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Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Vermont Receives $28.5 Million to Address COVID-Related Health Inequities

Posted By on Tue, Jun 15, 2021 at 11:32 AM

TIM NEWCOMB
  • Tim Newcomb
Vermont will receive $28.5 million over two years to identify and address health equity problems, many of which were accentuated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The money is part of a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention grant program aimed at improving access to health care for all, including minorities and rural populations. The CDC plans to invest $2.25 billion nationally by 2023.

State officials learned June 3 that the state would receive the award, said Heidi Klein, director of planning and health care quality at the Vermont Department of Health. Klein said she’s been told the state won’t have the authority to spend the money for at least another month or two.

It’s not yet clear how the state will spend the money, but Klein said the health department plans to hire about 20 people to work in the area of health outcome disparities, at least for the grant term of two years. Before COVID, she said, the department had only one half-time position devoted to equity work, as well as a 12-person workgroup that met every two weeks before the pandemic to discuss the topic of advancing health equity — a federal requirement for public health accreditation. The department established a six-person health equity community engagement team when the pandemic began.

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Monday, June 14, 2021

Vermont Crosses 80 Percent Vaccination Threshold, Scott Lifts COVID-19 Restrictions

Posted By on Mon, Jun 14, 2021 at 11:19 AM

Gov. Phil Scott - JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR
  • Jeb Wallace-Brodeur
  • Gov. Phil Scott
Updated at 2:55 p.m.

Slightly more than 80 percent of all eligible Vermonters have now received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, according to Gov. Phil Scott, who celebrated the milestone by making good on his promise to lift all remaining COVID-19 restrictions.

At a press conference on Monday, Scott said that he was moving Vermont into the final phase of its reopening plan. Capacity restrictions and gathering limits are now lifted, mask wearing is no longer required, and most businesses are now under recommended guidance instead of the stringent health mandates that have governed their daily operations for much of the last 15 months.

The announcement comes 464 days after the state identified its first case of COVID-19 and marks a major step toward normalcy, signaling what many hope will be an end to the pandemic in Vermont.

"There are no longer any state COVID-19 restrictions," Scott said. "None. So unless there is a federal requirement in place — like [for] public transportation or long-term care facilities — employers, municipalities and individuals can operate under the same conditions as before the pandemic."

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Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Receiver Will Run Four Eldercare Homes After Resident Death, Abuse

Posted By on Tue, Jun 8, 2021 at 2:38 PM

Our House Too in Rutland - FILE: CALEB KENNA ©️ SEVEN DAYS
  • File: Caleb Kenna ©️ Seven Days
  • Our House Too in Rutland
A court-appointed receiver is assuming control over a group of four eldercare homes in Rutland after regulators found deteriorating conditions at the homes led to abuse and a resident’s death.

The residential care homes, known collectively as Our House, featured prominently in a Seven Days/Vermont Public Radio series on the industry for similar problems dating back to 2015.

State regulators at the Vermont Department of Disabilities, Aging and Independent Living stepped in last month following what court filings describe as a spate of “troubling events” at Our House homes in the last year that showed a pattern of understaffing and inadequate training.

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Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Vermont Closes In on Vaccination Goal — and Considers Sending Shots to Canada

Posted By on Tue, Jun 1, 2021 at 3:52 PM

Gốc Văn Trần gets vaccinated for COVID-19 at the Winooski Armory - FILE: LY TRẦN
  • File: Ly Trần
  • Gốc Văn Trần gets vaccinated for COVID-19 at the Winooski Armory
Vermonters are closing in on the state’s goal of an 80 percent vaccination rate, raising expectations that Gov. Phil Scott will lift all remaining COVID-19 restrictions this month.

The state is still gathering vaccination data from Sunday and Monday, but as of Tuesday morning, an estimated 78 percent of eligible Vermonters had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Another 11,346 people need to get vaccinated in order to reach that 80 percent. If 1,000 a day were vaccinated, the state would fully reopen June 11, Human Services Secretary Mike Smith said during the governor’s regular COVID-19 news briefing Tuesday.

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Friday, May 21, 2021

Scott's Bargain: No More COVID-19 Restrictions Once Vermont Hits 80 Percent Vaccination Rate

Posted By on Fri, May 21, 2021 at 3:24 PM

Gov. Phil Scott - FILE: JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR
  • FILE: JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR
  • Gov. Phil Scott
Gov. Phil Scott said on Friday that he will lift all remaining COVID-19 restrictions and limits as soon as 80 percent of eligible Vermonters — age 12 and older — have received at least one dose of vaccine.

The governor initially set the Fourth of July as the date to lift all restrictions. But he said during one of his twice-weekly COVID-19 news briefings that he hopes to be able to lift restrictions sooner than that. Bars and restaurants, for instance, remain limited in the hours they can operate.

“Vaccines work, and we’re vaccinating faster than I think anyone imagined,” Scott said.

As of Friday, 88 percent of all Vermonters were eligible to be vaccinated. Of that population, 74.9 percent had received at least one dose, according to data from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That means an additional 27,954 people need to be vaccinated to reach the 80 percent threshold, according to Scott.

The highest proportion of people who had received one dose was 77 percent, in Chittenden County, according to the state Health Department’s COVID-19 dashboard. The lowest was Essex County, with 54 percent.

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Friday, May 14, 2021

Fully Vaccinated Vermonters Can Ditch Masks in Most Situations, Scott Says

Posted By on Fri, May 14, 2021 at 11:49 AM

Gov. Phil Scott and Health Commissioner Mark Levine at a press briefing - FILE: JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR
  • FILE: JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR
  • Gov. Phil Scott and Health Commissioner Mark Levine at a press briefing
Updated at 5 p.m.

Vermonters who are fully vaccinated do not need to wear masks or socially distance in many settings, Gov. Phil Scott said on Friday, rules that adhere to new federal guidance.

The governor also relaxed gathering limits and lifted all domestic travel restrictions. The switch comes more than two weeks before the anticipated date of June 1 for the changes. The moves are effective as soon as Scott signs an executive order, which he planned to do later Friday.

The announcements are significant steps toward normalcy as the proportion of adults who have received at least one vaccine dose crosses 70 percent. Nearly 52 percent have completed their vaccine regimen. Children ages 12 to 15 are also now eligible to get vaccinated.

"It's time to reward all the hard work you've done over the last 14 months," Scott said.

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Thursday, May 13, 2021

Middlebury College Will Require Fall Students to Be Vaccinated

Posted By on Thu, May 13, 2021 at 8:44 PM

Health care workers receiving the COVID-19 vaccine - COURTESY OF RYAN MERCER/UVM HEALTH NETWORK
  • Courtesy of Ryan Mercer/UVM Health Network
  • Health care workers receiving the COVID-19 vaccine
Middlebury College has joined a growing number of colleges in Vermont and around the country that will require students attending this fall to be vaccinated for COVID-19.

President Laurie Patton and other college officials jointly announced Thursday that students, staff, and faculty who live, work, and learn on the campus must all get vaccinated. The intent, the administrators said, is to help the college safely return to more normal, in-person classes.

"Scientific research tells us that vaccination of the vast majority of our community will provide the best possible protection against COVID-19," Patton wrote in a statement to the college community. "We expect that once most individuals are vaccinated, we will be able to relax restrictions, move away from testing and capacity limits, and resume more activities and events."

Like other Vermont colleges that plan to take similar steps, Middlebury may grant individual exemptions for religious or medical reasons.

Saint Michael's College, Norwich University and Champlain College, which have all previously said they will expect students to be vaccinated, also said they will offer exemptions.

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Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Pending Approval, Vaccine Appointments for 12- to 15-Year-Olds Could Open This Week

Posted By on Tue, May 11, 2021 at 5:27 PM

A health care worker prepares a dose of COVID-19 vaccine - COURTESY OF RYAN MERCER / UVM MEDICAL CENTER
  • Courtesy of Ryan Mercer / UVM Medical Center
  • A health care worker prepares a dose of COVID-19 vaccine
If the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approves the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 12 to 15 as expected on Wednesday, Vermont parents could be signing up their children for appointments as early as the next day.

In preparation, the state is setting up clinics at more than 40 schools around the state, and families will also be able to register for a vaccine at Kinney Drugs or CVS, officials said on Tuesday at one of the Scott administration’s regular COVID-19 press briefings.

Vermont has an estimated 27,000 children in that age group, state officials said.

The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices is meeting on Wednesday to discuss the Pfizer vaccine, which was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Monday. The committee is expected to recommend use of the vaccine, said state Health Commissioner Mark Levine. The CDC will then send instructions and guidance for its administration to the states.

Moderna and Johnson & Johnson shots have not yet been approved for people under age 18.

“Vermont has been preparing for this,” Levine said. “We’ll be ready to offer the vaccine to this age group almost immediately.”

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Friday, May 7, 2021

Vermont Colleges and Universities Announce Vaccine Requirements

Posted By on Fri, May 7, 2021 at 3:23 PM

A patient receiving a vaccine dose - CATEYEPERSPECTIVE | DREAMSTIME.COM
  • Cateyeperspective | Dreamstime.com
  • A patient receiving a vaccine dose
As Vermont colleges and universities weigh reopening procedures for next fall, some institutions have already issued guidance on COVID-19 vaccinations for students and employees.

On Thursday, Champlain College in Burlington announced that it would require all students to be fully vaccinated before the start of the fall semester, pending U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval of the vaccines.

Under the current emergency authorization order, some experts contend that vaccine mandates exist on shaky legal ground. But full approval will make such requirements "a little more feasible," John Grabenstein, a former executive director of medical affairs for vaccines at Merck and a former Department of Defense immunologist, told NBC News.

Pfizer filed a request on Friday for FDA approval for its COVID-19 vaccine, a process that public health officials estimate could take up to six months.

St. Michael’s, a private Catholic college in Colchester, will also require students to get vaccinated before returning to campus in the fall, according to spokesperson Alex Bertoni.

Employees, Bertoni said, will be “strongly encouraged” to get shots.

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Friday, April 30, 2021

Following CDC's Lead, Scott Eases Outdoor Mask Mandate

Posted By on Fri, Apr 30, 2021 at 1:14 PM

Gov. Phil Scott - FILE: JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR
  • File: Jeb Wallace-Brodeur
  • Gov. Phil Scott
Gov. Phil Scott announced on Friday that Vermont has vaccinated enough people to enter the second phase of its reopening plan, which places close-contact businesses under new guidance and permits larger indoor and outdoor gatherings.

He also updated the state's outdoor mask mandate following the release of new guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Prevention and Control. Vermonters, regardless of whether they are vaccinated, no longer need to wear facial coverings outdoors when physical distancing can be maintained, though businesses and municipalities can enact stricter rules if they want.

"As an example, if you're walking down the street, you don't need to wear a mask," Scott said at a press conference. "If you're at the dog park and you're not in a crowd, you don't need to wear a mask. If you're with people outdoors in accordance with the gathering policy, you don't need a mask."

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