Weekly Covid Update: All Vermonters 16 and up can register for vaxx by April 19

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In honor of the one-year anniversary of the first two deaths in Vermont due to Covid-19 — one of whom was 93-year-old Bob Kirkbride of Ludlow – Gov. Phil Scott has ordered flags lowered to half-mast and asked all churches and schools to ring their bells 14 times at 7 p.m. tonight. The number of rings represent all 14 counties of Vermont.

On Friday, Scott laid out the full Covid-19 vaccination schedule for all age bands showing that every Vermonter will be eligible for vaccination by April 19. Age band 60+ can begin registration on Thursday, March 25; age 55+ on Monday, March 29; age 40+ on Monday, April 5; age 30+ on Monday, April 12; age 16+ on Monday, April 19.

On Tuesday, Scott said the federal allocation will increase in the coming weeks, resulting in an additional 4,000 to 5,000 doses for Vermont. And Human Services Secretary Mike Smith added on Friday that the rapid age band schedule aligns with what Vermont has been told to expect from Washington.

Effective Wednesday, March 24, bars and clubs like the VFW, American Legion and the Elks can open under the restaurant guidance, including being seated at tables, abiding by 50 percent restaurant capacity, and observing social distancing guidelines.

Scott said that in the next few weeks, he will outline the state’s plan for emerging from the pandemic, with the intent of returning to normal by July 4. He specifically stated that Vermont high school seniors will be able to stage a traditional graduation ceremony as part of that return to normalcy.

Smith again encouraged Vermonters to begin the process of vaccine registration by establishing their accounts through the state’s website in advance of their age band eligibility to help streamline the process.

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

Walgreens will continue to offer vaccinations and Vermonters can register directly on its website or through the state website. Kinney Drugs and CVS also continue to offer vaccines and can be scheduled either on their respective websites or through the state website.

There have been two clinics established, one in Chittenden County and one in Brattleboro, to vaccinate the state’s underserved    BIPOC — Black, Indigenous, and People of Color — communities. The clinics provide language support as well as allow for the entire household of an eligible BIPOC Vermonter to be vaccinated at the same time. Details on these BIPOC specific clinics can be found here.

More than 166,000 Vermonters have gotten a jab or two

According to the Health Department, more than 166,000 eligible Vermonters have received a vaccine: More than 73,000 have received their first dose and nearly 89,000 have received both doses. And more than 18,000 educators and child care staffers have either received their first dose or made an appointment.

On Tuesday, Commissioner Michael Pieciak of the Department of Financial Regulation noted that Vermont’s vaccination rate hit a seven-day average of over 5,000 doses, reaching a high of 7,000 doses per day, an increase of 20 percent from last week.

To date, more than 85 percent of Vermonters age 75 and older have been vaccinated, 83 percent of age 70-75, and nearly 60 percent of age 65-69.

Smith praised Vermonters for their efforts in controlling virus spread and participating in the health department’s vaccination efforts. “Vermonters all across this state can be proud of how they responded to the pandemic. Vermont has consistently been one of the safest states to live in throughout this pandemic,” Smith said.

Case rates down; deaths steady

The Health Department announced this week that new Covid-19 cases are continuing to trend downward and announced 770 cases, down from the 804 tallied last week, for a total of 17,393 since the beginning of the pandemic. Death numbers from Covid-19 have remained steady at five, week to week. The total number of Vermonters who have died from Covid-19 is now 217. Of those who lost their lives to Covid-19 this week, three were older than 80, one fatality was between 70 and 79, and one between 50 and 59 years of age.

Hospitalizations were down this week from 23 to 22. The number of patients in intensive care went from four to five. The overall seven-day positivity rate also continued to fall, going from 1.5 percent last week to 1.3 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, March 12 through Friday, March 19.

California variant found in state

A second “variant of concern” was confirmed this week in Vermont with the identification of three specimens of what is known as “the California variant.” According to Vermont Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine, this variant is 20 percent more transmissible. This is in addition to eight specimens found of the UK variant, known to be 40 to 50 percent more transmissible. Both variants were found in Chittenden and Franklin counties. Levine said that mutation of a virus is normal, but a good reminder to stay vigilant to health safety protocols until vaccination levels climb.

Windham County added 32 new cases, down slightly from 37 new cases last week, for a total of 1,038. Windsor County added 29 new cases, just up from the 25 reported last week, for a total of 1,124. Bennington County added 62 cases, up from 56 cases last week, for a total of 1,598.

In K-12 schools throughout Vermont, there are 57 new Covid cases this week, down slightly from 60 last week, with 786 total Covid cases reported as of Wednesday, March 17, on the School Based Covid-19 Transmission document. Pieciak reported 59 new cases on Vermont college campuses, holding steady from previous weeks.

The Covid-19 testing schedule for Springfield has been updated with daily testing available from now through Sunday, April 3 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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