no reason to hide the numbers.

Q:  What have you found among misconduct cases (when non-medical folks/ employees receive vaccines)?  Are there rules hospital management has to follow?

A:  We came up with band approach:  1A eligibility wasn’t clear to some.  Since then it’s been clarified to avoid vaccinating those who were not part of the eligible group.  The issue is once you administer 1st shot, they need the 2nd shot.  Whenever we heard of instances like this, we stepped in and sent out new guidance.

Q:  Shouldn’t the hospital do something about it?

A:  The bulk of people who were vaccinated were the ones who should have.  We don’t want to send a message that you will be prosecuted if you didn’t waste the dosage and gave it to non-eligible person.

Q:  Can you comment on instances when vaccine gets thrown out and not given to someone (not in the eligible age group) out of fear of losing their job?

A:  We sent out guidance on minimizing vaccine waste.  It applies to pharmacies also.

  1. If you have somebody on your list (ages 70+), call them.
  2. Healthcare workers, 1st responders.
  3. Next phase group (currently 65+)
  4. Lastly, do not waste any dosage.  Give it to somebody who is not eligible if you have to.

Q:  The phone lines have been tied up and it’s been difficult to sign up for those 70+.

A:  We know many people want to make their appointments.  We’ll sign up everyone over the next couple of days (in the first hour we signed up 7,000 people).  There are only 32,000 in this age group.  We can call it a success to have been able to sign up almost 1/3 of the group in the fist few hours.  We have 300 call takers, be patient.

Q:  Were there any outbreaks in Franklin county attributed to funeral services?  Do you have any guidelines for people who are trying to mourn?

A:  We are not aware of any outbreaks due to funerals recently.  Guidance re funeral:  same as for everyone, except if it’s an indoor facility, the size of the crowd would have to be coordinated with the capacity of this facility.

Q:  Growing number of students are in quarantine.  What percentage is from UVM?  Are there any variant numbers from UVM?

A:  60 students are being quarantined across campuses.  We don’t have the numbers for UVM specifically.  Variant data – still waiting for results from Burlington cases (which includes UVM).

Q:  What will revised guidance for long-term care facilities look like?

A:  We will provide this information on Friday.

Q:  Is influenza break delayed this season?  Or has the vaccination program been that good?

A:  We see the flu cases sporadically in VT.  We increased vaccinations this year.  So many habits we adopted (masking, frequent hand washing) are working in our favor.

Q:  Long-term facility numbers – are they lower than usual?

A:  The number of outbreaks continues to decline.  There’s a decline overall since December.

Q:  Governor, going forward, after COVID, will you consider giving us reports you’ve been doing for the past 11 months?

A:  We have considered this.  The big benefit is that now we are hearing from all parts of the state (not just primarily Montpelier).

Q:  Can you name the school in Franklin county with the outbreak?

A:  Enosburg.

Q:  How many cases?

A:  A dozen.

Q:  Are you investigating why that happened?

A:  Our response team is investigating and is working with superintendents.  In Franklin county there’s a larger amount of community transmission of virus occurring which makes it show up in all facets of life.

Q:  Does the health website allow to see the breakdown to evaluate the progress VT is making vaccinating people of different age groups?

A:  There’s a part of the vaccine website that allows you to see sex/age/race breakdown.

Q:  Provided Johnson & Johnson vaccine is authorized, how will the state recommend it to different groups of Vermonters (since it’s less effective)?

A:  We are working on the details.  We’ll learn more soon.  FDA is contemplating whether to authorize it.  Important thing to remember about measuring effectiveness of the vaccine:  if you outcome measure (symptom) – that’s what you’ve been hearing – 72% effective, if you use a different outcome measure (to protect from hospitalization or death) – it’s 95% – that’s the outcome that really matters.

Q:  Several inmates died over the last few months.  Are you concerned about this?

A:  A death in December was due to a heart condition.  The most recent one in Mississippi – we are still waiting on investigation.

Q:  How many companies took advantage of PPP and EIDL loans?

A:  We don’t have this information right now – we will get it for you.  Banks and credit unions wrote quite a few PPP loans – over 3,500 loans were issued (over $1.5 billion)

Q:  How much money is available?

A:  PPP program is still available (apply by 3/31/21)

Q:  Does the state plan to follow new CDC school re-opening guidelines (to bring kids back to school)?

A:  The guidance won’t have the immediate effect on our community.  We feel pretty comfortable with the strategies we have in place for our community.

Q:  If Johnson & Johnson shot is approved and offered to you, would you get it, Governor?

A:  Sure.

Q:  Who is being considered after chronic conditions phase?

A:  We’ll continue to discuss it over the next few weeks.

Q:  Is it time for our National Guard to come home from Washington DC?

A:  We’ll await guidance from those in Washington.  The guard will be there until they tell us they don’t need us anymore.

Q:  Is there an update on wasted doses?

A:  I don’t have this information right now, I will get it for you.

Q:  Today a third of Texas is still blacked out for a lack of back-up power generation to replace the wind power that failed when the turbines froze.  Three winters ago New England had a similar black-out. You’ve endorsed the New England PowerGrid Plan to build more off-shore wind.  Are you concerned about the future reliability of wind power during emergencies as the grid relies more on wind?

A:  I’m concerned about our capacity.  We are moving forward with electrification.  We can’t count just on 1 source.  We have a substantial amount of power coming in from Canada due to hydro.  We want to broaden the portfolio.

Q:  Next Saturday will be the 2nd anniversary of Chinese Council General’s visit with you and other state officials in Montpelier.  At that time he invited VT to participate in Belt & Road construction, a 70-nation initiative, led by China.  Does VT participate in Belt & Road construction?

A:  As part of my job, I meet with officials from all over the world, most of these meetings are courtesy calls.  From that meeting, I don’t recall that we are a part of this initiative.

Q:  How quickly can the state add additional appointments if more dosages are received?

A:  We created band program for this very reason.  We can open up more if we get more vaccines.  We’ll get through this faster without the confusion/ cancellations that are happening in other states.

Q:  Advocating for H.54 – what’s your approach?

A:  We look forward to working with general assembly how to practically implement it and understand the complexity.  It’s not a simple process.

Q:  Do you agree with approach that rural students, ELL students who are economically challenged are disadvantaged by current formula?

A:  It’s a complex study, it will require adding new weighting factors to calculate equalized pupils, particularly for rural states.  There’s a common mistake that the weight translates into more money for school.  It’s a very complex study worthy of figuring out its implications for implementation.

Q:  Do you agree that a change to our current system needs to be made?

A:  Yes.

Q:  N95 masks – some states are still having shortages.  Does VT have sufficient inventory?

A:  We have over 100-day supply.

Q:  Is there guidance when to use these masks?

A:  The health department published this info.

Q:  If local business is not compliant with public health guidelines, who should we contact?

A:  Contact law enforcement.  Department of Labor is a regulatory entity for these types of issues.  There are repercussions for any business not compliant.