October 26, 2021

Desk Solver

Business The Problem Solver

Scott talks persistent COVID cases, schools, businesses, vaccinations

by Timothy McQusiton, Vermont Business Magazine Governor Phil Scott and administration officials held their usual Tuesday press briefing to discuss COVID-19 mitigation for schools, which mostly opened last week; parents protesting masking mandates at schools (Scott said people should blame him and not local school boards and administrators who are following state guidance); CDC guidance on mask wearing indoors (which the state is not fully advising); Corrections Department cases and new rules for DOC staff starting Wednesday (if unvaccinated the must wear a mask and be regularly tested); and Scott also released the list of this week’s vaccination clinics.

Governor Scott was pressed on masking mandates in general, especially at school and indoors at any public place. 

He reiterated that without declaring another State of Emergency, which he does not believe is necessary, he cannot mandate neither.

For schools, the administration is offering guidance to local districts who must make their own decisions (see administration mask guidance below.)

In general, Scott is urging mask wearing for all students and staff for the first 10 days of school and then after that only for children under 12, who for now are ineligible for any vaccine. If a school reaches 80 percent vaccination level they can discontinue the mask requirement after 10 days.

Schools will continue with regular surveillance testing.

One school, in Canaan, is resisting any mask requirement. Schools who choose to operate remotely, in full or in part, could run into a problem with certification of the school year. Last year and at the beginning of the pandemic, districts received a waiver to allow for remote days to be counted as full days. That waiver is no longer in place. 

Health Commissioner Mark Levine, MD, noted today that cases of COVID-19, driven by the Delta variant, have not quite plateaued during this recent surge, but appear to be slowing down. The modeling indicates that cases should begin to decrease in another week or two.

As of today, the Vermont Department of Health is reporting one more death for 276 statewide, with 104 cases, 28 hospitalized and 8 in the ICU. Vermont still ranks at or near the top (with Hawaii) for fewest COVID cases and highest rates of vaccinations, both overall and by category. Hawaii has the highest one-dose vaccination rate of 86.2 percent with Vermont at 86.1 percent. Vermont has the highest fully vaccinated rate at 76.9 percent. See COVID and vaccination dashboards below.

Meanwhile, the CDC is recommending universal mask wearing in all public places in the nation. COVID-19 is still raging across many parts of the South and Southwest, though it does appear to be slowing down.

Scott and Dr Levine said today that the state is sticking with a recommendation that people should use commonsense and wear a mask indoors where it seems appropriate, such as any crowded room or places with poor ventilation. The administration officials were not wearing (and have not been wearing for the last few months) masks in the uncrowded auditorium where the press briefings are held in the Pavilion building in Montpelier.

They point out that the best way for people not to get sick is to get vaccinated. Most of the cases and nearly all the serious cases of COVID-19 are among those who are not vaccinated.

As for businesses, Scott is urging (not mandating) businesses require either vaccinations for workers or to employ a similar strategy as the Corrections Department, with those who are unvaccinated being required to mask and test. Employers are concerned that workers, which are in short-supply in many industries, might simply leave and work at another firm without any vaccination or masking requirements.

The Corrections Department has locked down the prison in Newport because of 25 recent cases of COVID-19 among inmates and one staff case. Secretary Smith said today that about 80 percent of the resident inmate population and 79 percent of staff statewide have been vaccinated.

While Corrections staff are not required to be vaccinated, the administration and the union have agreed that as of Wednesday, staff must be either vaccinated or masked and submit to testing or face disciplinary actions. 

Governor Scott said he is considering a similar requirement for all state workers, which would have to be approved by the union. 

School Mask Recommendations

To allow school districts time to calculate the percentage of currently eligible students who have received two doses of a two-dose vaccine, schools should require universal masking for all students and staff when indoors for the first 10 instructional days of the school year. Currently, all Vermonters ages 12 and older are eligible to be vaccinated.

Following the first 10 instructional days of the school year, masks should no longer be required for all those eligible for vaccination when the vaccination rate (two doses of a two-dose vaccine) among students is equal to or greater than 80% of the school’s currently eligible population.

Masks should be required indoors for students younger than 12, who are not eligible to be vaccinated at this time.

Masks, when required, may be removed when needed for instructional or operational purposes.

Masks are currently required for all passengers on buses per federal regulation, regardless of age or vaccination status.

Masks should not be required outdoors.

Guidance will be updated when vaccine eligibility expands.

Vaccination Clinics

Human Services Secretary Mike Smith announced today a series of walk-in vaccination clinics that will be open at schools and other sites across Vermont this week for anyone age 12 or older. 

You can just walk-in or visit www.healthvermont.gov/MyVaccine to make an appointment. You can also call 855-722-7878.

Here are the vaccination sites available this week:

Tuesday, August 31

Hazen Union High School, 126 Hazen Union Drive, Hardwick

Springfield High School, 303 South Street, Springfield

Manchester Elementary, 80 Memorial Ave, Manchester Center

Woodstock Farmers Market, 979 West Woodstock Road, Woodstock

Springfield Town Library, 43 Main Street, Springfield

Champlain Valley Fair, 105 Pearl Street, Essex Junction

Bradford Psychiatric Associates, 199 Stratton Road, Rutland

Wednesday, September 1

St. Albans City Elementary School, 29 Bellows Street, St. Albans

Champlain Valley Fair, 105 Pearl Street, Essex Junction

Cavendish Fire Department, 2153 Main Street, Cavendish

Waterbury Ambulance, 1727 Guptil Road, Waterbury Center

1311 Barre Montpelier Road, Berlin

Thursday, September 2

Burr and Burton Academy, 57 Seminary Ave, Manchester

North Country Junior High School, 57 Junior High Drive, Derby

Champlain Valley Fair, 105 Pearl Street, Essex Junction

Health Care & Rehabilitation Services – Hartford, 49 School Street, Hartford

Barre Town EMS, 4 McLaughlin Road, East Barre

Waterbury Farmers’ Market, 2 Rotarian Place, Waterbury

Friday, September 3

Newport Waterfront Plaza, Newport

Morristown Elementary School, 548 Park Street, Morristown

Champlain Valley Union High School, 369 CVU Road, Hinesburg

Cambridge Rescue Station, 18 Williamson Court, Jeffersonville

Quechee Balloon Festival, 70 Village Green, Quechee

Champlain Valley Fair, 105 Pearl Street, Essex Junction

Brattleboro Gallery Walk, Elliott Street and Main Street, Brattleboro

1311 Barre Montpelier Road, Berlin

Saturday, September 4

King Arthur Baking Company, 135 U.S. Route 5, Norwich

Canaan High School, 99 School Street, Canaan

Grand Isle Elementary School, 224 U.S. Route 2, Grand Isle

Grand Isle Sheriff’s Department, 10 Island Circle, Grand Isle

Stowe Community Church, 137 Main Street, Stowe

Champlain Valley Fair, 105 Pearl Street, Essex Junction

Bennington Fire Department, 130 River Street, Bennington

Sunday, September 5

Guilford Fair, 163 Fairground Road, Guilford

Lake Region High School, 317 Lake Region Road, Orleans

Spaulding High School, 155 Ayers Street, Barre

Champlain Valley Fair, 105 Pearl Street, Essex Junction

More ways to get your free vaccine:

Make an appointment for a free vaccine

You can also walk-in at CVS, Hannaford Food and Drug, Walmart, Walgreens, Price Chopper/Market 32, Rite Aid, Shaw’s Supermarket, or Costco or get an appointment with Kinney DrugsCVSWalgreens, Northfield Pharmacy, or UVMMC Outpatient Pharmacies.

Vaccination & COVID-19 Dashboards