Weekly Covid Update: Federal vaccine reductions vex Scott administration

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A spike in the daily Covid-19 new case totals, two new deaths, and lower than expected vaccine allotments coming from the federal government capped off 2020’s final Covid-19 press conference on Thursday, Dec. 31, which also marked the 100th press conference given by Gov. Phil Scott and his state health team since tri-weekly/bi-weekly coronavirus updates began in March.

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Mike Smith, secretary of the state Agency of Human Services, expressed frustration at the federal government’s cut to Vermont’s vaccine allotments from what was expected next week. The federal allotment of the Pfizer vaccine has dropped to 3,900 doses, down from 5,850 the previous week. Moderna’s vaccine allotment has also dropped to 3,900 doses, down from the 4,000 expected.

According to Smith, going from 11,000 expected doses to only 7,900 “can eventually have an impact on our overall vaccination timeline.”

Smith said they were trying to find out from federal partners what was going on and that although they had heard several apologies, they need to “get beyond apologies” in order to implement Vermont’s vaccination plan successfully.

To date, 14,000 Vermonters have been vaccinated as of Wednesday, Dec. 30 representing 21 percent of first phase recipients and 2% of Vermont’s overall eligible population.

The Vermont Department of Health reported 130 new Covid-19 cases and two more deaths on Thursday, indicating a daily case “spike,” said Dr. Mark Levine, Vermont Health Commissioner, as compared to the previous weekly day average of 82 new daily cases and Wednesday’s new case tally of 69, for a total of 7,412 cases. The seven-day positivity rate, which had been steadily decreasing since its high of 2.8 percent in November, has now ticked up from 2.1 percent to 2.3 percent in the past week.

The two new deaths were part of 16 reported since last Thursday, the majority of whom are Vermonters over the age of 70. The total number of deaths of Vermonters now stands at 136. The total positive case numbers and other statistics are based on data published on the Health Department’s daily dashboard.

Earlier this week, Levine said the VDH was following 41 outbreaks including 14 in long-term care facilities and 224 active situations. There are 539 positive cases attributed to long-term care facilities.

Smith announced the VDH was following a new situation at the Vermont Veterans Home in Bennington, which has seen six positive test results among staff. Facility-wide PCR tests were to be given Thursday to all residents and staff and will continue twice a week. The scheduled vaccination clinic on Sunday will continue as planned.

Statewide, K-12 schools see 27 new cases in week

In K-12 schools throughout Vermont, there are 27 new cases, down from 30 reported last week, with 270 total Covid cases reported as of Tuesday Dec. 29, on the School Based Covid-19 Transmission document.

According to Secretary of Education Dan French, school surveillance testing, which tests 25 percent of school staff around the state each week, continues to show a significantly lower positivity rate than the general population with .04 percent positivity versus the approximately 2 percent throughout the state. He also said that rate was showing a decline throughout December.

The state tested an average of more than 1,000 individuals per day, not including Christmas Day, since last Thursday, with 6,201 tests given.

The Covid-19 testing schedule for Springfield has been updated with daily testing available from Saturday, Jan. 2 through Sunday, Jan. 17 with varying times each day. The CIC Health Testing in Springfield is located at 51 Pearl St., Level 1, in Springfield. Click on this link to check for specific times each day. This site has recently added a link to sign up to be notified of future testing dates in the area of your choice.

Windsor, Windham counties see 82 new cases since last Thursday

Chittenden County continued to lead in case counts with 149 new cases reported since last Thursday, for 2,658 in total. Bennington County, which has seen a jump in recent weeks, added 59 new cases since last Thursday, for 501 total cases. Windsor County saw 31 new cases since Thursday for a total of 404. Windham County also saw a jump of 51 cases since last Thursday, for a total of 470.

Despite the daily spike, Levine again cautioned that a spike on any one day does not indicate a trend.
Scott said that Vermont’s overall numbers remain some of the “lowest in the nation in many categories.”
For more statewide details on COVID-19 information and resources, click here.

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