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News Roundup: People 16 And Older With Specific Conditions Eligible For Vaccines Thursday

A blue chair sits under fluorescent pharmacy lights, with an orange paperboard sign that reads COVID vaccine start here.
Jane Lindholm
At Kinney Drugs in Hinesburg, a sign directs customers to practice social distancing as they wait for coronavirus vaccine appointments.

Vermont reporters provide a roundup of top news takeaways about the coronavirus and more for Wednesday, March 10.Want VPR's daily news in podcast form? Get up to speed in under 15 minutes with The Frequency every weekday morning. How about an email newsletter? Add our daily email briefing to your morning routine.

The latest coronavirus data:


1. Vermont Department of Health reports 80 new COVID-19 cases

Vermont health officials reported 80 new COVID-19 infections Wednesday.

Only Bennington, Chittenden and Franklin Counties had 10 or more cases.

Virus-related deaths remain at 211.

There are 32 current hospitalizations related to the virus, including three people in intensive care.

Nearly 25% of adult Vermonters – roughly 130,000 people – have now gotten at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

- Matthew Smith

Vaccination efforts appear to be keeping more older Vermonters from contracting COVID-19

State officials say they've been able to dramatically lower Vermont's COVID death rate by vaccinating a large majority of people over 70.

Mike Pieciak is the Commissioner of the Department of Financial Regulation.

He said that 82% of Vermonters over the age of 75 have received at least one dose of the vaccine, and 64% of the people between 70 and 74 have as well.

“With fewer vulnerable individuals contracting the virus, we're also seeing reductions in hospitalizations, in particular a steady decrease this week in the number of people in the ICU and as of today no one requiring ventilation,” Pieciak said Tuesday.

According to a new U.S. Census survey, 84% of Vermonters say they will definitely or probably get vaccinated in the coming months. You can sign up for a vaccine here.

- Bob Kinzel

Despite increase in case numbers, state officials project a decline into spring

The Health Department says the number of COVID-19 cases is increasing in Vermont, but the number of cases among older Vermonters continues to decline.

Statistics released Tuesday also show the vaccination campaign that focused on older Vermonters first is producing results, with fewer cases in long-term care facilities, fewer hospitalizations, fewer patients in intensive care and fewer deaths.

Despite the recent increase in cases, officials expect the number of infections reported in the state to hold steady over the coming weeks, and then decline.  

- The Associated Press

B117 variant detected in a Chittenden County COVID-19 patient

A more transmissible mutation of the COVID-19 virus was discovered in Vermont this week.

Health Commissioner Mark Levine said Vermont is one of the last states to detect the B117 variant in a patient with COVID-19.

“We’ve expected this result for a while, as it’s been discovered in virtually every state now,” Levine said Tuesday. “And mutations discovered in Burlington wastewater had already pointed to the likelihood it was here.”

While the variant is more contagious, Levine said wearing masks and avoiding crowds remain the best weapons to fight the spread of the virus.

Vermont’s vaccine rollout will also protect people, Levine said.

You can find more about vaccine eligibility and how to register for an appointment, here.

- Howard Weiss-Tisman

2. BIPOC Vermonters 16 and older with a vaccine-eligible household member can get a COVID vaccine

The Scott administration wants more Black, Indigenous, and people of color in Vermont to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

Health Commissioner Mark Levine says the vaccine rollout so far has not been serving Vermont’s BIPOC communities equitably.

“We are seeing significant disparities in the rate of vaccination among BIPOC Vermonters compared to white, non-Hispanic Vermonters,” Levine said.

As a result, the state will offer vaccine shots to anyone 16 and older in the BIPOC community who visits a clinic with a member of their household who is receiving a dose.

Levine says about 20% of white Vermonters have received at least one dose of the vaccine, while only 9% of Black Vermonters have been vaccinated.

Racial justice advocates have, for months, pressed the administration for a more concrete plan that addresses racial equity in the vaccine rollout.

You can find more about vaccine eligibility and how to register for an appointment, here.

- Howard Weiss-Tisman

More From Vermont Edition: Is Vermont Doing Enough To Address Racial Inequities In Its Vaccine Program?

3. Vermonters 16 and up with certain medical conditions can register for vaccines Thursday morning

The state is moving up its vaccination schedule for people 16 and older who have certain medical conditions.

Human Services Secretary Mike Smith said fewer people than expected in the 55-and-up age band made an appointment this week.

“Given our supply of vaccine and ability to accommodate large numbers of appointments, we have decided to accelerate this time schedule to this Thursday,” Smith said Tuesday.

The 16-and-up group was originally scheduled to begin signing up Monday.

A little more than 9,000 people with medical conditions in the 55-and-up group made appointments over the past week.

You can find more about vaccine eligibility and how to register for an appointment, here.

- Howard Weiss-Tisman

After this round of vaccinations, Scott Administration will return to age banding

The Scott Administration says once those with certain health conditions are vaccinated, the remaining Vermonters – those under 55 – will receive their shots based on their age.

Most recently vaccinations became available to people between 16 and 64 who have a chronic health condition as well as teachers and child care workers.

Gov. Phil Scott says he'll now shift back to age until everyone is vaccinated.

“Within the next two weeks, we'll be able to lay out our plan, our strategy, for the age bands and when you might expect those to come up,” Scott said.

Scott said he hopes to announce the availability of vaccines to people between the ages of 60 and 64, who don't have serious health issues, in the next two weeks.

- Bob Kinzel

Almost 70% of Vermonters say they plan to get a COVID-19 vaccine

State officials say they are pleased that a strong majority of Vermonters definitely plan to get a COVID-19 vaccine in the coming months.

Mike Pieciak is the commissioner of the Department of Financial Regulation.

He says recent surveys indicate very strong support for the use of vaccines across the state.

But he is concerned that roughly 16% of Vermonters say they probably won't or definitely won't get a shot.

“Almost 70% of Vermonters said they would definitely get the vaccine, which is the highest ranking in the country,” Levine said Tuesday. “But as you can also see, there's still a significant number of people who are unsure about the vaccine. Getting vaccinated is the key to getting out of the pandemic.”

The state has administered roughly 200,000 vaccination  doses since January.

- Bob Kinzel

More from VPR: Frequently Asked Questions (And Answers) About The COVID-19 Vaccine In Vermont

Human Services secretary calls for clinics to administer vaccines, not waste extra doses

State officials want all clinics to have a procedure for making sure the COVID-19 vaccine is not wasted.

Human Service Secretary Mike Smith said the state has a priority list, and wants those who are in the approved categories to go first when there’s an extra dose.

But if there is a dose available, the clinic should have a way of making sure it’s administered somehow.

“The procedure says: at the end of the day, if there is no one, then don’t waste that dosage,” Smith said. “Get it into someone’s arm.”

Vermont has wasted less than 1% of its vaccine allotment, far below the CDC recommended standard of less than 5%.

- Howard Weiss-Tisman

4. Scott hints that he may loosen restrictions on gatherings Friday

Gov. Phil Scott says he’s ready to ease up a little on the COVID-19 restrictions that limit multi-family gatherings.

At his press conference Tuesday, Scott said even people who have not been vaccinated yet will be covered by the new rules to be announced later this week.

“So on Friday, we plan to announce changes for small gatherings as well,” Scott said. “This will have an impact on other areas like restaurants too, so stay tuned."

Scott restricted multi-family gatherings just before Thanksgiving, and he said Vermonters have done a good job following the rules.

He says the low virus positivity rate, along with the ongoing vaccine rollout, have made Vermont one of the safest states in the country.

- Howard Weiss-Tisman

5. Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger looks for a 'way forward' after narrow victory

Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger says he expects the city to receive millions in federal funding from the COVID relief bill currently under consideration in Congress.

This is the first time Burlington has been in line for direct federal stimulus money during the pandemic.

Weinberger says the money would be enough to cover the city's $8 million revenue shortfall.

"The kind of numbers that appear to be in this bill would exceed that and allow us not only to make up for the lost revenues, but to have some flexible resources on hand for us to take innovative steps to ensure a racially and equitably just recovery,” Weinberger said.

The relief bill is expected pass the House Wednesday and go to President Joe Biden for his signature later this week.

The mayor weighs in on policing reform, staffing

Weinberger says he expects an upcoming study from an outside group will support his view that the city needs more police officers.

Last year, the city council mandated reductions to Burlington's police force – limiting it to 74 officers.

Weinberger says that's not enough, and he thinks a third-party report will help build a consensus around police staffing levels.

"I continue to think that that is almost certainly going to need to be more than the 74 that the council has currently approved, and this study should shed greater light on that,” Weinberger said this week.

Weinberger has said the cuts to the police force could imperil public safety.

When asked for examples of the impact so far, Weinberger cited the reduction of foot patrols in downtown, and an increase in graffiti around Burlington.

Listen to the full conversation.

- Henry Epp

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