Health Dept. employees urge stronger measures as infections, deaths rise

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On Thursday, nearly 91 Vermont Health Department workers sent a letter to the department’s top administrators urging them to step up their Covid-19 public health guidance. Vermont Health Commissioner Mark Levine, who received the letter, responded later on Thursday writing: “As a department, we have to recognize that in a global pandemic, public health recommendations are a significant factor, but not the sole factor in the state’s policy decisions.”

Levine cited “mental health, substance misuse, economic security, overall public confidence, and commitment to mitigation measures and more” as other factors to be considered.

When questioned whether he would re-instate a state of emergency in response to the rising infection numbers during Tuesday’s press conference Gov. Phil Scott said that state health officials are “ready to pivot when we have to.” He said that if cases don’t decrease as expected, they may take other measures but he doesn’t “believe that a state of emergency is appropriate at this time.” Only under the mantle of a state of emergency can the governor issue  mandates.

In a message on behalf of Scott, press secretary Jason Malucci wrote: “It’s also important to note, none of the recommendations presented in the letter are, or ever have been, off the table. The Governor will continue to rely on his team of experts and weigh all input and consideration when making decisions and has always shown a willingness to change strategies to keep Vermont moving forward.”‘

Five more deaths

The state of Vermont has reported five new Covid-19 deaths over the past week, down slightly from the six deaths reported last week for a total of 275 deaths. One death was a Vermonter 80+, one aged 70 to 79, two aged 60 to 69 and one aged 40 to 49.

Positive cases are again on the rise this week with 870 new cases reported in the last week, up from 738 last week, largely due to the Delta variant. The Vermont total now stands at 27,648 since the beginning of the pandemic.

Currently, 30 people are hospitalized with Covid-19 up from 26 last week. The number of people in intensive care has decreased, falling from 12 to four. The positivity rate rose from 2.8 percent to 3.0 percent over this past week.

Locally, positive cases have jumped both in Windsor and Windham counties, more than doubling from last week. Windsor County has reported 78 new positive Covid-19 cases in the past week, up from 37. Windham County has seen an increase of 77 new cases, up from 38 last week. Increases in Windsor County may be explained in part by the 30 positive cases reported at the Cedar Hill Nursing Home in Windsor this week, reported by the Valley News. The Chester Telegraph also reported about five cases that occurred in Weston.

The total positive case numbers, deaths and other statistics are based on data published on the Health Department’s daily dashboard.

Local town numbers have remained low however, with cases reported this past week at 14,  including eight in Springfield, five cases in Chester, one case in Cavendish and zero cases in Ludlow. Town numbers are now, once again, being reported weekly. Those community updates can be seen here.

Vermont continues to lead the nation in vaccination rate. 85.8 percent of eligible Vermonters have received at least one dose of vaccine, up from 85.2 percent last week. Windsor County’s vaccination rate is currently at 77.8 percent up from 77.3 percent last week and Windham County’s rate is at 79.6 percent, up from 78.9 percent from last week. For vaccination details, visit Vermont’s vaccination dashboard.

With the Pfizer vaccine receiving full approval by the FDA on Monday, state officials hope to see vaccination rates continue to rise.

This week the federal government recommended booster shots for the general population tentatively scheduled to begin the week of Sept. 20. These should be administered eight months after a person’s last injection. Agency of Human Services Secretary Mike Smith said on Tuesday that the state is fully prepared and will roll out the booster program much like the initial vaccine rollout starting with healthcare and senior care facility workers.

Local vaccine clinics now with regular weekly hours

  • Brattleboro Memorial Hospital, 53 Fairview St., Brattleboro; 9 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday.
  • Springfield Medical Care Systems, 51 Pearl St. Level 2, Springfield; 8-11 a.m. Tuesday and Wednesday.
  • Springfield Vermont Department of Health Office, 100 Mineral St., Springfield; 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday.
  • White River Junction Vermont Department of Health Office, 118 Prospect St., White River Junction, 1 to 4 p.m. Thursday.

Area walk-up clinics

Friday, Aug. 27

  • Bondville Fair, 30 VT Rte 30, Bondville. 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.

Saturday, Aug. 28

  • Bondville Fair, 30 VT Rte 30, Bondville, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.

Tuesday, Aug. 31

  • Woodstock Farmer’s Market, Woodstock, 10:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.
  • School Clinic: Manchester Elementary School, Manchester Center, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
  • School Clinic: Springfield High School, Springfield, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
  • Springfield Town Library, 43 Main St., Springfield, 3 – 5 p.m.

Wednesday, Sept. 1

  • Cavendish Fire Dept., 2153 Main St., Cavendish 3 – 7 p.m.

Thursday, Sept. 2

  • School Clinic: Burr and Burton Academy, Manchester, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
  • Health Care & Rehabilitation Services, Hartford 3 – 6 p.m.

Friday, Sept. 3

  • Quechee Balloon Festival, 70 Village Green, Quechee 3 – 7 p.m.

For details on these events or all vaccination clinics throughout the state, Click Here. Walgreens continues to offer vaccinations and Vermonters can register directly on its website or through the state website.

When making an appointment through the state’s website, options include clinics run by the Health Department, the National Guard, health care partners, Costco, Hannaford, Price Chopper, Rite-Aid, Shaw’s and Walmart.

Rite-Aid in both Ludlow and Springfield are offering walk-in vaccines. Only larger Shaw’s stores that have pharmacies are participating in the vaccination program, which means that neither the Ludlow nor Springfield location is participating.

To register for a vaccination and see your many options, visit the Vermont Health Department website or call 855-722-7878.

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