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 4.20.21

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

Commissioner Pieciak:

  • We are seeing steady declines in case numbers and are on track to have a more normal summer
  • 797 new cases this week (a decline from last week)
  • Case rate is down 24%
  • COVID-19 cases are down on college campuses
  • Low case numbers in younger age groups are not connected to vaccinations, but it’s more likely a result of behavior change
  • VT is in the top 10 states in terms of percentage of population vaccinated
  • Estimated 120 lives have been saved so far in the state (due to vaccinations)
  • Fatality rates are down
  • Across the region the hospitalization cases are down by 10%
  • COVID-19 situation is starting to improve in the states around VT

Deputy Secretary Samuelson:

  • We are very encouraged by robust response to the vaccination program
  • About 18,000 of BIPOC individuals have been vaccinated
  • Yesterday 16 + age group became eligible to register for appointments; so far over 47,000 of individuals ages 16 – 29 made appointments
  • As of this morning, 291,128 Vermonters have been vaccinated.

Dr. Levine:

  • Positivity rate is 1.5%
  • 23 hospitalizations, 6 in ICU
  • No deaths in the last few days
  • 1.5 million of COVID-19 tests have been done in VT
  • Info on vaccine breakthrough infections:
  • No vaccine is 100% effective.  There’ll still be some people who will get sick even when there are fully vaccinated.
  • More than 75 million people in the U.S. have been fully vaccinated.
  • 5,814 vaccine breakthrough infections have been registered/ reported.  125 of them were in VT.
  • 45% of vaccine breakthrough cases were in population over 65 years old.  1% resulted in death.
  • These are still rate events.  The vaccines are highly effective.
  • Keep prevention measures up:  masks, social distancing, etc.
  • Earlier this month Pfizer requested to expand administration of vaccine for younger population (ages 12 -15).  The data is yet to be reviewed.  If approved, the younger group will be vaccinated in May – June.

Gov. Scott:

  • This week state vaccine supply will be the same as last (and slight increase for pharmacies)
  • J&J has continued to manufacture their vaccine on a limited basis


Q:  What should Vermonters who are waiting for J&J to resume be doing?

A:  The advisory committee is meeting this Friday.  It’s hard to give recommendation until we know more.

Q:  Have we geared up to get more vaccinations done (with added staff and vaccination sites)?

A:  The availability of vaccine is dependent on the amount of doses coming to the state.  Check with pharmacies for earlier appointments.

Q:  Vaccine hesitancy re:  J&J.  Do you think Vermonters will want it once it’s available?

A:  A large number of people were very disappointed by the pause.  I don’t think we’ll find a lot of hesitancy in regards to J&J.

Q:  There’s an increase in cases for ages 10 – 19.  Have we seen the MIS-C (multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children) in VT?

A:  We thought we had 1 case, but further evaluation with CDC identified that it didn’t meet the criteria.  At present time we haven’t identified any MIS-C cases in VT.  That’s the syndrome that develops after a person has had COVID-19.

Q:  Will there be enough supply of Pfizer vaccine for younger teens?

A:  We think the supply will exceed the demand.  Pfizer and Moderna have ramped up the production of vaccines.  Here in VT we have about 20,000 people in the 12 – 15 year-old age group.

Q:  What’s the immunity rate for both vaccinated and unvaccinated people who had COVID-19?

A:  You’ll not find anyone saying a specific number.  It’s in the 75 – 80% range.  In VT we don’t have a large percentage of population with natural immunity.  Most of it will be from vaccinations.  If you have had COVID-19, you should rely on the immunity, but you should get vaccinated also.

Q:  How long do the antibodies stay in one’s body (if they had COVID-19)?

A:  About 6 months.  We will have more information on the immunity from vaccine (how long it lasts) in the next few months.

Q:  Will the Health Department communicate information re:  booster shots?

A:  Yes.  We haven’t talked about booster vaccinations in detail yet.  More information to come in future.

Q:  Is there a timeframe how long one should wait to get vaccinated after they had COVID-19?

A:  There’s no urgency.  Wait until you get well.  Suggested timeframe is  90 days.

Q:  Do you believe the decreased cases in young groups are tied to behavior only?

A:  No. We are seeing improvement across the region, not just VT.

Q:  Is there any indication on Canadian border opening up?

A:  No, not any time soon.

Q:  Do you have concerns re:  economy with border closed?

A:  Yes, we saw it last summer and this winter.  They are behind in terms of vaccine strategy in Canada.

Q:  VT is on of the 3 states in the nation that doesn’t fully exempt military benefits for retired personnel.

A:  I’ve been promoting this for the last 4 years.  We are one of the 7 states who haven’t taken any action.  It’s the right thing to do to show appreciation.  We need more people to come to the state.  We don’t need reasons for them not to come here or stay here.  This is a big issue.  We need to bolster the work force.  Retired military personnel would come here but they have 43 other options that don’t tax their benefits.  I am asking legislature to reconsider and I don’t think that first $10,000 is enough.

Q:  Do you have a sense that the lack of appreciation from legislation is because they never served?

A:  I don’t know, it may be a better question asked individually.

Q:  Who set up the End Tax on Military Retirement Pay commentary with you and Lt. Gov. Gray?

A:  It was a common interest and appreciation for veterans.  Our staff put it together.

Q:  High school sports started over the weekend.  Many spectators are still required to wear masks.  Is it really needed?  They are outside at a 6-feet distance.

A:  We’ll look at this guidance closer over the next few weeks.

Q:  VT is one of the 13 states to tax social security benefits.  Would you support elimination of state taxation of social security benefits?

A:  Yes.  Back from day 1, I started talking about elimination of SS tax.  I feel the same way about this as I do about taxing the veterans’ pensions.  We were able to come to an agreement at least for low and moderate income.  If they (legislature) would like to go further, I would be inclined to support it.

Q:  Have you been able to identify what works and what doesn’t when advocating for vaccinations?

A:  We continue trying different approaches to give people more confidence in vaccines.  People trust surveys, their peers, education re:  benefits of the vaccine.  Hopefully the J&J pause won’t last long.

Q:  How should the business community handle unvaccinated population?  Should there be guidance saying they can’t come into a business if they are not vaccinated?

A:  Figuring out whether you’ve been vaccinated or not is not as easy as figuring out whether you are wearing a mask.  There’s been a fair amount of flexibility for business community of what decisions they might make re:  vaccination of their customer base.

A:  VT Forward Plan lays out our strategy over the next couple of months.  By July 4 I’m hoping there won’t be a mask mandate.

Q:  You are projecting very high vaccination rates in VT.  To what extent the low vaccination rates outside VT are going to undermine our efforts?

A:  We know that these vaccines will be given a true (not just emergency) approval hopefully soon.  Viruses know no borders.  We’ll need to keep a close eye.  North East in general has a high vaccine uptake.

Q:  What is the vaccination rate for middle age ranges?

A:  All age groups vaccine uptake percentages are continuing to grow:

50+      17%

40+      19%

30+      25%

Q:  What is public education going to look like post pandemic?

A:  We are thinking what to take away from this experience.  Some examples are Technology (advanced use in schools than it was ever before) and Foreign Languages (opportunity to offer a foreign language to a smaller school on a remote basis).

Q:  Do you agree that the Northeast Kingdom has higher vaccine hesitancy rate?

A:  The Northeast Kingdom is rated more hesitant partially due to its voting history.  Even if the vaccine uptake is lower in some counties, because of the high uptake across the state and the region, we are confident that we will get good protection.

Q:  H.315 spending – Inaudible Q.

A:  The issue I have is that it’s a very scattered approach, and it’s hard to track.  We should account for this somewhere.  We should be able to look back at this 20 years from now and be proud how we spent $1 billion.

Q:  CARES Act funding – Inaudible Q.

A:  We’ll be putting together a press release in the next couple of days.

Q:  The ARPA money – will it be distributed equitably throughout the state?

A:  If it were up to me, I would distribute it within rural communities.  From my perspective it would be equitable.

Q:  Have you heard anything on AstraZeneca vaccine rollout in the U.S.?

A:  They are not pushing on getting emergency use authorization in the U.S. at this time.

Q:  How will the pause of J&J vaccine not affect the state re-opening date?

A:  It depends how much increase we receive in Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.  It filled some of the gap.  The original assumptions were made on a very conservative amount of doses available.

Q:  Cloud taxing – do you have thoughts on this?

A:  I’m opposed to taxing this.  I’m continuing to disagree with the House on this provision.  It would be nice for us to be the state that doesn’t tax the cloud.

Q:  Taxing any PPP loans.

A:  I’m opposed to taxing PPPs.  It’s a dangerous precedent.  It’s unclear whether it will be included in 2021.

Q:  Pfizer, Moderna, J&J have been approved for emergency use.  What will it take for them to be formally approved?

A:  The determining factor is the duration of time to make sure the data is more firm.  I expect mid-May we’ll be seeing (for the Pfizer and Moderna) movement towards approval.

Q:  How do you explain the vaccine breakthrough rate is either very low or very high on the national scale?  What can be done about this?

A:  Don’t jump to premature conclusions.  There’s going to be voluntary reporting throughout the country.  Testing is a big part of it.  We in VT have a rich tradition of vaccination reporting.

Q:  Why is immunity 75 – 85%?

A:  You won’t find the consensus on the numbers among public health community.

Q:  Building and expanding VT prisons.  Does the government support this idea?

A:  2-3 years ago the prison expanding wasn’t well received.  I hope we all agree now that we need a modern facility (particular for women’s facility in Chittenden county).  The number of spaces is not something we are looking to increase right now.

Q:  Use of ARPA money.

A:  I am opposed to utilizing the money other than on infrastructure.  It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.