Vermont removing travel quarantine requirement for those with both vaccine doses
>> WERNICK GOVERNOR SCOTT AND OTHER STATE — VERMONT GOVERNOR SCOTT IS STARTING HIS BRIEFING ON COVID-19. GOV. SCOTT: — AS WE HAVE ON THE 19TH OF EVERY MONTH SINCE, I HAVE ORDERED FLAGS TO HALF STAFF TO HONOR THEIR MEMORY AND REMIND US OF THE SACRIFICES THAT WE ARE MAKING AND THEY ARE SO IMPORTANT. ON THIS DAY, I ASK ALL VERMONTERS TO THINK ABOUT THE 193 VERMONTERS WE HAVE LOST. THINK ABOUT THOSE WHO LOVE THEM, THE FRIENDS AND FAMILY. AND THINK ABOUT THE RESPONSIBILITY EACH OF US HAS IN THE CHOICES WE MAKE TO HELP PROTECT THOSE WHO ARE VULNERABLE EITHER BECAUSE OF AGE OR CERTAIN HEALTH CONDITIONS. I AM REALLY PROUD OF HOW VERMONTERS HAVE STEPPED UP TO DO THEIR PART. THAT IS WHY VERMONT CONTINUES TO HAVE ONE, IF NOT THE LOWEST DEATH RATE IN THE COUNTRY. UNFORTUNATELY, WE HAVE SEEN A SIGNIFICANT DECREASE IN DEATHS AND HOSPITALIZATIONS AND — SINCE JANUARY — FORTUNATELY, WE HAVE SEEN A MAJOR DECREASE. IT IS UP TO EACH OF US TO KEEP THIS MOVING IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION, AND THAT MEANS FOLLOWING THE PUBLIC-HEALTH GUIDANCE. I KNOW WE ARE ALL GETTING TIRED OF IT, BUT THE BETTER WE DO NOW, AS WE CONTINUE TO VACCINATE THOSE AT GREATEST RISK, THE FASTER WE CAN GET BACK TO NORMAL. ABOUT 95% OF VERMONT’S DEATHS HAVE BEEN PEOPLE OVER 65, SO EVERY DOSE THAT IS DIVERTED FOR THIS POPULATION PUTS THEM AT RISK AND SLOWS DOWN OUR EXIT STRATEGY. BECAUSE FOR THE OLDEST VERMONTERS AND THOSE WITH CERTAIN CONDITIONS COME AFTER THEY ARE VACCINATED, OUR HEALTH CARE SYSTEM WILL NOT BE AT RISK AND FATALITIES SHOULD BE RARE. AND WE CAN BEGIN TO RETURN TO NORMAL. AS A REMINDER, VERMONT HAS ONE OF THE OLDEST POPULATIONS IN THE NATION, WHICH MAKES OUR STRATEGY EVEN MORE THAT MORE IMPORTANT. FORTUNATELY, WE ARE MAKING GREAT PROGRESS, REGISTRATION FOR THOSE 70 AND OLDER ON TUESDAY, OVER 21,000 IN THAT AGE BAND HAVE ALREADY SIGNED UP, WHICH MEANS WE CAN MOVE TO THE NEXT PHASE VERY SOON. NEXT, I WAS ASKED TUESDAY ABOUT THE STATUS OF THE VERMONT NATIONAL GUARD DEPLOYMENT TO WASHINGTON, D.C. HAPPY TO REPORT OUR MISSION IS COMPLETE AND OUR SOLDIERS ARE RETURNING HOME THIS WEEKEND. AS A REMINDER, I APPROVED THIS DEPLOYMENT JUST OVER ONE MONTH AGO █BECAUSE STATES WERE ASKED T HELP ENSURE THE PEACEFUL TRANSITION OF POWER FOLLOWING THE VIOLENT INSURRECTION AT OUR CAPITAOL. WE WERE ASKED TO EXTEND THE MISSION BECAUSE OF THEIR PERFORMANCE IN CAPITAL — AND PROFESSIONALISM. WE SHOULD BE VERY PROUD, AND I WANT TO THANK THE MEMBERS OF OUR GUARD FOR THEIR SERVICE AND FOR HELPING DEFEND OUR MOST BASIC DEMOCRATIC PRINCIPLES. FINALLY, WE ARE ANNOUNCING A COUPLE CHANGES TO OUR GUIDANCE TODAY. IN A FEW MINUTES, SECRETARY SMITH WILL TALK ABOUT CHANGES TO LONG-TERM CARE FACILITY PROTOCOLS, AS WE COMPLETE VACCINATIONS OF RESIDENTS. AND, WE ARE ANNOUNCING A CHANGE TO OUR TRAVEL POLICY. EARLIER THIS MONTH, THE CDC ISSUED ENCOURAGING NEW GUIDANCE AROUND QUARANTINE FOR THOSE WHO HAD BEEN FULLY VACCINATED. AS A RESULT, WE CONSIDERED THE IMPACT THIS WOULD HAVE ON OUR GUIDANCE. AND AS A RESULT, WE FOUND MANY THINGS THAT COULD IMPACT. THERE ARE LITERALLY DOZENS OF WHAT-IF AND WHAT-ABOUT QUESTIONS, AND WE STARTED WORKING THROUGH A NUMBER OF THESE. I WANT TO BE VERY CLEAR, WE ARE GOING TO DO THIS CAREFULLY AND METHODICALLY, LIKE WE HAVE THROUGHOUT THE PANDEMIC. I AM ASKING FOR YOUR PATIENCE AS WE WORK OUR WAY THROUGH THIS. TODAY I CAN ANNOUNCE ONE SIGNIFICANT STEP FORWARD RELATED TO TRAVEL. EFFECTIVE THIS TUESDAY, THOSE WHO ARE FULLY VACCINATED, MEANING TWO WEEKS AFTER THEIR SECOND DOSE, WILL NOT BE — NOT NEED TO QUARANTINE AFTER THAT TRAVEL. THIS ALSO MEANS THOSE WHO COME TO VERMONT FROM OTHER STATES WILL NOT NEED TO QUARANTINE IF THEY CAN PROVE THEY HAVE BEEN FULLY VACCINATED. OF COURSE, THEY WILL STILL NEED TO COMPLY WITH ALL OTHER HEALTH CADENCE, LIKE MASKING AND DISTANCING — HEALTH GUIDANCE, LIKE MASKING AND DISTANCING. THIS CHANGES VERY NARROW, FOCUSING ON TRAVEL. I KNOW THERE WILL BE A LOT OF QUESTIONS AND SOME HEAD SCRATCHING ABOUT WHY THIS IS ALLOWED WHILE OTHER THINGS ARE NOT. BUT THE FACT IS, EVERY STEP WE MAKE COMES WITH QUESTIONS. AND WE’RE TAKING IT ONE STEP AT A TIME TO LESSEN THE CONFUSION. THE NEXT STEP WE’RE ARE WORKING THROUGH IS HOW VACCINATIONS WILL IMPACT MULTI-HOUSEHOLD GATHERINGS, AND WE ARE LOOKING AT RETURNING TO A TRUSTED HOUSEHOLD POLICY. AND WE WILL HAVE FURTHER ANNOUNCEMENTS NEXT WEEK ON THOSE ISSUES. I HOPE YOU SEE THIS AS I DO, BECAUSE IT IS INCREDIBLY ENCOURAGING NEWS, AS IT MEANS THE LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL IS GETTING BIGGER AND BRIGHTER. WE ARE ONE STEP CLOSER TO RETURNING TO NORMAL, AND AS MORE AND MORE VERMONTERS RECEIVE THEIR VACCINE, WE WILL MAKE MORE TURNS OF THE SPIGOT. AGAIN, I KNOW THIS RAISES A LOT QUESTIONS. WE WILL ADDRESS THEM METHODICALLY. BUT PLEASE UNDERSTAND, WE ARE GOING TO TAKE THIS ONE STEP AT A TIME AND CONTINUE TO BE GUIDED BY THE SCIENCE, THE DATA, AND THE ADVICE OF OUR EXPERTS. SO WITH THAT, I WILL TURN IT OVER TO SECRETARY SMITH FOR THE EDUCATION UPDATE. SEC. SMITH: [INAUDIBLE] GOV. SCOTT: I THINK YOU ARE ON MUTE, DAN. WE ARE NOT HEARING YOU. WE STILL CANNOT HEAR YU. SEC. SMITH: HELLO? GOV. SCOTT: WE CAN HEAR YOU, DAN. SEC. SMITH: OK, THANK YOU. SORRY ABOUT THAT GOOD MORNING. I WILL BEGIN WITH AN UPDATE ON OUR WEEKLY SURVEILLANCE TESTING OF SCHOOL STAFF. ABOUT HALF OUR SCHOOLS WERE ON WINTER VACATION THIS WEEK AND THE OTHER HALF ARE OUT NEXT WEEK. THIS MADE LOGISTICS ON TESTING A BIT MORE COMPLEX THAN NORMAL. SOME TESTING HAD TO BE RESCHEDULED. THAT BEING SAID, WE ADMINISTERED 620 TESTS THIS WEEK, ABOUT A 26% PARTICIPATION RATE. SO FAR, NO POSITIVE CASES HAVE BEEN IDENTIFIED, SO THE POSITIVITY RATE IS ZERO. STATEWIDE POSITIVITY RATE IS 1.8%. WE COLLECT MONTHLY DATA FROM SCHOOLS AS TO WHAT EXTENT THEY ARE OFFERING IN-PERSON, REMOTE, AND HYBRID LEARNING. THE DATA FROM JANUARY WAS RECENTLY PUBLISHED. THE DATA CONTINUED TO SHOW A GREAT DEAL OF STABILITY IN THE OPERATIONS OF OUR SCHOOLS. IN JANUARY, 55% OF ALL SCHOOLS WERE IN HYBRID MODE, 30% IN-PERSON, AND ABOUT 15% FULLY REMOTE. WHEN WE BREAK THE DATA DONE BY GRADE LEVEL, WE SEE ABOUT HALF OUR ELEMENTARY SCHOOLS WERE OPERATING AT FULL IN-PERSON, 25% OF MIDDLE SCHOOLS IN-PERSON, AND 10% OF OUR HIGH SCHOOLS. AGAIN, I THINK THE MAJOR CONCLUSION FROM THE DATA, SCHOOL OPERATIONS HAVE REMAINED FAIRLY STABLE. JANUARY WAS A VERY CHALLENGING MONTH IN TERMS OF VIRUS ACTIVITY IN OUR COMMUNITIES, AND IN SPITE OF THESE CONDITIONS, OVER 80% OF OUR SCHOOLS WERE ABLE TO MAINTAIN SOME DEGREE OF IN-PERSON INSTRUCTION. WE CAN DRAW TWO CONCLUSIONS FROM THE DATA. ON THE ONE HAND, MITIGATION STRATEGIES REQUIRED OF SCHOOLS WORK. ON THE OTHER HAND, SCHOOLS HAVE OBTAINED OPERATIONAL FLUENCY IN IMPLEMENTING THEM ON A DAILY BASIS. I THINK IT IS IMPORTANT TO ACKNOWLEDGE THE ACHIEVEMENT OF THIS STABILITY REQUIRES ATTENTION TO DETAIL AND MITIGATION FUND METALS AND MEDICATIONS. TAKES A LOT OF — FUNDAMENTALS AND COMMUNICATIONS. IT TAKES A LOT OF HARD WORK FROM STAFF, STUDENTS, AND FAMILIES TO MAKE IT WORK. IT IS A RESULT OF DEDICATION FROM SCHOOLS, STUDENTS, AND COMMUNITIES. THE CDC RELEASED UPDATED GUIDANCE FOR SCHOOLS LAST FRIDAY. THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF ED ALSO RELEASED ANNUAL GUIDANCE TO SUPPORT SCHOOLS. AFTER INITIAL REVIEW, I DO NOT EXPECT THE NEW FEDERAL GUIDANCE TO HAVE MUCH IMPACT ON VERMONT UPON STRESS GUIDANCE TO SCHOOLS FOR NOW. IT SEEMS TO BE DIRECTED MORE TO THOSE PLACES AROUND THE COUNTRY WHO NEVER REOPENED SCHOOLS OR ARE JUST STARTING TO DO SOAPY OR DO WE REMAIN CONFIDENT THAT OUR GUIDANCE IS WELL-DESIGNED AND WORKS WELL, SINCE WE HAVE A VERY GOOD TESTING SYSTEM IN PLACE. THE RESULTS OF THE TESTING CONSISTENTLY DEMONSTRATE OUR SUCCESS. WE HAD SCHEDULED A REVIEW OF GUIDANCE THIS MONTH, SO OUR TEAM WILL EVALUATE THE FEDERAL GUIDANCE CLOSELY TO SEE IF WE CAN IMPROVE HOURS IN ANY WAY. ON ANOTHER TOPIC RELATED TO FEDERAL GUIDANCE, WE CONTINUE TO EXAMINE OUR OPTIONS FOR IMPLEMENTING THE ACHIEVEMENT TESTING THIS SPRING.OUR OPTIONS ARE HIGHLY OMITTED TO AT THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION SAYS THEY ARE SINCE THESE TESTS ARE REQUIRED UNDER FEDERAL LAW. LAST SPRING, AND NATIONAL TESTING WAIVER WAS ISSUED. WE ARE EXPECTING THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION TO ISSUE GUIDANCE ON TESTING FOR THIS SPRING PROBABLY NOT AN OUTRIGHT WAIVER. IT IS UNCLEAR AS TO HOW MUCH FLEXIBILITY WILL BE IN THE GUIDANCE. WE HAVE SEEN A FEW STATES PURSUE WAIVERS OF TESTING UNDER THE GENERAL WAIVER AUTHORITY OF — BUT WE DO NOT BELIEVE ANY OF THESE WAIVERS HAVE BEEN APPROVED, AND IT IS NOT CLEAR IF THE GENERAL WAIVER PROVISIONS ARE APPROPRIATE UNDER THE SPECIFIC CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE PANDEMIC. ON THE ONE HAND, WE REMAIN INTERESTED IN HAVING DATA ON THE PATTERNS OF STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT IN OUR STATE, ESPECIALLY SINCE OUR STUDENTS HAVE EXPERIENCED A VARIETY OF LEARNING SETTINGS OVER THE YEAR, SO THE DATA COULD BE USEFUL FOR US IN FOCUSING OUR WORK DURING THE RECOVERY PHASE. ON THE OTHER HAND, OUR TEST, AND NOT EVERY STATE GIVES THE SAME TEST, BUT OUR TEST TAKES A SIGNAL CAN AMOUNT OF TIME AWAY FROM DIRECT INSTRUCTION, IN MANY CASES MORE THAN A WEEK. WE ARE CONCERNED THIS WOULD BE TOO MUCH TIME AWAY FROM DIRECT INSTRUCTION AND TIME WITH IN-PERSON CONTACT NEEDS TO BE A PRIORITY. IF WE ARE PROVIDED SOME FLEXIBILITY IN OUR DECISION-MAKING, OUR PRIORITY ON MAXIMIZING IN-PERSON INSTRUCTION WILL LIKELY BE THE MOST COMPELLING CONSIDERATION FOR US AND LAY DECIDING WHETHER OR NOT TO HOLD TESTING THIS YEAR — IN DECIDING WHETHER OR NOT TO HOLD THE TESTING THIS YEAR. THAT CONCLUDES MY UPDATE. I WILL NOW TURN IT OVER TO SECRETARY SMITH. SEC. SMITH: THANKS, SECRETARY FRENCH. GOOD MORNING, EVERYONE. AS MANY OF YOU KNOW, AS OF TUESDAY, THAT VERY 16, ANY VERMONTER AGE 70 AND OLDER CAN MAKE AN APARTMENT TO RECEIVE THEIR FIRST DOSE OF COVID-19 VACCINE — CAN MAE AN APPOINTMENT TO RECEIVE THEIR FIRST DOSE APPEARED WE RECEIVED AN OVERWHELMING RESPONSE THIS WEEK, AND AS OF TODAY, 21,400 VERMONTERS AGED 70 AND OLDER HAVE MADE A POINT IN’S THROUGH OUR COMMUNITY VACCINATION PROGRAMS SINCE TUESDAY. IF YOU WISH TO MAKE IT A POINT ARE 70 YEARS OLD OR OLDER, PLEASE VISIT THE HEALTH DEPARTMENT WEBSITE, HEALTHVERMONT.GOV/MYVACCINE OR CALL 855-722-7878. WE HAVE ALSO ADDED ADDITIONAL VACCINE APPOINTMENTS FOR NEXT WEEK IN ESSEX JUNCTION, ST. JOHNSBURY, RUTLAND, BRATTLEBORO, AND SAINT ALBANS. IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO MAKE OR CHANGE AN APPOINTMENT TO MAKE IT SOONER, PLEASE CALL OUR CALL CENTER AT 855-722-7878. IN ADDITION, THOSE 65 YEARS OLD AND OLDER WILL BE ABLE TO MAKE AN APPOINTMENT AS EARLY AS THE FIRST WEEK OF MARCH. I WOULD ENCOURAGE THIS AGE GROUP TO GO ONLINE AT HEALTHVERMONT.GOV/MYVACCINE AND SET UP AN ACCOUNT AHEAD OF TIME, SO WHEN WE ANNOUNCE A DATE TO REGISTER, YOU WILL ALREADY HAVE AN ESTABLISHED ACCOUNT AND CAN SIMPLY GO TO THE ACCOUNT AND PICK A PLACE, DATE, AND TIME TO GET VACCINATED. NOW LET’S LOOK AT OUR PROGRESS WITH THE COMMUNITY VACCINATION PROGRAM. OVER 83,000 ELIGIBLE VERMONTERS HAVE BEEN VACCINATED AGAINST COVID-19. 41,000 VERMONTERS HAVE RECEIVED THEIR FIRST DOSE. 42,000 HAVE RECEIVED THEIR SECOND DOSE. SO FAR, 58,000 — EXCUSE ME, SO FAR, 58% OF VERMONTERS IN THE 75 YEARS OLD AND ABOVE GROUP AND 9% OF VERMONTERS IN THE 70 TO 75 YEARS OLD AND ABOVE GROUP, AS WELL AS 1100 HOMEBOUND VERMONTERS HAVE RECEIVED THEIR FIRST DOSE OF COVID-19 VACCINE. THIS WEEK, VACCINATIONS FOR HOMEBOUND VISUALS WILL OCCUR I — INDIVIDUALS WILL OCCUR IN EVERY VERMONT COUNTY. OUR PLANNED ALLOCATION FOR NEXT WEEK IS 720 DOSES, WITH THE ASSISTANCE FROM HOSPITALS, PRIMARY CARE OFFICES, AND AREA AGENCIES OF AGING. OUR HOME HEALTH AND EMS PARTNERS ARE WORKING TO IDENTIFY HOMEBOUND COMMUNITY MEMBERS THAT DO NOT RECEIVE HOME HEALTH SERVICES. AS YOU MAY KNOW, THE STATE OF VERMONT HAS WORKED TO PROTECT SOME OF THE MOST VULNERABLE VERMONTERS LIVING IN LONG-TERM CARE FACILITIES. THAT IS AGAINST SEVERE ILLNESS OR EVEN DEATH. IN FACT, OUT OF THE 193 DEATHS THAT HAVE OCCURRED IN VERMONT FROM COVID-19, 125 WERE RESIDENTS OF LONG-TERM CARE FACILITIES. MANY OF THESE RESIDENTS WERE THE FIRST TO SEE RESTRICTIONS PLACED UPON THEM BACK IN MARCH OF 2020. AND ALTHOUGH WE HAVE LOOSENED RESTRICTIONS IN THE SUMMER OF 2020, WE HAD TO TIGHTEN THINGS BACK UP AGAIN IN THE FALL AND INTO THE NEW YEAR WHEN WE HAD MULTIPLE OUTBREAKS AND, UNFORTUNATELY, DEATHS IN OUR LONG-TERM CARE FACILITIES. AS WE CONTINUE TO ROLL OUT A SUCCESSFUL VACCINATION STRATEGY IN OUR LONG-TERM CARE SETTINGS AND AS WE SEE THE CORRESPONDING REDUCTION IN THE NUMBER OF OUTBREAKS AND DEATHS IN THOSE FACILITIES, WE ARE ABLE TO REEVALUATE OUR RECOMMENDATIONS AND EASE SOME OF THE RESTRICTIONS THAT THOSE RESIDENTS HAVE EXPERIENCED OVER THE COURSE OF THE PANDEMIC. NOW WE FEEL SAFE. WE FEEL IT IS SAFER THAN IT HAS BEFORE BECAUSE OF OUR ABILITY TO VACCINATE SOME OF THE MOST VULNERABLE VERMONTERS. ALL OF OUR SKILLED NURSING FACILITIES HAVE RECEIVED BOTH THE FIRST AND SECOND DOSE, AND IN TERMS OF ALL SKILLED NURSING FACILITIES, ASSISTED LIVING FACILITIES, AND REIDENTIAL CARE FACILITIES, 93% OF RESIDENTS HAVE RECEIVED THEIR FIRST DOSE AND 74% HAVE COMPLETED THEIR SECOND DOSE. NEARLY THREE FOURTHS OF STAFF HAVE COMPLETED THEIR FIRST DOSE AND HAVE COMPLETED THEIR SECOND DOSE. WE ARE HAPPY TO ANNOUNCE THAT NEXT WEEK, EFFECTIVE FEBRUARY 26, RESIDENTS LIVING IN LONG-TERM CARE FACILITIES IN AREAS WHERE THERE HAVE BEEN NO COVID-19 OUTBREAKS WILL BE ENCOURAGED TO FOLLOW THE GUIDELINES, THE FOLLOWING GUIDELINES — ENCOURAGEMENT TO USE FOR VACCINATION STATUS AS A FACTOR, BUT NOT THE SOLE FACTOR, IN PLANNING FOR SUCH THINGS AS CONGREGATE ACTIVITIES WITHIN A FACILITY. THIS MEANS BEGINNING TO ALLOW CONGREGATE SETTINGS IF THE FACILITY IS WITHIN THE CMS OR CENTER FOR MEDICARE AND MEDICAID SERVICES GUIDELINES FOR COUNTY POSITIVITY RATES. THIS MEANS EATING TOGETHER AND PARTICIPATING IN OTHER GROUP ACTIVITIES WITHIN GUIDELINES. ON A CASE-BY-CASE CONSIDERATION, SAFE PHYSICAL CONTACT AND RECOMMENDATIONS FOR ALLOWING THAT CONTACT IN SPECIFIC CIRCUMSTANCES, WHICH INCLUDES FULL VACCINATION STATUS. SOME MODIFICATIONS TO THE QUARANTINED REQUIREMENTS FOR RESIDENTS, AND WITH FULL VACCINATION, HAVING VISITORS INDOORS, PARTICIPATING IN NONMEDICAL ESSENTIAL SERVICES SUCH AS SALON APPOINTMENTS. JUST FOR INFORMATION PURPOSES, FULLY VACCINATED MEANS GREATER THAN OR EQUAL TO TWO WEEKS FOLLOWING THE RECEIPT OF THE SECOND DOSE IN A TWO DOSE SERIES OR GREATER THAN OR EQUAL TO TWO WEEKS FOLLOWING RECEIPT OF ONE DOSE OF A SINGLE DOSE VACCINE. WHILE THE CENTER FOR MEDICARE AND MEDICAID SERVICES, CMS, HAVE NOT ISSUED NEW REGULATIONS FOR LONG-TERM CARE FACILITIES, THESE UPDATED RECOMMENDATIONS REFLECT PROGRESS MADE WITH OUR VACCINATION EFFORTS FOR RESIDENTS AND STAFF. IT IS IMPORTANT TO NOTE THAT CMS CONTINUES TO REQUIRE STAFF SURVEILLANCE TESTING IN CMS-CERTIFIED SKILLED NURSING FACILITIES BASED ON THE PREVALENCE OF COVID-19 — BASED ON THE PREVALENCE OF COVID-19 IN INDIVIDUAL COUNTIES. AND EQUALLY IMPORTANT, OUR UPDATED GUIDANCE CONTINUES TO HIGHLIGHT SAFE PRACTICES RELATED TO INFECTION PREVENTION AND CONTROL, EVEN AS WE MOVE THROUGH THE SUCCESSFUL VACCINATION PROCESS, WE WANT TO ENSURE THAT WE ARE PROVIDING THE SAFEST AND HIGHEST-QUALITY ENVIRONMENT FOR VERMONT’S LONG-TERM CARE FACILITY RESIDENTS. WE WILL CONTINUE TO WORK CLOSELY WITH CMS AND CDC TO MONITOR CHANGES IN REGULATIONS AND TO TRANSLATE THOSE PRACTICES RIGHT HERE IN VERMONT. WE ARE HAPPY TO ANNOUNCE THIS MILESTONE, BUT IT IS ALSO IMPORTANT TO MAINTAIN NECESSARY SAFETY PRECAUTIONS SUCH AS WEARING MASKS AND WASHING AND KEEPING A SIX FOOT DISTANCE. THE DEPARTMENT OF DISABILITIES, AGING, AND INDEPENDENT LIVING, AND THE DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH IN VERMONT, HAVE COLLABORATED WITH OUR FACILITY PARTNERS ON THIS UPDATED GUIDANCE, AND I WANT TO THANK EVERYONE FOR THEIR WORK TO MAKE THIS GUIDANCE SUCCESSFUL. I ALSO WANT TO CHANGE TO ANOTHER SUBJECT. I WANT TO PROVIDE AN IMPORTANT UPDATE REGARDING A FEDERAL INITIATIVE CALLED THE FARMER TO FAMILY FOODBOT PROGRAM. IN THE MONTH OF FEBRUARY, THE USDA PROGRAM HAS HAD SING THE CAN CHALLENGES WITH THE FOOD BOX AND DISTRIBUTION PROGRAM. — HAS HAD SIGNIFICANT CHALLENGES. THE GOVERNOR HAS INSTRUCTED ME TO FIX THOSE ISSUES SO THAT THIS FEDERAL GOVERNMENT PROGRAM IS AS SEAMLESS AS IT WAS ONCE A DISTRIBUTING FOOD TO VERMONTERS. IN THE COMING WEEKS, WE WILL INTERVENE AND WORK WITH THE USDA AND PARTNER WITH THE VERMONT FOOD BANK TO ENSURE THESE SUPPLEMENTAL FOOD BOXES ARE DISTRIBUTED EQUITABLY TO VERMONTERS. AS A RESULT, FOOD BOXES WILL BE READY FOR VERMONTERS TO RECEIVE THEM ON MARCH 1. LIKE OTHER FARMER TO FOOD BOX ROUNDS, YOU CAN USE THE ONLINE REGISTRATION SYSTEM TO RECEIVE A FOOD BOX. HUMANRESOURCES.VERMONT.GOV/FOOD- HELP. BEGINNING NEXT WEEK, THE WEBSITE WILL BE UPDATED WITH AVAILABLE DAYS AND LOCATIONS. THOSE WITHOUT INTERNET ACCESS CAN CALL VERMONT 211 TO REGISTER. NOW I WILL TURN IT OVER TO DR. LEVINE FOR HEALTH UPDATE. DR. LEVINE: THANK YOU. TODAY WE ARE REPORTING 97 CASES. DOWN TO 37 PATIENTS IN THE HOSPITAL, 13 IN THE ICU. A POSITIVITY RATE OF 1.8%. AS I MENTIONED ON TUESDAY, FORTUNATELY, THE HIGHER RATE OF SPREAD OF THE VIRUS HAS IMPROVED IN BENNINGTON AND RUTLAND COUNTIES, WHERE WE DO CONTINUE TO MONITOR FRANKLIN COUNTY, WHERE WE BELIEVE THE INCREASE IN THE NUMBER OF CASES IS DUE TO COMMUNITY TRANSMISSION. AS WE HAVE EXPERIENCED, WHEN THERE ARE HIGH LEVELS OF COMMUNITY TRANSMISSION, THIS CAN RESULT IN MORE CASES IN SCHOOLS AND IN WORKPLACES. INDUS BERG ELEMENTARY SCHOOL, WHICH WAS DISCUSSED ON TUESDAY, IS A GOOD EXAMPLE. OF THE 12 CASES I REPORTED, ONLY THREE CASES THERE WERE ASSOCIATED WITH THE SCHOOL, AND THESE WERE CONNECTED WITH TWO SMALL SUB OUTBREAKS AT AREA FARMS THAT TOTALED ANOTHER NINE CASES. THE DIRECTION OF TRANSMISSION MAY AT TIMES BE DIFFICULT TO TRACE, BUT QUITE OFTEN THE SCHOOL IS IT THE PART OF A CHAIN OF TRANSMISSION INVOLVING WORKSITES OR HOUSEHOLDS OR JUST AN UNFORTUNATE BYSTANDER. A MAJOR THEME I WANT TO CONVEY IS THAT THE VIRUS IS IN OUR COMMUNITIES, AND THAT IS HOW IT GETS INTO OUR SCHOOLS AND WORKPLACES, SO WE MUST ALWAYS BE CAUTIOUS AND CAREFUL. NOW THIS SCHOOL DID CHOOSE TO GO REMOTE BEFORE THEIR VACATION, MAINLY BECAUSE OF STAFFING. NEEDS AS I HAVE SAID MANY TIMES, SCHOOLS GO REMOTE FOR A VARIETY OF REASONS. SOME PUBLIC HEALTH RELATED AND SOME PRAGMATIC AND NECESSARY, SUCH AS STAFFING ISSUES BROUGHT ABOUT BY THE NUMBER OF STAFF NEEDING TO EITHER ISOLATE OR QUARANTINE DUE TWO EXPOSURES. SO EVEN THOUGH WE — DUE TO EXPOSURES. EVEN THOUGH WE’RE SICK OF THIS PANDEMIC IN MANY OF US ANXIOUSLY AWAIT THE PENT — VACCINE, THE VIRUS IS STILL A THREAT, AND WE NEED TO STAY FOCUSED ON KEEPING IT FROM SPREADING. AVOID GATHERINGS AND CROWDS, WEAR YOUR MASKS, AND IF YOU HAVE ANY REASON TO GET TESTED, PLEASE DO IT. IT IS EASY, AND IT IS FREE. I HAVE DISCUSSED HERE THE NEW TESTING OPPORTUNITIES WE ADDED IN BENNINGTON COUNTY AFTER WE STARTED TO SEE HIGHER RATES OF COVID IN THAT AREA. AS PART OF THESE EFFORTS, WE ALSO OFFERED POP-UP TESTING AT LOCAL SKI AREAS, BROMLEY AND STRATTON. THE TESTING WAS OFFERED TO ANYONE WHO WANTED IT, WHETHER EMPLOYEES, SKIERS, OR EVEN LOCAL RESIDENTS. WE NOW HAVE DATA FROM THIS PAST WEEKEND, AND SO IT IS A VERY LIMITED SNAPSHOT, WE DO WANT TO EMPHASIZE THAT, I WILL SHARE WHAT WE FOUND. AT BROMLEY, 148 PEOPLE WERE TESTED THROUGH ANTIGEN TESTING, INCLUDING A SMALL NUMBER OF STAFF. ABOUT 38%, 62% ONE FIRM — WERE FROM OUTSIDE VERMONT. BROMLEY WAS A GREAT PARTNER IN THIS EFFORT, AND OFFICIALS THERE SAID THE OVERALL RESPONSE WAS VERY POSITIVE PEER DUY HEARD THAT SEVERAL GUESTS COME AFTER GETTING TESTED, WENT TO GET FAMILY AND FRIENDS THEY WERE THERE WITH GET TESTED, AS WELL, AFTER LEARNING IT WAS FREE. AT STRATTON, ANOTHER GREAT PARTNER, STRATTON MOUNTAIN URGENT CARE, 79 PEOPLE WORK TESTED THROUGH PCR TESTING. 35% WITH A VERMONT ADDRESS, 65% OUT-OF-STATE. TESTING WAS ALSO ENCOURAGED FOR STAFF, AND 180 PEOPLE TESTED. OUT OF ALL OF THESE EXPERIENCES, ONLY A TOTAL OF THREE POSITIVES WERE FOUND. KEEP IN MIND, ANTIGEN RESULTS NEED TO BE CONFIRMED WITH A PCR. KEEP IN MIND, WE DO NOT WANT TO DRAW FINAL CONCLUSIONS FROM ONE WEEKEND’S TESTING EFFORTS, WITH ONE SELF-SELECTED SAMPLE. BUT I DID WANT TO PROVIDE THIS PRELIMINARY DATA, AND WE WERE GLAD TO SEE THAT PEOPLE WERE RECEPTIVE TO TESTING AT SKI AREAS AND PLAN TO OFFER TESTING AGAIN THIS WEEKEND IT BOTH AREAS. WE THINK THE RESORTS FOR WORKING WITH US AND SUPPORTING THE COMMUNITIES IN THESE EFFORTS. AS WE CONTINUE TO SUPPRESS — RACE TO SUPPRESS THE VIRUS, WE KNOW THAT THE EMERGING VARIANTS CAN MAKE OUR WORK EVEN HARDER. OUR PUBLIC HEALTH RESPONSE WILL NOT CHANGE, BUT WE DO NEED TO STRENGTHEN IT, ENCOURAGE BETTER FITTED MASKS, STRICT ADHERENCE TO PHYSICAL DISTANCING, AND KEEPING SOCIAL CONTACTS AS FEW AS POSSIBLE. BUT THESE PREVENTION STEPS WE ASK VERMONTERS TO TAKE HER NOT THE ONLY TOOLS AT OUR DISPOSAL — ARE NOT THE ONLY TOOLS AT OUR DISPOSAL APPEARED WE CAN ENSURE THAT TESTING, TRACING, AND OUTBREAK STRATEGIES ARE ROBUST, AND WE CAN SUPPORT PEOPLE TO ISOLATE AND QUARANTINE WHEN NECESSARY. VACCINATION ALSO, OF COURSE, PLAYS A ROLE, AS WE REALLY NEED TO GET OUT IN FRONT OF THESE EMERGING VARIANTS AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE. THE LESS THE VIRUS IS ABLE TO BE TRANSMITTED FROM PERSON TO PERSON, THE LESS THE VIRUS CAN MUTATE AND THE LESS CHANCE THERE IS FOR A MORE VERY YOUNG AT — MORE VERY LINT STRAINED TO OCCUR. FINALLY, POLICIES ARE ALSO ANOTHER LEVER, SUCH AS THE CDC’S NEW ORDER REQUIRING MASKS ON ALL PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION. THESE CAN PLAY A KEY ROLE. WE JUST HEARD SECRETARY SMITH TALK ABOUT THE NEW GUIDANCE COMING FOR LONG-TERM CARE FACILITIES. I WANT TO REINFORCE THE POSITIVE PUBLIC HEALTH DATA FROM THIS SECTOR IS A GREAT ILLUSTRATION OF THE POTENTIAL FOR VACCINATION TO MARKEDLY IMPACT PEOPLE’S LIVES AND LEAD US GRADUALLY INTO THE FUTURE THAT WE ARE ALL EAGERLY AWAITING. THESE SLIDES ARE UPDATED FROM TUESDAY’S PRESENTATION. FIRST YOU CAN NOTICE, OFCOURSE, THAT WE ARE HAVING MARKED DECREASES IN ACTIVE CASES. THROUGHOUT THE STATE OF VERMONT. AND IN THE NEXT SLIDE, LOOKING AT OUR COHORT OF OVER 75 YEARS OLD, A 75% DECREASE FROM MID JANUARY. KEEP IN MIND, VACCINATION BEGAN IN THIS GREATER PART OF DECEMBER, AND THIS IS WHERE WE HAVE SEEN NOW A SIGNIFICANT EFFECT. NOTE HERE IN TERMS OF NEW CASES AND NEW VACCINATIONS, THE ROLLING SEVEN DAY AVERAGE, THE YELLOW ARE THE CASES, BLUE ARE THE VACCINATIONS. VACCINATIONS GOING UP NICELY, AT A VERY ACCELERATED PACE. AND THE CASELOADS, OBVIOUSLY, COMING DOWN DRAMATICALLY. THEN FINALLY, WE ARE ALSO NOTICING A MARKED IMPACT ON DEATHS DURING THE SAME TIME PERIOD IN OUR STATE. THIS IS ALL DENSE, BUT AS WE KNOW, THE MAJORITY OF DEATHS ARE OCCURRING IN THE OLDER AGE RANGES — THIS IS ALL DEATHS. YOU CAN SEE VISUALLY THE DRAMATIC IMPACT. I JUST WANT TO ECHO SOME PREVIOUS COMMENTS THAT WE CERTAINLY RECOGNIZE THE TOLL SEPARATING RESIDENTS FROM THEIR LOVED ONES HAS TAKEN. WE’RE GLAD VACCINATION EFFORTS HAVE BEEN SO SUCCESSFUL IN THESE FACILITIES, THAT IT CAN HELP RESIDENTS FEEL SAFE WHILE MAKING IT POSSIBLE TO HAVE GREATER FREEDOMS IN CONNECTION WITH OTHERS, WHETHER THEY ARE VISITING WITH FAMILIES, EATING MEALS TOGETHER, PARTICIPATING IN GROUP ACTIVITIES, WE BELIEVE FACILITIES CAN SET A PATH FORWARD AND STILL MAINTAIN THE SAFETY STANDARDS WE HAVE ALL BEEN DEDICATED TO THROUGHOUT THE PANDEMIC. THE REMARKABLY HIGH UPTAKE OF VACCINE IS OBVIOUSLY ABLE TO WORK IN THE FACILITY’S FAVOR. THE OTHER GOOD NEWS IS THAT CMS REGULATORY LANGUAGE PIVOTS OFF OF THE DISEASE ACTIVITY, EXPRESSED AS PERCENT POSITIVITY RATES IN OUR COUNTIES. WITH RARE EXCEPTION, OUR FACILITIES ARE FREE TO BE AMBITIOUS IN THE IMPLEMENT THINK LEADERS OF FREEDOM. THE HOPE IS THAT THE AGGRESSIVE POSTURE THAT HAS ALLOWED US TO PROTECT PEOPLE IN THESE FACILITIES CAN NOW JUST BS AGGRESSIVELY REVERSED — JUST BE AS AGGRESSIVELY REVERSED TO IMPROVE EVERYONE’S QUALITY OF LIFE. CLEARLY, WE WILL STILL GUIDE THE LONG-TERM CARE FACILITIES’ USE OF THE SAFEST PREVENTION AND CONTROL PRACTICES AND TESTING PROTOCOLS. BUT IMAGINE HOW DIFFERENTLY A SINGLE POSITIVE CASE OF COVID MIGHT IMPACT SUCH A FACILITY IN THE POST VACCINE ERA, WITH SUCH A HIGH PROPORTION OF THE RESIDENCE PROTECTED. I HAVE JUST ONE UPDATE ON THE VACCINATION FRONT. SECRETARY SMITH HAS ALREADY NOTED, WE ARE AIMING TO EXPAND VACCINATION FURTHER TO THE 65 AND OLDER AGE GROUP SOON. AND AS YOU KNOW, THE NEXT AGE GROUP BEYOND THAT WILL BE PEOPLE WITH HIGH RISK MEDICAL CONDITIONS. I CAN SHARE THAT WE ARE ADDING TYPE 1 DIABETES TO THE LIST OF CONDITIONS THAT WILL BE ELIGIBLE FOR VACCINE IN THIS HIGH-RISK GROUP. IT WILL NOT BE VIEWED ANY DIFFERENTLY THAN TYPE TWO DIABETES, WHICH IS ALREADY ON THE EXISTING LIST. FOR MY FINAL COMMENTS, I WANT TO END ON A NOTE UNDER — UNRELATED TO COVID BUT IN THE NEWS. SEVERAL WINTER STORMS HAVE LEFT MILLIONS OF HOMES AND BUSINESSES WITHOUT POWER ACROSS THE COUNTRY . AND PEOPLE HAVE TAKEN TO USING ALTERNATE POWER SOURCES, SUCH AS GAS GENERATORS OR GRILLS FOR COOKING AND HEATING THEIR HOMES. THIS HAS LED TO A SURGE IN CARBON MONOXIDE POISONINGS IN PLACES LIKE TEXAS, AS USING THESE SOURCES CAN LEAD TO CARBON MONOXIDE BUILDUP INSIDE HOMES OR GARAGES. IN VERMONT, WE MAY BE MORE USED TO WINTER STORMS COME UP BUT WE CAN STILL FACE THE SAME DANGERS. I WOULD HATE FOR THE MESSAGE TO GET LOST DURING THE PANDEMIC THAT WE NEED TO BE CAUTIOUS ABOUT CARBON MONOXIDE POISONING, MESSAGE WE DELIVER TRADITIONALLY SEVERAL TIMES OVER THE COURSE OF A WINTER. IT STILL TURNS OUT THAT DOZENS OF VERMONTERS GO TO EMERGENCY ROOM EACH YEAR FOR CARBON MONOXIDE RELATED SYMPTOMS. SO IF YOU LOSE POWER, NEVER RUN A GENERATOR, GRILL, CAMP STOVE, KEROSENE HEATER, OR OTHER FUEL BURNING EQUIPMENT INDOORS. BE SURE TO CLEAR ANY SNOW AWAY FROM VENCE OR FUEL BURNING EQUIPMENT SO THEY DO NOT GET BLOCKED. NEVER LEAVE A VEHICLE RUNNING INSIDE A GARAGE, EVEN IF THE DOOR IS OPEN. AND MAKE SURE YOU HAVE A CARBON MONOXIDE DETECTOR AND ALARM IN YOUR HOME. THE SYMPTOMS OF CARBON MONOXIDE POISONING ARE HEADACHES, DIZZINESS, WEAKNESS, UPSET STOMACH, VOMITING. THESE SYMPTOMS CAN BE CONFUSED WITH THE FLU. GOT SIDE IMMEDIATELY TO GET FRESH AIR AND THEN DIAL 911 IF YOU’RE CARBON MONOXIDE ALARM GOES OFF OR YOU SUBSET — OR YOU SUSPECT CARBON MONOXIDE POISONING. THANK YOU. GOV. SCOTT: WITH THAT, WE WILL OPEN IT UP TO QUESTIONS. >> QUESTION FOR SECRETARY SMITH ABOUT LONG-TERM CARE. THE VISITATION POLICIE
Vermont removing travel quarantine requirement for those with both vaccine doses
Vermont’s top officials announced Friday that they plan to ease some of the state’s travel guidelines for anyone who has received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine. Effective Tuesday, anyone at least two weeks removed from their second shot will not be required to quarantine following out-of-state travel. Those visiting Vermont who have completed inoculation will also be exempt if they can provide proof of their vaccinations. “I want to be very clear: We’re going to do this carefully and methodically like we have throughout the pandemic, and I’m asking for your patience as we work our way through this process,” Scott said. The change follows more than three months under one of the most stringent travel policies in the nation that barred out-of-state travel without at least a week of quarantine. It was attributed, in part, to a decision from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that said anyone who has completed both doses and a two-week immunity period should not be required to quarantine. Still, national and state leaders have been very clear — other public health guidance related to the pandemic should still be followed. It’s still possible for vaccinated individuals to harbor the virus in their nose or throats, carrying the possibility for transmission to others. The state is also easing visitation policies for long-term care facilities. Beginning Feb. 26, facilities can consider vaccination status when making decisions on congregate activities with residents, according to Human Services Secretary Mike Smith.There will be some modifications surrounding rules for visitations. “Again, this change is narrow, focusing on travel, and I know there will be a lot of questions and some head-scratching about why this is allowed while other things are not yet,” Scott said. “But the fact is, every step we make comes with questions and we’re taking it one step at a time.”The governor continued to say that addressing guidance on multi-household gatherings as it relates to vaccinations will likely be the next step. Vermont currently restricts residents from participating in multi-household gatherings. More than 125,000 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Vermont, according to a Department of Health dashboard. The state is at approximately 15% of its goal to administer a vaccine to all residents 16 years old or older. More than 42,000 people have received the necessary second dose of a vaccine.EDITOR’S NOTE: A previous version of this article incorrectly defined the type of visitors that would be allowed inside of long-term care facilities under new guidelines. This error was corrected at 12:45 p.m. Friday.
Vermont’s top officials announced Friday that they plan to ease some of the state’s travel guidelines for anyone who has received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.
Effective Tuesday, anyone at least two weeks removed from their second shot will not be required to quarantine following out-of-state travel. Those visiting Vermont who have completed inoculation will also be exempt if they can provide proof of their vaccinations.
“I want to be very clear: We’re going to do this carefully and methodically like we have throughout the pandemic, and I’m asking for your patience as we work our way through this process,” Scott said.
The change follows more than three months under one of the most stringent travel policies in the nation that barred out-of-state travel without at least a week of quarantine. It was attributed, in part, to a decision from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that said anyone who has completed both doses and a two-week immunity period should not be required to quarantine.
Still, national and state leaders have been very clear — other public health guidance related to the pandemic should still be followed. It’s still possible for vaccinated individuals to harbor the virus in their nose or throats, carrying the possibility for transmission to others.
The state is also easing visitation policies for long-term care facilities. Beginning Feb. 26, facilities can consider vaccination status when making decisions on congregate activities with residents, according to Human Services Secretary Mike Smith.
There will be some modifications surrounding rules for visitations.
“Again, this change is narrow, focusing on travel, and I know there will be a lot of questions and some head-scratching about why this is allowed while other things are not yet,” Scott said. “But the fact is, every step we make comes with questions and we’re taking it one step at a time.”
The governor continued to say that addressing guidance on multi-household gatherings as it relates to vaccinations will likely be the next step. Vermont currently restricts residents from participating in multi-household gatherings.
More than 125,000 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Vermont, according to a Department of Health dashboard. The state is at approximately 15% of its goal to administer a vaccine to all residents 16 years old or older.
More than 42,000 people have received the necessary second dose of a vaccine.
EDITOR’S NOTE: A previous version of this article incorrectly defined the type of visitors that would be allowed inside of long-term care facilities under new guidelines. This error was corrected at 12:45 p.m. Friday.