The full reopening of Vermont is slated for the coming weeks, but Gov. Phil Scott has jump-started one reopening measure: The lifting of a 10 p.m. curfew on Vermont businesses.
“We’ve gone from less than 30% to over 50% of the 18-to-29 age band vaccinated in the last month,” he said.
That means restaurants, bars and social clubs can operate under their normal business hours beginning Saturday, he said, unless local municipalities place additional restrictions on their area.
Scott has said he plans to drop almost all Covid restrictions when Vermont has 80% of the eligible population with at least one dose of the vaccine. Right now, the state is at roughly 77%, although the exact number is uncertain due to federal data issues.
The state has 130 walk-in clinics planned for next week, Scott said, listed on the Department of Health website.
In-person instruction planned for fall
Vermont plans to bring students back in person in fall 2021, Education Secretary Dan French said at Friday’s press conference.
“It will be important for students and adults to continue to get vaccinated through the summer and fall, but a large percentage of Vermonters will be fully vaccinated by the fall,” he said. “Strong vaccine uptake now we’ll ensure schools will be able to stay open this winter.”
The Agency of Education had allowed remote schooling to count for attendance purposes, but in the fall only in-person attendance will count, with some individual exceptions, he said.
“We’ve greatly expanded our use of technology in schools as a result of the pandemic,” he said. “This was a positive outcome of the pandemic and will need to be evaluated more fully. But for now, the priority is to return to normal operations.”
That includes snow days, which would be made up as they were previously, he said.
Summer program grants extended
Vermont has awarded grants to 100 summer programs with a goal of making them more affordable and more inclusive for kids throughout the state, Holly Morehouse, executive director of Vermont Afterschool, said at the press conference.
Those grants total $3.85 million. “This summer is critical to helping Vermont youth,” Scott said.
Morehouse said 98% of programs have low- or no-cost measures in place for families who need them. The grants reduce the costs by $160 to $200 per week on average.
There are also new initiatives in place to expand access to special needs children, such as funds for more staffing or training for staff.
A variety of unique programs are starting this year, she said, including a traveling arts bus, a children’s makerspace, a program for middle schoolers to start their own businesses and an outdoor community music center.
A list of open summer programs is available on the Vermont Afterschool website.
Levine: Use caution interpreting vax reaction data
On Tuesday, a reporter asked Health Commissioner Mark Levine about the eight Vermont deaths reported in the federal vaccine adverse reaction database. Levine promised he would look into it.
On Friday, Levine came back with his findings: Yes, eight deaths were reported. But that doesn’t mean the vaccine has actually killed eight people in the state.
“Anyone can search this website, but it’s really important to know that anything reported is only a report, and can be reported by anyone: The person themselves, family, a health care provider,” he said. “They do not necessarily mean the vaccine caused the event reported.”
The Federal Drug Administration asks health care providers to file a report for any death after a vaccine, no matter the cause, Levine said. It’s worth noting that more than 400,000 Vermonters have been vaccinated, including more than 90% of people over the age of 75.
The Vermont Medical Examiner’s Office has looked into the deaths of those eight people and does not believe any of them were linked with the vaccine, Levine said.
The federal Immunization Safety Office has not reached out to Vermont regarding any of the deaths, he said.
He said the benefit of transparency “far outweighs the risk” of misinterpreting the numbers, but the public “just need to really be educated about” what it means.
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