August deaths reach 16, half under 70 years old
By Guy Page
Positive cases rose 40% for unvaccinated Vermonters, and 30% for vaccinated Vermonters, during the last two weeks, according to information shared at Gov. Scott’s weekly press conference. Department of Health statistics did not offer number totals for vaccinated/unvaccinated, only percentage increases.
Positive test cases are up 22% for the week of August 30 over the previous week, from 794 to 968 – the highest since the week of April 12. Testing was also up 54%, due in part to the return of college students. The overall “positivity rate” fell from 2.9% to 2.3%.
16 Vermonters have died of Covid-19 in August. Eight were 70 years old or older. Six were 50-69. Two were 19-49. There are 104 active cases in senior care homes across Vermont.
Scott reported that his administration has reached a labor agreement with 1000 Corrections employees. They must either be fully vaccinated or test weekly and wear a mask at work. Failure to comply will result in disciplinary action.
Vermont has become the first state in the nation to vaccinate 75% of children ages 12-17, Scott announced. The state is “eagerly awaiting” federal approval for vaccine for children ages 2-11, he said: “I’m confident Vermont’s parents will step up when it comes their time.”
Over 86% of those Vermonters eligible, and 75% of the total population, have received at least one vaccine dose. Vermont (86.1%) is second to Hawaii (86.2). Vaccination is still the best strategy, Scott and other administration officials emphasized. But school masking mandates are vital as well, they said.
Scott had harsh words for parents who have criticized masking policies at school board meetings. “The attacks against them [local school officials] are absolutely unacceptable,” Scott said. “If they want to blame someone, blame me.”
“They are simply following the state’s advice. They are doing exactly what I’ve asked them to do,” Scott said. He conceded that the state guidance is truly advisory, and that the final decision is up to the school boards. However, citizen board members didn’t sign up for uncivil attacks, and he’d rather unhappy citizens vent their ire at him, not them, he said.
The state’s ‘recommended guidance’ – billed as strictly advisory when announced earlier this summer – requires masking for all students during the first two weeks, and masking for unvaccinated students only once a school has reached 80% vaccination of eligible students.
“Essentially we have implemented a universal masking mandate in all of our schools,” French said. Only one district – the northeasternmost town of Canaan, with a single school – has refused to comply, he said. “This type of arrangement is necessary when a State of Emergency is not needed,” French said.
The schools will be using “surveillance” testing students for Covid-19, French said. Parental consent will be required, he said.
Scott however drew the line at municipalities like Brattleboro mandating masking for private businesses. Without a State of Emergency, the state can’t mandate and neither can municipalities.
Health Commissioner Mark Levine said some people wonder whether the push for boosters is driven by Biden administration politics or drug company profits. Others wonder why the USA should order another round of vaccination while the rest of the world is at a 15% vaccine rate. “Let’s step back for a minute,” Levine said. “They provide added benefit without significant risk.”
The Health Dept. is studying data closely, he promised. However, it will do so without federal OSHA data on employee vaccine adverse experiences. A May, 2021 OSHA directive says employers no longer need to collect this data because it will discourage employer vaccination mandates. Levine said he’s less worried about workplace data, and relies on VAERS and other health care reporting systems.