Weekly Covid Update: Travel restrictions loosened for those vaccinated

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With vaccination rates and dose allotment on the rise and new Covid-19 cases on the decline, Gov. Phil Scott announced on Friday a loosening of travel restrictions, as well as changes to protocols within long-term care and other senior living facilities, for fully vaccinated Vermonters.

Scott also said changes are expected next week to multi-household gatherings and trusted household policies.

Starting next Tuesday, anyone who is fully vaccinated, meaning two weeks after receiving their second Covid vaccine dose, may travel in and out of Vermont without needing to quarantine. Prior to this announcement, a 14-day quarantine period was required after traveling from out of state or a seven-day quarantine period followed by a negative Covid test.

Beginning Friday, Feb. 26, residents of long-term care facilities who also have achieved “full vaccination status” will be able to enjoy shared activities as well as group dining and attend “non-medical appointments” like a salon visit, as well as receiving indoor visitors. These new measures are contingent upon geographical areas where no Covid-19 outbreaks are reported.

Early vaxx signups can smooth process

Human Services Secretary Mike Smith said the change is a reflection of the fall in Covid-19 cases within senior facilities as well as the high vaccination levels of residents in skilled nursing, assisted nursing and residential care facilities that have recorded 93 percent of residents who have received at least their first dose and 74 percent who have received their second dose. While the state is finalizing its guidance, individual facilities will have flexibility to decide their own guidelines around visitors and activities.

State officials have seen an overwhelming response to registering for the vaccine for the 70+ age group, with more than 21,400 making appointments since last Tuesday. Registration is still ongoing for residents 70+ and can be made online by clicking here or by calling 855-722-7878.

Appointments can also be made through Walgreens and Kinney Drug’s websites. Links to their sites are also accessible through the state vaccine web page.

Smith announced that those age 65+ will be able to make an appointment for their vaccine as early as the first week of March. He again recommended that everyone should set up an account ahead of time – even well in advance of someone’s eligibility for a vaccine – to make registering that much quicker.

According to the Health Department more than 83,000 eligible Vermonters have received a vaccine: 41,000 have received their first dose; 42,000 their second; 58 percent of those in the 75+ age group; 9 percent of those in the 70+ group; and 1,100 homebound residents.

Scott announced during Tuesday’s press conference that increased allocations announced from the federal government would translate into 2,500 additional doses for Vermont each week, delivering more than 13,000 weekly doses to Vermont. He also said that the Biden administration is planning on doubling its allocation to individual pharmacies for their national long-term care vaccination efforts, something that Scott said on Friday was becoming an “area of concern.” He said the state would like to have more control over the process, not knowing how many doses were arriving and where. According to Scott this is one area where governors across the country are raising a red flag. “It could be problematic for us as we try to distribute as much as we can, as fast as we can.”

Case rates drop

This week, the Vermont Department of Health recorded 836 new Covid-19 cases, up slightly from the 803 tallied last week for a total of 14,251 since the beginning of the pandemic. The death toll from Covid-19 has also decreased versus last week, going from eight to four Vermonter’s deaths for a total of 193. All of those who lost their lives to Covid 19 this week were over the age of 70.

Hospitalizations continued to drop this week from 47 to 37. The number of patients in intensive care ticked up, going from 11 to 13.

The overall seven-day positivity rate showed a slight increase after enjoying a consistent decline, nudging from 1.7 percent last week to 1.8 percent this week.

The total positive case numbers, deaths and other statistics are based on data published on the Health Department’s daily dashboard from Friday, Feb. 12 through Friday, Feb. 19.

Vermont Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine said that numbers in Bennington and Rutland counties were showing a steady decline from their recent surges, but Franklin County was still on the rise largely due to community transmission.

Windham County added 59 new cases, up substantially from 32 last week, for a total of 909. Windsor County added 46 new cases, down from 66 new cases last week, for a total of 1,007.

Rutland County added 100 new cases, down from 117 new cases last week, for a total of 1,227. Bennington County added 84 cases, down from 91 cases last week, for a total of 1268.

In K-12 schools throughout Vermont, there are 67 new Covid cases this week, up from 58 last week, with 613 total Covid cases reported as of Wednesday, Feb. 17, on the School Based Covid-19 Transmission document.

On Tuesday, Commissioner Michael Pieciak from the Department of Financial Regulation reported that state colleges and universities saw 61 new cases on campuses this week, down from 91 last week and the lowest number of weekly cases recorded since the start of the spring semester. Of the 61 new college cases reported, 46 were students from The University of Vermont.

The Covid-19 testing schedule for Springfield has been updated with daily testing available from now through Sunday, March 7 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. Sign up to be notified of future testing dates in the area of your choice.

For more state-wide details on COVID-19 information and resources, click here.

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