Vaxx signups start Monday for those 65+ Covid-19 infections drop as deaths rise; state considers making educators' vaccines a priority

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As the 65+ age band is poised to begin registering for the Covid-19 vaccine on Monday, March 1, Gov. Phil Scott indicated that state officials are considering priority vaccinations for educators and school staff as the state’s focus heats up to get children back to full-time in-person learning.

Although Scott would not make any formal commitment, nor give a specific time frame, he said that there were a lot of factors to figure out how to get Vermont kids back in school, and if they can help “remove apprehension” for educators, they need to consider that. When questioned further, Scott did clarify that if they were to move forward vaccinate the education system, they would do so concurrently with the current plan, on a “parallel path,” so as not to impact efforts to vaccinate the most vulnerable, a hierarchy based on age, followed by those with chronic conditions.

In recent weeks, the state has focused on the mental health impact of school-age children who, according to a report presented by the state Department of Mental Health, have shown dramatic increases in anxiety and depression, as well as mental health-related emergency room visits due to pressure from remote learning as well as lack of support, services and friendship interaction.

Scott said an increased  supply would play into the decision to vaccinate educators, as well as the emergency approval for the Johnson & Johnson one-dose vaccine, which is expected to be given the green light by federal authorities this weekend. There are about 30,000 people in Vermont’s education workforce.

Education officials sent out a survey on Wednesday afternoon to schools to gauge interest in receiving the vaccine. According to Education Secretary Dan French, officials received more than 6,800 responses the first day, with 10,000 responses to-date even with half of Vermont schools on vacation. The survey is expected to be completed and tabulated next week.

Chronic condition band details expected Tuesday

Once the 65+ age band is under way, the next priority group to be targeted are those with chronic conditions from age 16 and up. Human Services Secretary Mike Smith said that Vermonters could anticipate receiving chronic health vaccination news next Tuesday at the governor’s biweekly press conference.

Earlier this week, the Vermont Health Department gave Walgreens permission to begin vaccination signup for the 65+ age band, ahead of the state’s March 1 launch date, because they received an unanticipated increase of 4,300 doses this week. Walgreens is part of a federal vaccination program separate from the state’s efforts but is working with officials to coordinate efforts. Eligible Vermonters age 65+ can sign up directly on Walgreen’s registration portal on its website.

State vaccination sign up for age 65+ begins on Monday, March 1 at 8:15 a.m. Registration can be made online by clicking here or by calling 855-722-7878. Smith 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.

Eligible Vermonters can also register at Kinney Drugs through its website. A link to that site is also accessible through the state vaccine web page. The Kinney Drugs program, unlike Walgreens, is coordinated through the state. However, Kinney Drugs has no stores south of Route 4, in Rutland. There are Walgreens in Southern Vermont, including Bellows Falls, Manchester, Brattleboro,  Bennington and Wilmington.

According to the Health Department more than 97,000 eligible Vermonters have received a vaccine: 46,600 have received their first dose; 51,000 their second; with 17.6% of the state, aged 16 and over, receiving at least one dose.

Case rates continue to slide; deaths up

This week, the Health Department recorded 712 new Covid-19 cases, a more than 100-case drop from the 836 tallied last week for a total of 14,963 since the beginning of the pandemic. The death toll from Covid-19 has increased however versus last week, going from four to 11 Vermont deaths for a total of 204. Of those who lost their lives to Covid-19, seven were older than 80. One fatality was between 50 and 59. Vermont Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine said that death involved severe chronic conditions.

Hospitalizations continued to drop this week from 37 to 24. The number of patients in intensive care also declined, going from 13 to 10.

The overall seven-day positivity rate also showed a decrease, falling from 1.8 percent last week to 1.5 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. 19 through Friday, Feb. 26.

Windham County added 44 new cases, down from 59 new cases last week, for a total of 953. Windsor County added just 27 cases, well down from the 46 new cases reported last week, for a total of 1034.

On Tuesday, Commissioner Michael Pieciak from the Department of Financial Regulation said there was clear improvement in Bennington and Rutland counties and numbers in Franklin County were stabilizing.

Rutland County added 53 new cases, a drop from 100 new cases last week, for a total of 1,280. Bennington County added 81 cases, down slightly from 84 cases last week, for a total of 1,433.

In K-12 schools throughout Vermont, there are 33 new Covid cases this week, down from 67 last week, with 649 total Covid cases reported as of Wednesday, Feb. 24, on the School Based Covid-19 Transmission document. Of note, many schools were on vacation this past week.

On Tuesday, Pieciak reported that state colleges and universities saw 82 new cases on campuses this week, up from 61 last week bringing the spring semester total to 417.

The Covid-19 testing schedule for Springfield has been updated with daily testing available from now through Sunday, March 14 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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