Health Care

With 11,000 vaccinations to go before reopening, the pace has slowed

Phil Scott in front of video monitor
Gov. Phil Scott, standing in front of a graphic of the timeline for Covid vaccine eligibility, speaks at a March press conference. Photo by Mike Dougherty/VTDigger

Vermont is still 11,000 people away from its vaccination goal for reopening, similar to where it was last week, officials reported at a press conference Tuesday.

Gov. Phil Scott has promised to fully reopen the state when 80% of Vermonters 12 and over are vaccinated. Last Friday, Vermont stood at 77.6%. As of Tuesday morning, it was at 77.9%.

“The number of Vermonters vaccinated each day will determine our pace to reach the 80% and fully reopen,” said Mike Smith, secretary of the Vermont Agency of Human Services.

If 2,000 people per day get their first shot, Vermont could reopen June 5. If 1,000 per day are vaccinated, it could take until June 11, Smith said. The most recent numbers have been in the 1,500-per-day range, although Sunday and Monday numbers haven’t been reported due to the holiday weekend.

Despite the slowing vaccination pace, the recent Covid numbers still show “why we can lift these restrictions: because we trust the vaccine,” said Dr. Mark Levine, state health commissioner.

Vermont has not reported a death in two weeks, the longest streak in the country. Only three people are hospitalized with the virus, a 37% decline from two weeks ago, said Mike Pieciak, commissioner of the Department of Financial Regulation, in the state’s weekly statistical report.

The state reported only two new Covid cases on Tuesday, according to health department data. Although the holiday weekend may have affected testing and data reporting, it’s not far off from the lowering figures in the past week, which have “ranged between the single digits and the low 20s,” Levine said.

The seven-day average case rate has fallen 57%, Pieciak said. Cases throughout the region are also falling — but remain higher than in Vermont.

Vaccinations are rising and cases are falling in Canada, an encouraging sign, Pieciak said. Quebec reported 2,510 cases this week, down from 3,962 last week.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has set a target for reopening: 75% of Canadians receiving at least one dose of the vaccine. The country stands at 58%, Pieciak said. That would put Canada on pace to hit the target in three or four weeks, an encouraging sign for reopening the border with the United States.

New England states sent a letter to Washington last week, asking if they could share vaccine doses with their Canadian neighbors, Scott said.

“They’ve made great strides over the last couple of weeks, so I think that’s good news for us,” Scott said. “But we’ll continue to advocate for opening the border when it’s safe, because we’re so reliant on the tourism” from there.

Vermont hasn’t yet tallied the number of out-of-state visitors for Memorial Day weekend, but statewide data shows that mobility for retail, recreation and grocery are up, Pieciak said. Workplace mobility remains mostly flat so far this year.

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Erin Petenko

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