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 5.4.21
During Tuesday’s press conference, Gov. Phil Scott and his administration officials provided an update on vaccination program, COVID-19 modeling data, health statistics, and other related items.
Secretary M. Smith:
- VT is 1st in the nation re: vaccines administered per 100,000 people
- The state is transitioning to provide more opportunities for walk-ins and pop-up clinics
- This week there will be numerous clinics across VT colleges – open to all eligible Vermonters. The goal is to vaccinate as many as possible. Registration is encouraged but some walk-ins will be accommodated.
- As of this morning 351,300 Vermonters have been vaccinated (104,000 received their 1st dose)
Commissioner M. Pieciak:
- 7-day average remains stable
- Cases decreased in population 40+, cases increased in those under 40 years old
- 18 – 29 year olds are not scheduling vaccination appointments as actively as we’d like to (we are slightly below the national average in this group)
- Essex county saw a jump in cases this week
- Forecast: lower case trajectory through May and June
- Hospitalization and fatality rates decreased
- 17 deaths in April (in comparison to 71 deaths in January)
- VT is #3 in the nation in percentage of population fully vaccinated
- Strong uptake to vaccination program in VT – 57.4% of Vermonters started or completed vaccinations
- This week 47,000 cases were reported across the region (the fewest since November 2020)
Commissioner S. Squirrell reviewed the mental health data:
- May is a mental health awareness month
- COVID-19 impacted both children and adults
- 12 – 17 year olds reported more symptoms of anxiety and mental health concerns in fall of 2020 than fall of 2019. Even more cases were reported in April 2021 – we are moving in the wrong direction.
- Efforts to fully re-open schools are critical to kids’ well-being; AOE Recovery Plan addressed the need to attend to social and emotional well-being.
- Thank you to the efforts of education leaders, teachers and support staff.
Dr. M. Levine:
- 1.1% positivity rate
- 17 hospitalizations, 6 in ICU
- We have a year’s worth of data – the vaccine is effective and safe. If you haven’t gotten vaccinated, do so.
- Even if you are already vaccinated, you have a role to play. Reach out to someone in your life and help in any way you can (assist with registering, give a ride to vaccination site, share your experience, or provide a reason to get vaccinated).
- A term of “herd immunity” means “community immunity” – we need to appeal to Vermonters to continue to make VT the safe state to live.
Gov. P. Scott:
- Vaccine supply will be steady over the next few weeks
- The White House is making some changes to the federal pool and how vaccine gets distributed – the new system will allow us to order more if other states don’t need/ order.
- About half of those under 30 have been at least scheduled for vaccinations.
- Do your part – by vaccinating you are not only helping yourself but also people around you.
Q: Potentially 12 -15 year olds will be eligible next week. What do you anticipate the uptake of the vaccine will be?
A: There are 25,000 – 27,000 people in this age group. If their vaccination expectations match their parents, there will be a strong uptake of the vaccine.
Q: The administration is working on the plan to relieve the backlog of youth in the emergency rooms. What is the plan exactly and how much is this going to cost?
A: Having children and youth waiting in the ER long is not acceptable (regardless of pandemic). The pandemic decreased capacity of community mental partners and services to provide in-person services. This morning the Agency of Human Services presented short and long-term solutions for this problem. From a resource step point, we are in a great position – mobile response program to providing crisis services to children and families. 71% of the Department of Mental Health’s budget already goes to community mental health agencies and resources. Many additional federal funds are coming – over $8 million of federal funding to the Department of Mental Health. There are many needs in the system and we’ll be prioritizing.
Q: Is there a plan to gear-up and get ready for when the approval for 12-15 year-old vaccine comes through?
A: It will be a hybrid model: an option to go through school or a clinic.
Q: Colleges are trying to figure out fall plan re: requiring vaccination. Do you have a recommendation what they should do?
A: There’s a national discussion regarding vaccination requirements. 5 schools in VT voiced the idea of mandating the vaccine. The academic community is discussing it. It’s early to give advice.
Q: As more walk-in clinics are opening up, are people taking advantage of this?
A: A lot of people want convenience – all the college sites mentioned earlier will be accepting walk-ins. It should help with the age group we want to target: 18 – 29.
Q: What is Vermont’s current vaccine cap?
A: 20,000 per week. With the new just announced changes from the White House, we’ll be able to ask for as much as 50% more on a weekly basis (it will depend how much is in the federal pool).
Q: Schools – could VT allow more in-person instruction?
A: We’re encouraging all schools to get to in-person instruction by the end of school year if possible. Everything points that we should be all back to in-person instruction by fall.
Q: Does the website allow Vermonters to search the list of available clinics without registration?
A: I’ll look into this to make sure a list of walk-in clinics is available.
Q: What’s the turnaround time from registration point and being able to get 1st dose?
A: 2 weeks.
Q: Fraudulent claims – do hackers have access to a specific state’s database?
A: Often hackers go back and use data from breaches that happened 10 – 15 year ago. State employee salaries are public info and are on the web. The 1099 issue/ error was due to a circumstance that occurred by the department.
Q: The legislature will take an extra week to wrap up (and 4 more weeks in the fall). Readers are concerned that the legislative session was designed for COVID-19 issues, but the legislature strayed into other topics.
A: Whatever they (legislature) decide to do. Re: coming back, there are opportunities for vetos, they would have to come back in late June and October.
Q: Re: walk-in clinics – if it’s a two-shot vaccine, how does the second appointment work?
A: We’ll make an appointment for follow-up (either assign a clinic or schedule a clinic around the time the 2nd dose is needed).
Q: Are you concerned that people won’t show up for 2nd dose (for walk-ins)?
A: No. There’s a very small number of those who didn’t show up for 2nd dose.
Q: Are we potentially more vaccinated than the numbers show (if it’s done in another state – e.g. FL, NH)?
A: We are getting updated records regularly (especially from NH).
Q: Identity theft question – should the state be covering people (who were victims of the state breach identity theft) for longer than 1 year?
A: It’s more than 1 year. We don’t announce it to avoid the fraudsters listening and getting this info.
Q: Do the people you are protecting know how long they are protected for?
Q: How understaffed is police from administration point of view?
A: It’s important to recognize that we have staffing issues throughout the state (both in public and private sectors). Staffing in law enforcement is an increased concern in VT and beyond. The hiring pool is shrinking.
Q: Do you support removing the year 2020 from calculations of the unemployment trust fund goal?
A: It’s imperative we take action on this. If we don’t do something now, it will impact business climate in VT. I think removing 2020 is reasonable. We provided testimony and are doing everything we can for legislature to take this up. We are a week away to set tax schedule. Our fear is that it’s not something businesses can handle (tax increase).
Q: For people who are working outdoors – do they have to follow the same guidance re: masking?
A: We’ve relaxed the policy – you don’t have to wear a mask when outside (if within 6 feet). Those who work outside are under OSHA requirement. It takes precedence over the state guidance.
Q: Do you have figures if there are any leftover J&J doses after Barton clinic or whether you had enough walk-ins to use up the supply?
A: We had about 400 doses and didn’t get that many walk-ins, but we used up the doses (by distributing to other clinics) so nothing got wasted.
Q: AstraZeneca vaccine – will there be a request for emergency authorization?
A: I don’t have a great deal of insight. It’s doubtful that it will make much difference here. The stockpile of AstraZeneca vaccine in our country is rather large. It’s going to be shipped to other parts of the world that received its approval.
Q: You are pushing for VT “herd immunity.” What would it mean if the rest of the nation doesn’t have it?
A: It’s more reason for us to protect ourselves. If we protect ourselves to that degree, there’ll be very little virus transmission in VT.
Q: New Jersey recently announced incentives “get a shot and get a beer” campaign. Does VT plan to give incentives?
A: A creemee coupon idea is alive and well. Stay tuned.
Q: The budget bill was cut in half, the amount of ARPA funding they are willing to spend this year and they are saving the rest for next year. Does that work for you?
A: There are other factors. Both the Senate and the House took a portion of the rooms and meals tax that we dedicated for water quality and we are supplementing ARPA money. Something we agreed to 2 years ago was well received. We struggled on the funding source. Now they are taking the money source and using creative counting to use money for other purposes. That’s something I couldn’t agree to. We have enough money in the system, the surplus has grown. There’s no reason not to use some of the surplus money (not ARPA money). I’m hopeful the House will take another look at this.
Q: Will booster shots need to get emergency approval?
A: I don’t think that within VT there’s a kind of resistance that EUA v. actual approval is going to make a difference. Re: booster shots – it requires an approval process (not EUA).
Q: What have you seen in early stages of walk-in clinics?
A: We saw success in Barton, we’ll see a lot of success in walk-ins.
Q: A reader in Rutland: cases in Rutland are not falling quickly (even though the vaccination level is at 60%). What’s happening?
A: There’s been an increase in last week (before that the cases were going down). I don’t believe it’s a trend.
Q: When will volunteers be allowed in correctional facilities?
A: We are looking at it right now. 400 inmates (out of total 1200) refused vaccinations. We want to circle back and raise the vaccination level before talking about volunteer and visitations policy.
Q: What have we learned re: why in different parts of the state the vaccine uptake is higher and lower? Is it connected to demographics (like in red-blue state comparison)?
A: Essex county has a lower vaccine uptake. It’s very rural and spread out, with about 6,000 people. We haven’t attributed it with red/blue.
Q: Will there be vaccine clinics for homeless people?
A: Over the next few weeks we’re making an effort to vaccine the homeless (mostly with J&J shot – for convenience).
Q: Are there any plans to revisit the health guidance in schools?
A: The guidelines didn’t change substantially and will be revisited for the fall.
Q: What would you say to Vermonters who don’t think that heroin dealers on probation should just be released with a date to appear in court?
A: Over the years the options available became very limited in terms of rules of arrest and when folks can go to jail; the ability to incarcerate someone pre-trial has been limited by new statutes that have been passed. I’m concerned that that we have lost our general sense of balance in the criminal justice system; there are some questionable public policy initiatives. We don’t discuss investigative tactics. General approach to those who are dealing drugs is something drug task force takes incredibly seriously.
Q: There’s been a semi-lockdown in the Department of Corrections since pandemic. With the increased number of people vaccinated, are you going to be loosening the restrictions?
A: There’s a very low vaccine uptake in some of these facilities. When we bring the vaccination rates up, we’ll be discussing how we are going to be opening up various activities.