Editorial: Doubling down to snuff out COVID
Hang-in just a bit longer, Vermonters, and we’ll be able to return to pre-COVID lives by May or June, if we remain diligent.
That was Gov. Phil Scott’s message at his Tuesday, April 6, press conference — a twice-weekly event that has become the epitome of public transparency and press access. In that press conference, Gov. Scott cited much good news, but also news of a spike of COVID cases among younger Vermonters.
The good news was that 90% of Vermonters 65 and older had received at least the first COVID vaccine shot, ranking it first in the nation. The state ranks fourth in the nation for total doses administered per 100,000, and eighth in the nation for its number of fully vaccinated residents. Vermonters also rank high in vaccine compliance with 88% saying they will “definitely” or “probably” get vaccinated.
In total, 231,200 Vermonters had received at least their first vaccine shot as of Tuesday, April 6, with 90,000 receiving a first dose and 141,200 fully vaccinated among its 624,000 population. That represents 35% of all Vermonters (42% of adults, age 16-plus) that are partially vaccinated and 21% who are fully vaccinated.
The importance of achieving high percentages of vaccinations has been seen when other nations — Israel and the United Kingdom are two examples — have reached 50% vaccination rates their COVID case counts fall dramatically. Vermont is expected to reach 50% vaccination rate before the end of April. That’s excellent news. So, let’s take a moment to recognize the progress Vermont has made and the sense of unity and personal responsibility to each other it represents.
Still, Vermont must remain vigilant to keep the virus in check. Two steps are crucial: all Vermonters must get vaccinated when it’s their turn, and young people, in particular, must hang on just a bit longer with health care protocols (wear a mask, social distance, wash your hands and avoid large gatherings).
The troubling news is the escalation of cases seen in younger Vermonters. The median age for testing positive for COVID-19 is now 27-years-old. The state also recorded its highest weekly total of cases since the pandemic began just this past week with 1,231 cases — most in that younger cohort. New strains of the more contagious variants (B.1.1.17, B.1.351, and P.1.) have been identified in Vermont and pose a temporary setback to the state’s progress if not contained.
How does this impact each of us? Here are two realistic scenarios, especially as it pertains to teens and young adults:
1) For the next four to eight weeks, if Vermonters remain vigilant the likely result is that area restaurants and bars can reopen to the public by early May; school sports and activities like graduation ceremonies return to more normal times; and in-school instruction resumes fulltime; or
2) If we let our guard down, the virus spreads, sports events are cancelled, graduation ceremonies may be curtailed, hybrid classes in schools continue, bars and restaurants remain restricted and we continue to live in a state of semi-lockdown.
As Gov. Scott said Tuesday, we’re close to reaching the end goal, but it’s up to us how quickly and successfully we get there.
“I’m personally asking you to do your part… as much now as we did last year at this time,” he said. “Case counts are still high and letting your guard down increases your chances of getting or spreading the virus, so personal responsibility is especially important right now…I hope that each of you sees this roadmap as a reason for optimism and also as a reason to do your part for the common good.”
That Vermonters still have a strong belief in the common good, a cherished commodity in these times, makes me believe we will.