By Guy Page
Twenty-nine Vermonters today are hospitalized with Covid-19, with three in intensive care, and none on ventilators, according to the Vermont Health Department dashboard and Commissioner Mark Levine.
77 Vermonters have died of Covid-19 – a mortality rate of 1.6%. Sixty-four deaths occurred in people 70 years and older.
Yesterday saw a record high in positive tests with 224 – due in part to ramped-up testing and about 130 weeks-old cases reported from the University of Vermont Medical Center, Levine said at a press conference today.
Levine quoted Centers of Disease Control and Prevention director Robert Redfield’s statement yesterday: the next few months will be among “the most difficult in the public health history of the nation.”
“The virus is widespread and active now,” Gov. Phil Scott said. “We see too many in the hospital fighting this virus, and even worse, dying. The threat of the virus taking over is very real.”
Vermont’s recovery from the pandemic won’t be over when the vaccine arrives next month, Scott cautioned. “This is going to take many many months….it could be up to a year,” Scott said. Levine said the optimists put the recovery date at spring 2021, the pessimists say late summer. “We’ll all have to practice masking and social distancing for a long period of time….into the spring, for sure,” he said.
Therefore, school and recreational sports will continue to be postponed, Scott said. He also urged Vermonters suffering from pandemic fatigue to reach out for help.
“I see it every day,” Scott said. ”It’s been so prolonged….If you’re feeling Covid fatigue, the anxiety of not being able to get together with others, or of losing your job, you’re not alone.” Vermont ranks first in the nation in mental health access, Scott said. People who need help “can call 211. We have people ready to help you to refer you to services.”
Vermont suicides are down in 2020 but opioid overdoses are up, Mental Health Commissioner Sarah Squirrel said.
“Suicides are preventable, and intervention makes a difference,” Squirrel said. Asking a friend or family member if they’re suicidal doesn’t put the thought in their heads, it opens the door to healing. Overdoses are up because, due to Covid-19 isolation, people are using drugs alone and have no-one nearby to help or call for help if they overdose.
Education Secretary Dan French reported:
- The controversial Thanksgiving policy on reporting multi-household gatherings will remain in force throughout the holidays.
- School board members and community members are signing up as substitute teachers to fill the acute need.
- Remote-learning truancy, attendance and student engagement problems are significant. The Agency of Education is working with school districts on solutions. It’s also looking at help for teachers suffering pandemic fatigue.
None of the administration officials referred to the 11-year-old California boy who shot and killed himself while attending a Zoom class, as reported Dec. 3 by the New York Post.
Other pandemic-related news:
WCAX reporter Cat Viglienzoni asked if people who have recovered from Covid-19 can get the illness again. In response, Levine said no-one knows how long Covid-19 immunity lasts after recovery from the illness. At present the Department of Health plans to “universally vaccinate” regardless of whether someone has had the disease.
Gov. Scott hopes to reduce the Education Fund revenue shortfall with federal stimulus funds. His administration will consider “how much of the shortfall is due to the pandemic, and what might be available in the not-too-distant future that will be available to backfill some of the shortfall.” He also noted “We’re spending an incredible abount of money 1.8 billion and that keeps increasing. We need to look at that.”
“How are you doing?,” the governor was asked by Stewart Ledbetter of WPTZ. “I’m doing as well as anyone else,” Scott replied. He said he’s blessed with a good family and a strong team of colleagues fighting the pandemic.
The Agency of Human Services will use federal and Vermont General Fund money to house “several thousand” homeless Vermonters during the coming height of the second wave of the pandemic, Secretary Mike Smith said. It hopes to transition them to more permanent housing in July.
There has been no further communication between the Department of Health and New Hope Bible Church in Irasburg, to resolve an apparent factual disagreement, Commissioner Mark Levine said.
On Tuesday, Levine said he’s confident someone who had tested positive attended worship services on Nov. 22 – despite both assertions being disputed by Pastor George Lawson.
“We were aware of a positive case,” Levine said. “We provided communication so that the greater religious community could benefit…..We haven’t been having a back and forth at all. We’re satisfied that we’ve tried to protect the public health.”
Finally, Vermont Daily asked Human Services Agency Secretary Mike Smith, “a mom who ran for a Chittenden County state senate reported on social media recently that when she and her children were at a laundromat, not masked because they have exemptions, another patron who is an attorney threatened to report her to the Department of Children and Families. Has DCF received complaints about unmasked parents and children, and if so have you investigated, and what has been the outcome?”
“I have no knowledge of any reports coming into DCF,” Smith said. He promised to investigate.
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