By Guy Page
Some of takeaways from today’s press conference with Gov. Phil Scott and his administration:
- 10 Vermont ICU hospital beds are unstaffed.
- Small schools with high Covid-19 numbers may close due to staffing pressures.
- Vermont should emulate Florida and Texas in an important Covid-19 treatment.
- No updated vaxxed/unvaxxed death totals available – but they’re coming soon.
Nineteen Vermonters have died of Covid-19 this month, according to Vermont Dept. of Health statistics published today.
The breakdown of fatalities among fully/partially/not vaccinated Vermonters is not available today, but Health Dept. officials promised this breakdown soon will be added to the weekly reports.
There is strong national social media interest in Vermont’s breakthrough mortality statistics–in particular, September’s data showing that 76% of Covid-19 deaths were suffered by vaccinated Vermonters. A Vermont Daily Chronicle post has been republished by Dr. Robert Malone, Dr. Joseph Mercola, InfoWars and other well-read national websites. Since September, the vaccinated/unvaccinated death totals are split roughly 50/50. (The mortality rate, however, is higher among the unvaccinated, due to the state’s roughly 4-1 vaccinated/unvaccinated ratio.)
“Unfortunately we’re not able to get you the data this morning,” Health Dept. spokesperson Ben Truman said in an email today. “As is all too obvious, we are experiencing a significant surge in cases. This means the data team is working full bore to collect, analyze and prepare multiple data points for each individual, cluster and outbreak. This impacts our ability to immediately turn around special request such as this – though, as you have experienced, this amazing group steps up to respond as soon as possible. In addition, some death data is not immediately available, as it also involves death information from Vital Records being incorporated into the Covid databases. For these reasons, when we are able to provide you with this information, it will not be current to-date, but rather, reflect a lag-time date at which the completed data is available.”
“The vaxxed/unvaxxed mortality data you request are important, which is why we expect to soon have that available either on the dashboard or incorporated in the Weekly Data Summaries,” Truman said. He added that VT Dept. of Health officials “do not currently have a breakdown of testing by age group.”
Scott says Vermont should emulate Texas and Florida. Like two southern states, Vermont must provide more access to monoclonal antibody treatment of Covid-19, Gov. Scott said.
“Florida and Texas have had tremendous success with this strategy, and we should learn from them,” Scott said.
Treatment options such as monoclonal antibodies are available if you have had symptoms of COVID-19 for 10 days or less or have been exposed to COVID-19. If taken early, they can reduce the risk of severe disease, hospitalization, and death, according to federal health officials. Monoclonal antibodies, or mAbs, are made in a laboratory to fight a particular infection — in this case, the virus that causes COVID-19 — and are given to patients directly with an infusion or a shot. Your body naturally makes antibodies to fight infection. However, your body may not have antibodies designed to recognize a new virus like the virus that causes COVID-19. That’s why mAb treatment may help patients who are at high risk for severe symptoms or hospitalization, the NCDHHS says.
School closings expected – Vermont Agency of Education Secretary Dan French said staffing pressures at small schools with high numbers of positive Covid-19 tests will force school closures this year. “I expect we will see closures of small schools” with high case rates, due to staffing pressures, French said.
Last year, most Vermont school classrooms were closed for lengthy periods of time due to Covid-19. State officials hoped the vaccination program would eliminate the need for holding school remotely, but that likely will not hold true for the school districts referred to above.
Nursing shortage acute, but not due to vax requirements, Human Service Secretary says. At today’s press conference, Agency of Human Services Secretary Mike Smith said the state will provide extra funding to reduce the state’s nursing shortage. Ten ICU beds in five hospitals across the state are unstaffed. Vermont Daily Chronicle asked if Vermont hospital’s vaccination requirements are driving nurses to less restrictive states.
Not at all, Smith replied. “I don’t think that is the issue we are seeing here.” Vermont’s nursing shortage reflects the national shortage. He added that nurses are unlikely to flee to less restrictive states because the Biden administration’s mandate of 100% hospital employee vaccination by Jan. 4 covers all 50 states.
However, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals has at least temporarily stayed the Biden ruling in the states of its jurisdiction: Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas. Whether the U.S. Supreme Court ever overturns the ruling for the entire nation remains to be seen.