Weekly Covid Update: Vaxxed households can gather; more groups OK’d for jab signups

Vermont’s vaccinated households can begin to gather together. Photo by Nicole Michalou for Pexels.

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Gov. Phil Scott marked the one-year anniversary of the first reported Vermont case of Covid-19 with good news on Friday, detailing a loosening of gathering restrictions, as well as new approved phases for vaccination registration.

On Friday, Scott announced new gathering guidelines, now allowing all vaccinated Vermonters to gather together with no restrictions for group size or space. He further allowed vaccinated Vermonters to include one non-vaccinated household to join their get-together. Scott added that further announcements for “turning of the spigot” are expected next week.

Citing increased supply of Covid-19 vaccine doses, earlier this week Scott announced the approval for several groups to begin registration for the Covid-19 vaccine including: those with certain chronic conditions known as “Phase 5;” school educators and staff; childcare and early education providers; and an expansion of 1A recipients to include police staff, 911 call takers and staff in correctional facilities.

The large size of the Phase 5 group, totaling about 75,000 Vermonters, will be split into two groups. Group 5A will consist of those ages 55+ with certain high-risk health conditions who can begin registering on Monday, March 8. Group 5B will cover age 16 through 54 with high-risk chronic health conditions who can register starting Monday, March 15. A list of health conditions included under Phase 5 can be found here. Phase 5 recipients are not required to contact their health care provider to obtain documentation of their condition.

Registration through the state website can be made online by clicking here or by calling 855-722-7878. Human Services Secretary Mike 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.

Walgreens will continue to offer vaccinations and Vermonters can register directly on its website or through the state website. Smith announced that Walmart received vaccines in six stores and Costco had received a vaccine supply as well. Registration for both stores will happen through the state website. Smith urged Vermonters not to call the stores directly.

Vaxx registration starts Monday for public educators, school staff 

Vermont educators and school staff will begin registering for their vaccines on Monday, March 8. Smith said these folks will receive information from their employers on how and when they will be vaccinated and instruction on how to make appointments, which will happen through a pre-loaded system. They can also make their appointment directly through Walgreens. Educators will be given the option to choose either the one dose Johnson & Johnson or two dose Pfizer and Moderna options.

Local EMS, VDH staff, Vermont National Guard, health-care partners and school nurses will assist with the vaccination effort at specific school district designated sites, seven which are opening next week including Springfield, Rutland City, Mill River and all Bennington County districts. Smith said 28 more clinics would also be opened in the next few weeks. Childcare providers will be able to register for their vaccination the following week, beginning Monday, March 15.

Smith said that although the initial shipment of J&J doses was less than anticipated, state officials had secured extra Pfizer doses to augment this effort.

The expanded A1 recipients  — which include police, 911 call takers, and correctional facility staff — could begin receiving their vaccines as early tomorrow, Saturday, March 6, according to Smith.

According to the Health Department, more than 113,000 eligible Vermonters have received a vaccine: 52,631 have received their first dose; 61,234 their second. Over half of the age band 65+, 23,481 out of a group of approximately 42,000 have already registered for their first dose.

Case rates up; deaths down

This week, the Health Department recorded 856 new Covid-19 cases, well up from the 712 tallied last week, but returned to the level from two weeks ago, for a total of 15,819 since the beginning of the pandemic. Death numbers from Covid-19 has decreased however compared to last week, going from 11 to three. The total number of Vermonters who have died from Covid-19 is now 207. Of those who lost their lives to Covid-19 this week, one was older than 80, one fatality was between 70 and 79 and one fatality was between 50 and 59.

Hospitalizations ticked up slightly this week from 24 to 26. The number of patients in intensive care sharply declined, going from 10 to 4. The overall seven-day positivity rate also ticked up, going from 1.5 percent last week to 1.6 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. 26 through Friday, March 5.

Windsor County added 36 new cases, up from the 27 new cases reported last week, for a total of 1,070.Windham County added 16 new cases, well down from 44 new cases last week, for a total of 969.

On Tuesday, Commissioner Michael Pieciak of the Department of Financial Regulation said that Bennington and Franklin counties were still showing higher active case counts than the rest of the state but that they were improving.

Bennington County added 47 cases, significantly down from 81 cases last week, for a total of 1,480.

In K-12 schools throughout Vermont, there are 20 new Covid cases this week, down from 33 last week, with 669 total Covid cases reported as of Wednesday, March 3, on the School Based Covid-19 Transmission document. Of note, many schools were on vacation this past week.

On Tuesday, Pieciak said that state colleges and universities saw just 39 new cases on campuses this week, the best weekly number the state has seen in the spring semester, up from 82 last week. The total on-campus number for the spring semester is 456. Pieciak also said the state had administered the greatest number of tests on campus since the restart in the fall.

The Covid-19 testing schedule for Springfield has been updated with daily testing available from now through Sunday, March 21 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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