Vermont's high vaccination rate, which leads the country in a number of metrics, continues to result in a decline in COVID-19 cases, hospitalization rates and deaths with the state's seven-day average of cases plummeting 75% since April 1, a state official said Tuesday.
"Because of our vaccination rate and other factors, no state in the country is in a better and safer position than Vermont in beginning transitioning back to normal," Gov. Phil Scott said during his bi-weekly virus briefing. "In fact, if Vermont was its own country, we'd have one of the highest vaccination rates in the entire world."
Vermont leads the country in the percentage of people who have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, the number of vaccines administered per 100,000 people, and the percentage of people ages 65 and older who started or completed vaccinations, said Mike Pieciak, commissioner of the Department of Financial Regulation, who has been following the COVID-19 trends for Vermont. While the rate of new Vermonters starting vaccination fell this week, the state continues to have the highest rate in the country of people starting the vaccination process, he said.
"Our communities are getting safer by the day," Pieciak said.
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Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine said while the work is not over it's time to celebrate how far the state has come. But he and other officials urged Vermonters who have not gotten vaccinated to get the shots and said there will be numerous opportunities throughout the state, which will take walk-ins. Starting Thursday, Vermont will open up vaccines to out-of-staters.
Scott declared this week as EMS week and asked Vermonters to show their appreciation for emergency medical service workers by getting vaccinated. More than 30 walk-in EMS-led vaccination clinics are planned around Vermont this coming weekend, providing the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to anyone at least 18 years old, according to the Health Department.
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Conditions also continue to improve in the Northeast with a decrease in the number of cases, hospitalization rates and deaths. COVID-19 cases in the region have dropped by 70% over the last five weeks and the Northeast is leading the country in the uptake of the vaccine, Pieciak said.
Scott said he knows many people are still adjusting to his announcement on Friday that Vermont will comply with new federal guidance and eliminate the mask mandate for people who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The state has allowed municipalities and businesses to continue to have their own masking policies.
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"I want to remind everyone, it's OK. Just like it took some time to get used to wearing masks after asking Vermonters to do so over a year ago, it's natural that for some, the adjustment back to normal won't happen overnight," he said. "But just remember the science-based CDC guidance was issued for the entire country."
The city council in Vermont's largest city on Monday decided not to remove Burlington's mask mandate for fully vaccinated people. The council is expected to revisit the topic in early June.