Vermont anticipates a large increase in COVID-19 cases following a swell of out-of-state travelers to the state over the holidays, officials said Tuesday.
Vermont saw the highest volume of out-of-state visitors to the state since the pandemic began over recent holidays, state officials said during a press conference on Tuesday.
Governor Phil Scott says it is unclear whether popular tourist attractions, including ski resorts, are to blame for the spike.
"We have not determine that there's a direct correlation with the number of cases and an increase of people in ski areas," Scott said during Tuesday's press conference. "While we're concerned, we're monitoring the situation."
Scott also acknowledged it is difficult to enforce the state's COVID-19 regulations.
"We have asked the ski areas to do this for us, and so far that they've done their part, and there are rigid guidelines that come with that," Scott said.
It will still be a few weeks before the state sees the impact of the state's cases from out-of-state travelers, officials said.
Addressing concerns of the discovery of a new COVID-19 variant that has reached the United States, Vermont's public health commissioner Dr. Mark Levine said there's no evidence that any new reported cases have been infected with the new strain.
"We have not seen this variant in Vermont yet, but I fully suspect we will," said Levine.
A small number of coronavirus positive test samples are routinely sent to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for analysis, Levine said. Scott encouraged Vermonters to test frequently at one of 15 sites across the state and reinforced the importance of residents to continue exercising public health measures.
"I know this continues to be hard, but let's continue doing this to save lives," said Scott. "We're asking you to be patient."
Meanwhile, the state's vaccination plan is being implemented in phases, with high-risk healthcare workers and long term-care facility residents as the top priority.
Vermont experienced an unexpected reduction in the number of coronavirus vaccine doses being delivered to the state by the federal government.
As of last week, more than 30,000 coronavirus vaccines have been sent to Vermont, and more than 17,000 doses of the vaccine have been administered, officials said.
Vermont is ranked as the number one in the nation of using the vaccine doses it has received, according to the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Scott previously urged people to "pay attention," and, "use common sense." Everyone should continue to avoid unnecessary gatherings or traveling out of state, Scott said, wear a mask and keeping your distance from others.
Vermont also surpassed the number of flu vaccines its residents received compared to the previous year.
Vermont went months in the late summer into the fall without a single death from COVID-19, Scott said. But the state has seen a drastic change in frequency of cases and deaths recently.
Vermont has reached 8,000 total cases, and the number of cases has increased over the last week to an average of 117 cases per day. An estimated 149 Vermonters have died from COVID-19.