Weekly Covid Update: Proms to be allowed with guidelines

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Vermont Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine said he doesn’t expect word on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine until the end of the day on Friday as the Centers for Disease Control advisory committee, which is investigating the incidence of six cases of rare blood clots out of more than 7 million doses, will come to its decision at the end of their multi-hour session today.

UPDATE: The Vermont Department of Health announced it will resume use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine the week of April 26. The decision was made following the announcement late Friday by the FDA and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that it has studied and confirmed the Janssen/Johnson & Johnson vaccine is recommended for people 18 years of age and older, and that the pause on its use since April 13 can be lifted.

Part-time Vermont residents including students can register for a Covid vaccine. Photo by Charlotte May for Pexels.

Based on the committee decisions, the Vermont Health Department will be providing scheduling guidance for the single dose J&J as early as Saturday morning, Human Services Deputy Secretary Jenny Samuelson said. Vaccinations could begin again as early as Tuesday morning. Depending on the guidance, those with Monday appointments may or may not need to be rescheduled.

Gov. Phil Scott said that currently the state J&J supply is under 1,000 doses but pharmacies have inventory as well. After his call with federal officials on Tuesday, he’ll know how much will be shipped to Vermont and how that will impact J&J distribution.

On Friday, the Vermont Agency of Education released its graduation and school end-of-year celebration guidance, which draws distinctions between vaccinated and non-vaccinated would-be participants. Proms will be allowed, including dancing with masks, and other guidance in accordance with the Strong and Healthy Year Guidance and the Vermont Forward Plan.

Out-of-state students may
register for vaxx April 29

The Vermont Department of Health announced on Wednesday that part-time Vermont residents including Vermont college students coming from out-of-state, may register for vaccines beginning Thursday, April 29.

When questioned about scheduling a second dose for out-of-state students who would likely be in another ZIP code for their second dose, Scott said that students should be able to schedule their second dose in their home state since many states are beginning to see much less demand.

Samuelson said the Vermont system is set up to identify that the second dose would be given in another state. However, she did not say that Vermont’s state system would coordinate that out of state scheduling.

In K-12 schools throughout Vermont, there are 56 new Covid cases this week, down from 91 last week, continuing the downward trend over the last few weeks, with 1233 total Covid cases reported on the School Based Covid-19 Transmission document as of Wednesday, April 18.

UVM reported a total of 33 student positive cases during the week of April 12 -18, again seeing a significant drop from 59 cases last week and 94 cases reported the week before. On Tuesday, Pieciak reported that throughout all Vermont campuses there were 47 cases reported.

County numbers mixed; local counts remain low

Windsor County saw a jump in Covid cases this week going from 25 new cases last week up to 42 cases this week for a total of 1,303. Windham County added 40 new cases, down from 59 new cases last week, for a total of 1,267. Bennington County numbers were lower, reversing its recent trend, adding 68 new cases, down from 82 last week, for a total of 1,899. Rutland County continued to drop, adding 61 new cases, down from 79 last week for a total of 2,035.

The case counts of local towns continue with low numbers with Springfield flipflopping and going from 6 cases last week, back up to the previous level of 10 cases. Chester and Ludlow again both added two new cases this week. Cavendish added one case, again matching last week.

Statewide cases drop, one death reported

The Health Department reported this week that new Covid-19 cases have dropped significantly this week, adding just 613 cases, the lowest week total recorded since the end of November 2020, for a total of 22,416 since the beginning of the pandemic.

There was only one reported death from Covid-19 this week, dropping dramatically from 11 last week, the lowest weekly number seen since early November 2020. The total number of Vermonters who have died from Covid-19 is now 243. The one death from Covid-19 this week was 80+.

Levine said the Health Department has seen more consecutive days with fewer than 100 new cases in the past two weeks. That — along with a dramatically decreased positivity rate  — is indicating a better overall trajectory at this time, he said.

The younger demographics are now the primary reason for infection rates falling so quickly, down by 33 percent this past week, Mike Pieciak, commissioner of the Department of Financial Regulation, said on Tuesday. The lower numbers were likely not the result of vaccinations since this age group just became eligible, but instead are likely due to behavioral changes including following state health guidance more closely, and spending more time outdoors.

The overall seven-day positivity rate continued to slide downward, going from 1.9 percent last week to 1.3 percent this week. Hospitalizations are steady at 26, with patients in intensive care going from three to five.

The total positive case numbers, deaths and other statistics are based on data published on the Health Department’s daily dashboard from Friday, April 16 through Friday, April 23.

More than 300,000 Vermonters vaccinated

According to the Health Department, Vermont has hit another milestone with more than 300,000 residents — age 16 and older — having received at least one dose of vaccine. In total, 305,100 eligible Vermonters have received a vaccine: Almost 95,000 have received their first dose; over 210,000 have received both doses.

More than 50 percent of the 16-18 age group has been vaccinated or signed up for their first dose since registration began on April 17. The age band 16 to 29 has seen a 41 percent vaccination or registration rate since their sign-up date of April 19. Levine said that based on feedback he had received, many in this age group were waiting for the J&J vaccine to be reinstated.

Pieciak announced on Tuesday that Vermont is among the first in the nation with vaccinating those age 65 and older, with 93.6 percent started or completed vaccination. Scott said on Friday that Vermont continues to rank among the top three to five states for vaccine administration in many categories.

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. Only larger Shaw’s stores that have a pharmacy will be participating in the vaccination program, which means that neither the Ludlow nor Springfield locations is participating.

Price Chopper and Rite Aid began offering vaccines on Monday, April 12 with both the Ludlow and Springfield Rite Aid locations participating. Appointments cannot be made directly through the stores however; scheduling must happen through the state website.

The Covid-19 testing schedule for Springfield has been updated with daily testing available from now through Saturday, May 8 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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