The state of Vermont is going to recommend that all students and staff begin the upcoming school year wearing masks, officials said Tuesday.
During the regular weekly coronavirus update, Education Secretary Daniel French said the guidance for schools that will be conducting full, in-person instruction this fall will be provided to schools is being finalized. He expects it to be released this week.
French says the guidance this year will be two pages. Last year it was about 40.
While there will be a recommendation of a masking requirement to begin the school year, there will be no distancing requirements between people and once 80% of the students in a particular school have been vaccinated the school will be free to drop the use of masks for those who have been vaccinated. Students and staff who are unvaccinated should continue to wear masks, French said.
“The game changer this year, of course, are vaccinations,” French said.
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As of Tuesday, 84.1% of Vermonters aged 12 and over have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccination.
French said that since the state of emergency that was in place for much of past year has been lifted, the state will not be able to require schools to comply and ultimately it will be up to the local school districts to decide whether to follow the guidance.
The number of new cases of people infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 went from 171 last week to 282 cases this week. The majority of the new cases are among people who are unvaccinated, said Vermont Financial Regulation Commissioner Michael Pieciak, who has been following COVID-19 statistics for the state during the pandemic.
Even though the number of cases is going up, the number of hospitalizations remains low. The median age of people with new cases is 30 — an age when people are less likely to suffer the more extreme effects of COVID-19.
There have been so-called breakthrough cases of people who have been vaccinated getting COVID-19, but those who are vaccinated are 25 times less likely to require hospitalization than people who are unvaccinated.
Vermont Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine said that of 52 positive cases that were tested, 46 were the more transmissible delta variant.