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 4.27.21
During Tuesday’s press briefing, Gov. Phil Scott and his administration officials provided an update on vaccination progress, weekly health update, work search requirements, and other related items.
- VT Forward Plan’s May 1 goal has been met (51.1% of VT population 18 + has been vaccinated)
- Cases are on decline (under 100 per day for 9 straight days) in every age group
- Cases remain low on college campuses
- 13 out of 14 counties (all except for Lamoille county) saw a drop in cases
- NH and ME have high case numbers – be vigilant and don’t let your guard down
- Cases will decrease
- By June daily cases are expected to be in single digits
- This model will be successful if we all do our part
- Hospitalization and fatality rates are down (average hospitalization age has been on decrease)
- 14 Vermonters lost their lives this month due to COVID-19
- VT ranked highly in the nation across all categories (#2 in doses administered, #4 in population fully vaccinated, #1 in 65+ fully vaccinated)
- Nationally the vaccination rates came down (9%) last week, VT rates came down 3%.
- Northeast region – case rates and hospitalization rates have seen great improvement.
Commissioner Harrington provided an update on unemployment insurance program:
- Prior to COVID-19 people were required to look for work each week; this requirement was waived due to COVID-19
- The work search requirement is being reinstated the week on May 9, 2021.
- To remain eligible for unemployment insurance program, people would have to show proof of valid work search which consists of:
- Proof of outreach to employers (at least 3 formal job inquiries per week)
- set up a job seeker profile on-line
- claimants are obligated to accept a suitable job offer (refusing it may result in the loss of benefits)
- all claimants must perform a weekly job search unless they have a COVID-19 qualifying circumstance, or they are self-employed
- individuals who are in the PUA program who are not self-employed and are not sole proprietors, must also perform a weekly work search
- self-employed individuals should be prepared to report business engagement efforts and activities should the federal government require it at a future time.
- Research shows that the longer people are out of workforce, the harder it is to get back in.
- There will be multiple virtual townhall events regarding this topic in the coming days (first one tomorrow at noon); more information on https://labor.vermont.gov.
- Beware of fraud – it’s been on the rise. If you receive anything from the Department of Labor and you haven’t filed for unemployment benefits, please report immediately at 802-828-4104.
Deputy Secretary Samuelson:
- Johnson & Johnson (“J&J”) vaccine has now been determined to be safe and effective. The benefits of the vaccine outweigh the risks (for individuals 18+).
- Administration of J&J vaccine has been resumed across the state.
- There’s a special drive-through clinic in Barton today (for those who don’t have appointments).
- 52% of Vermonter ages 16 – 17 and 43% of Vermonters ages 18 – 29 have bene vaccinated or registered.
- 54% of BIPOC population has signed up for vaccines.
- As of this morning, 324,100 Vermonters have been vaccinated.
- Case positivity rate is 1.1% in VT
- 19 hospitalizations, 6 in ICU
- There have been national news reports that people who get 1st dose don’t come back for the 2nd dose. It’s not a concern in VT – fewer than 3% of cases.
- Total cases of TTS (rare blood clot) – 15; all cases were registered in women ages 16 – 59. TTS is very rare. Risk of getting COVID-19 is much greater.
- Contact your provider if you’d like to know which vaccine is the right choice for you.
- No case increases as the result of North Beach celebration recently.
- Agency of Commerce and Community Development website has guidelines on overnights and summer camps.
- New guidance for fully vaccinated people – coming today from the White House.
- There are vaccine appointments available – if you haven’t scheduled yet, please sign up.
- Pfizer and Moderna vaccine supply will be steady for the next few weeks. We’ll get 800 doses of J&J vaccine for each state and pharmacy programs next week.
- Step 2 of VT Forward Plan will be discussed on Friday.
- Last Saturday was national drug take-back day – Vermonters returned over 7,000 pounds of expired medication. For more information, go to http://healthvermont.gov/doyourpart.
Q: Vaccination rates are down 3% last week. What barriers are you seeing?
A: One of the barriers: there was no J&J vaccine available. You’re going to see larger scale of vaccinations in the near future. There will be more opportunities for walk-ins (we bring vaccine to those who need and want it). We are hoping the 12 -15 age group will receive emergency authorization mid to late May. We are gearing up for that.
Q: How to balance a work search requirement for those who don’t have suitable childcare available?
A: As we saw more and more in-person instruction and schools, and more people get vaccinated, we thought it was the right time to reinstate this work search requirement. If someone has a COVID-19 qualifying circumstance, they will be exempt from the work search requirement.
Q: Do you see the job search requirement helping hospitality industry?
A: I don’t see it solving the work force shortage problem. I see it being a part of the solution.
Q: Is there a concern that people won’t return to the workforce?
A: Because of our demographics, as people are getting older, they are not participating in the workforce. This problem existed before pandemic. We need to attract more people to VT.
Q: 2020 census numbers – is it COVID-19 related?
A: 2.7% increase (20,000 growth in population) is not enough. Making VT more affordable is the key for people to want to stay here. During pandemic VT has been rated the healthiest and safest state in the nation.
Q: Is Canadian border going to open soon?
A: Not yet. Each country has its concerns for good reasons.
Q: Did the census numbers surprise you?
A: Yes, a bit. I was pleasantly surprised. We need more people to come and stay here.
Q: Does the state record what vaccines people are getting (if someone loses their vaccination card, for example)?
A: Yes. There’s an immunization registry (it’s not available to public) that records all state and pharmacy immunizations. Immunization passport is still at a debate stage in the country and even internationally.
Q: There’s a company in Franklin county that is worried that if they can’t fill jobs they’ll be leaving. Has it been a concern for other companies?
A: Reinstituting work search requirement is not magically going to have people return. People still have childcare restrictions. This problem (workers’ shortage) has existed way before pandemic.
Q: Jobs that need to be filled – are they primarily in-person or any specific sector?
A: Pre-pandemic we had the lowest unemployment rate in the country of 2.2%. We had more jobs available than people to fill them. We didn’t get to this point overnight. Part of the federal aid we received will be used to invest into infrastructure and economic development to bring more people to VT.
Q: What is the plan for unemployment issues, specifically in Franklin county?
A: The workforce shortages are not because we didn’t have the work search requirement. Childcare is a big issue. The work search requirement won’t fix it instantaneously. We have more jobs than people to fill them. In terms of helping some of those entities: we have money for economic relief. The answer is: make VT more affordable, attract more people.
Q: How are you going to work with legislature to make sure it happens?
A: Same strategy we’ve used for the last 4 years. $1 billion needs to be invested wisely (not to fill budget gaps).
Q: Should those who are under 18 years old and are behind the wheel be held at the same standard as adults? There’s some policy change re: not releasing names of any minors involved in fatalities.
A: We have to follow the law (that says we cannot release the names). I’m fine with what we were doing before. I am going to need help from the legislature to get back to this.
Q: Work search requirement for people who are on PUA and who are self-employed: how can they prove that they are looking for work?
A: They do not have to prove they are looking for work. The federal government at some point may require businesses to be engaged in recruitment efforts.
Q: Can you estimate how many are collecting unemployment?
A: Roughly 20,000 – 22,000 are collecting unemployment; 10,000 are under PUA.
Q: Over the weekend a 16-year old driver killed a classmate while driving drunk. The names can’t be released. At what point are we going to have transparency in VT?
A: We feel we need a change in the statute to allow us to go back to transparency. At this point we need to follow the law.
Q: Should teenagers be facing the same consequences as adults for DUI with death resulting?
A: We are hoping to come to a resolution with the legislature.
Q: CDC updated guidance on mask wearing outdoors. How will it compare to VT guidance?
A: We’ll develop our policy in a week or so. CDC began to recognize there’s an opportunity not to wear a mask outdoors. There’s some very new literature to support this.
Q: Those who are immune-compromised may not be as protected after vaccinating. What’s the guidance?
A: The vaccinated person should be aware who is in their surroundings. Be cognizant of those who have compromised immunity.
Q: Does VT need more vaccines? Pretty soon U.S. will run out of people who want to be vaccinated.
A: We want to make sure we get the supply we need to vaccinate people who want it. In VT we are in good shape. We are working with pharmacies to use up their supplies for pop-up clinics, etc. Another possibility being discussed is to offer vaccine to out-of-state students who want to stay in VT over summer, and also to 2nd home owners who will be returning here for the summer.
Q: 3% of Vermonters didn’t go back for 2nd dose. Why did this happen?
A: We don’t have a list of reasons. Possible guesses: forgetfulness, inconvenience, illness between doses. 3% is a very small number. Nationally, there are some who got side effects from 1st shot and are reluctant to get 2nd shot. The 3% who didn’t come back for the 2nd dose are still protected to some degree. We want to hear from them.
Q: How does one go about replacing their vaccination card?
A: It’s in our records that you’ve been vaccinated. Recommendation is to take a picture or make a copy of your card.
Q: Mask wearing for campers.
A: Sleeping suggestions: distance, or head-to-toe (not everyone lined up in the same direction); eating: facing the same directions, not eating indoors if possible.
Q: When do you expect masking and social distancing guidelines to disappear?
A: May – June – universal guidance (masking), July – recommended (vs. required) strategy. We’ll be updating guidance as we review data.
Q: Workforce shortage solution – should we be attracting young people from out of state?
A: 90% of state college students are from VT. Hiring is a good tool in general. College graduates are looking at good job and affordable housing. New federal relief money might help us create more affordable housing.
Q: Is the plan to direct some of the money to colleges?
A: We think there’s enough money in the general fund to help colleges (not from federal aid package).
Q: Is there an estimate how many jobs are available?
A: We don’t have a clear method of capturing this number. 6,000 jobs are posted on the state jobs website (we recognize it’s only a fraction). Employers are encouraged to reach out and engage with our workforce development team and get the positions posted.
Q: Will COVID-19 vaccinations be mandatory for high school students?
A: No discussion re: mandating this vaccine at this time.
Q: There have been some technical difficulties reported with the Department of Labor website re: unemployment benefits.
A: I am not aware of any technical issues (will review it after the press conference).
Q: Thoughts on VT Bread Co. shut-down.
A: It’s very unfortunate. It took me by surprise. We’ll do our best to connect the employees with some viable job alternatives.
Q: How does the state plan to help those who have been home for a long time due to childcare needs and are now ready to join the workforce?
A: There is a number of opportunities we have through workforce development division, providing additional training opportunities, link with businesses who are hiring.
Q: PPE surplus
A: I am going to connect with folks in public safety. If we have surplus, we’ll definitely share with other countries.
Q: Former employees of Koffee Kup Bakery & VT Bread Co. – will there be any job fairs?
A: Yes, rapid response from Dept. of Labor: hosting virtual job fairs, we’ve connected with other employers throughout the state who have a great deal of openings, we are also looking for a potential buyer to keep this company in VT.
Q: MIT study re: social distancing indoors not effective (whether it’s 6 feet or 12 feet).
A: This was a mathematical modeling study (not in a lab with actual human beings). Some studies come up with different conclusions. I don’t know of anyone who is using this study for their re-opening process.
Q: It wasn’t clear whether the decline in cases among younger people was due to behavior change. Is coronavirus seasonal?
A: Because COVID-19 is a respiratory virus, in the future it may become a seasonal virus. It will depend on many variables: our behavior, vaccination numbers, global picture.
Q: Is the situation in India and Brazil present a real danger because those places are not sufficiently provided with vaccines?
A: Yes. The way the virus can develop and mutate, depends on level of transmission from one person to another. The good news is that the majority of the variants seen today were impacted favorably by the vaccines. It’s early to comment on what’s going to develop in India.
Q: Did Koffee Kup Bakery provide a sufficient notice under state law?
A: There are exceptions to the law re: timeliness of notice. Our legal council is reviewing the notice to see if any of the exemptions apply.
Q: Generally speaking, should the companies provide sufficient notices?
A: Ideally – yes. Depends on case by case. What we like to be able to do is not always appropriate.
Q: What financial issues for Koffee Kup were you aware of?
A: I don’t have any particular details.
Q: What should accountability look like for juvenile drivers when an accident happens?
A: There’s discussion regarding this in legislature (increasing age of accountability for crimes). I expect this will be a topic of discussion in legislature. Driving is a privilege, not a right.