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 3.30.21

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

Secretary Smith:
• Yesterday registration for vaccinations opened to those 50 years old +
As of today, more than 21,000 of eligible people in this group (50+) made appointments
• 202,300 people have been vaccinated to date (we anticipated that by the end of March 200,000 people would be vaccinated – right on target)
• To date 90% in the 70+ age group, and 75% in the 65-69 age group have been vaccinated.
• Hospital visitation policy will be revisited today. Fully vaccinated visitors will be allowed, they will need to provide vaccination card. Hospitals will have discretion to apply stricter policies.
• Two main changes/ updates to the vaccine registration process – the following additional groups are eligible to register:
1) Parents and caregivers of children with serious medical conditions – can register starting tomorrow (3/31/21)
2) BIPOC population – this group is at higher risk. Starting Thursday (4/1/21) all BIPOC population 16 + can register to be vaccinated.
• Next group (40+) will be eligible to make vaccination on 4/5/21 at 8:15am. Create an account in advance. If unable to register on-line, you can call 855-722-7878, or directly with Kinney Drugs, Walgreens, or CVS Pharmacy.

Commissioner Pieciak provided a weekly update:
• CDC modeling for variants forecasted that it will be dominant by March.
• Last week the cases across the nation were rising (especially in Michigan, one of the slowest states in terms of vaccine rollout).
• This week in VT we crossed the 19,000 cases number. The week has been similar to January 5 week when we saw significant increase in the number of cases.
• Cases have started to climb in population in their 20s. Older population (70+) has shown decrease in case numbers. The reasons are clear: older age groups are vaccinated.
• Vermont is leading the nation in 65+ in vaccinations.
• We estimate that 78 lives have been saved.
• Outbreaks in long-term care facilities are smaller.
• Northern counties and Rutland county are showing more cases and higher transmission rates.
• Hospitalization rate is 6%.
• Weekly fatality rate is down (compared to February).
• Regional cases have 9.23% increase, mostly in the NY metro area, PA, NJ, parts of New England.
• Everyone needs (especially younger people) to double-down on the public health measures.

Dr. Levine:
• Friday numbers were the highest so far (for VT) in a single day. Reasons are varied. VT is not immune, especially with variants circulating. People are travelling when they are not supposed to, many are sick of life in pandemic, but we need to stay vigilant. Wear masks, get tested if necessary.
• VT positivity rate is 2%.
• 25 hospitalizations, 2 in ICU.
• Testing last week was up by 17% over previous week.
• We are seeing some promising results from Israel (50% of people has been vaccinated), Vermont is already at 35% of people who received at least 1 dose.
• New CDC study was published yesterday: 4000 people involved in a study (Moderna and Pfizer were highly effective in real world conditions). A 2 dose regimen prevented 90% of infections, one dose prevented 80% of infections.

Gov. Scott:
• Next week VT will receive 5,000 – 6,000 more doses than previous week (mainly Johnson and Johnson).
• Now is the time to step up, re-commit to public health guidance.
• We made some small changes (for restaurants, bars, clubs), but we still have more stringent measures than MA, CT, NH.
• Don’t let your guard down. Many think I am moving too slow for re-opening. We will continue this methodical approach.


Q: Should the vaccine sites be within 5 miles from a person’s residence?
A: It’s different for rural states. We wanted people to be within half-hour of travel site.

Q: BIPOC population low vaccination rates – do you see it as lack of confidence in a vaccine or in folks administering the program?
A: I don’t know the reasons for sure, but I can give you some theories. The BIPOC community needs more guidance and education, and access to vaccine. Age-related strategy may not be best (even younger ages are getting hospitalized, they frequently live in multi-generation houses, have front-line jobs). It’s a data driven approach to expand the opportunity to the members of BIPOC community to have access to the vaccine.

Q: Why isn’t state following CDC guidance for people who had adverse reaction to Moderna or Pfizer?
A: We do follow CDC guidance. People who had reaction are eligible to get 1 shot of Johnson & Johnson (when available).

Q: Teachers and state workers’ pension plan – state employees and teacher are protesting. Does the plan go too far and did the state break its promise to these groups of people?
A: It’s only a plan, it hasn’t gone to House or Senate yet. We’ve seen the warning signs and it’s time to do something. Until it’s presented in a bill form, it’s hard to say what it’s going to look like.
Q: Should tax payers in some sort contribute something?
A: I think we are. That’s how it’s funded to begin with. $150 million doesn’t come out of thin air. It’s coming out of tax payers, and rightly so. That’s what the whole system is about.

Q: Senate voted on unemployment bill today. What are your thoughts? Are you supportive?
A: I would like to keep it as simple as possible. We need some relief for the businesses, we need them to recover.

Q: Was there any mention of having to provide vaccination documents when crossing Canadian border?
A: The White House is working on something. They said they would have something in a few weeks.
Q: NY moved ahead with card system.
A: We do have it (card system) also already.

Q: Is there anything that can be done to help stop COVID-19 cases?
A: Re-commit to double-down, masking, distancing, avoiding crowds, adhere to all guidance. Some European countries (or parts of them) implemented a lock down strategy. It’s very effective, but it’s extreme and we (VT officials) are not advocating for this now.

Q: What can we expect for restrictions in May and June? Many weddings have been scheduled (and rescheduled from last year).
A: We will have some details within a week.

Q: Many towns are experiencing mud season faster than normal. What does state do to help residents in small towns (to stay safe)?
A: This year’s mud season as about as typical as always. If any communities are needing assistance, we’ll do everything we can. They should reach out to their maintenance district. Most towns have been well prepared.

Q: With all the issues that Governor Cuomo is facing do you think it’s time for him to step aside? Was he on the call today?
A: He was on the call and that question didn’t come up. I think he should do what he thinks is right.

Q: Employers (especially restaurant industry) are frustrated since people are not encouraged to take jobs.
A: We’ll be implementing work search requirements within a month or so. Until we get more people get vaccinated and send kids to school, we won’t implement work search requirements. We still have over 30,000 unemployed people in the state. I am sensitive to those who have childcare restrictions.

Q: With expanded eligibility to BIPOC community, how will it affect the eligibility of people who are currently incarcerated (and belong to this BIPOC population group)?
A: They will be included in this provision. They don’t sign up for vaccine, we bring vaccine to them. We plan to have all age tiers vaccinated with 2nd dose by May 13.

Q: There’s been a very large number of cases in Orleans county, and the vaccinate rate is low. Are there plans to improve the situation?
A: The rise in cases is across all sectors of society. The prison accounted for a fair number of cases. In Orleans county 17.7% of population completed vaccinations.

Q: Canadian border surveillance towers issue. How can government assure the privacy of the citizens?
A: This is a federal (not state) initiative. There’s a way to have a balance, to protect individual rights.

Q: Why weren’t high risk families addressed earlier in the process?
A: We didn’t have (and still don’t have) infinite supply of vaccine.
Q: Do parents need a special code when they sign up?
A: No.
Q: How many families in Vermont will there be in this group?
A: It’s hard to estimate. We don’t think it’s a large number.

Q: Any indication when more pharmacies be in the vaccine program?
A: We are adding them as we speak. CVS now has additional locations, also Hannaford, Costco, Walgreens, Walmart, Kinney Drugs. The location sites are limited due to the amount of vaccine available. We’ll continue to be methodical and add more locations.

Q: Can you speak about the importance of people not getting just 1 shot?
A: The way the trials were done is to get 2 doses. One dose, while adequate for a period of time, may not be adequate for a duration you want it to be.

Q: Is there an update on the bus company outbreak?
A: The school system is aware of it. The company is aware of the guidance re: need to isolate and quarantine.
Q: Do you have the count how many positive cases were documented from this outbreak?
A: In the earliest stage, the count was not high.
Q: Was there any transmission within functioning of the bus?
A: We are not aware, it’s too early to tell.

Q: Is there any progress with people who are homebound?
A: I haven’t heard of anybody who was missed. Next time I’ll provide a phone number to call. We don’t want to miss anyone. We’ve done over 3,000 visits to homebound people.

Q: Is there anything you can do to counteract the messages from people who are advocating against vaccination?
A: We’ll continue advocating for vaccine; we’d like to hear any ideas if you know how to accomplish this.

Q: Are BIPOC prisoners eligible for the vaccine?
A: General rule: if you are in an eligible category among the general population, you are eligible (including correction facilities).

Q: Should surveillance testing be continued by those who have been vaccinated?
A: We believe the best benefit for surveillance testing is from those who have not been vaccinated.

Q: What are the next steps for why the cannabis changed from agricultural product to commercial good?
A: Reach out to the Chair of the Cannabis Control Board.

Q: Is there new spring sports guidance?
A: Yes, on AOE website.

Q: With rising cases, does this change your original planned reopening blueprint?
A: Not at all. We feel confident with the data we have. The more people we vaccinate, the lower numbers we’ll see. It won’t change our strategy for the next three months.

Q: We are seeing more transmission within schools. Is it a good idea to put high school kids to school full time?
A: There’s more activity within community, therefore more in schools. The numbers of schools with cases have increased. We are still on track to implement our recommendation from the CDC.

Q: Can people switch their 2nd vaccine site to a place closer?
A: Short answer: no. It makes it logistically difficult. It’s better to return to the same site for 2nd vaccination.

Q: VT forecast CDC model (shared by Commissioner Pieciak earlier) – is that projection for VT or US average?
A: That is VT model.

Q: 91% of population in the state are in favor of increasing plastic redemption. Is this bill going to go through?
A: It’s got a long way to go. We want our roadways cleaned up. It gets pretty complicated when you think about the magnitude and the facilities necessary. We need to be cognizant of that.

Q: How does tenor of the meetings in Biden administration compare to previous administration?
A: It’s a little different. The meetings under Pence were a little longer. Both administrations are cordial.

Q: Vaccination side effects and impacts on current and future pregnancies.
A: We can’t answer re: future pregnancies (there’s not enough data). Pregnant women are now enrolled in studies and we’ll have more data. Doctors’ consensus re: vaccinating pregnant women – they recommend it.

Q: Moderna vaccine – are there HIV and Hep C parts in this vaccine?
A: I haven’t heard about it.

Q: Will you veto bill S.100 – universal school meals to children?
A: It’s too early to weigh in.

Q: Will out-of-state students be vaccinated in VT?
A: You need to be a VT resident to get vaccinated. At this point in time we want to make sure we take care of VTers first.

Q: Will students be able to get vaccinated since they cannot register until April 19? The school year-end is approaching.
A: April 19 is the date when you are eligible. We hope that the appointments are available and that students can get vaccinated in a timely manner while they are still on campus.