Gov. Phil Scott lauded local colleges, universities and medical centers for requiring COVID-19 vaccinations for employees and said the state will take a similar approach with some of its workers.
Scott said he believes that all hospitals, long-term care facilities and other places that serve high-risk populations should require vaccinations for workers. During his weekly press conference, he said vaccinations will be required for staff of the Vermont Veterans’ Home, Vermont Psychiatric Care Hospital and the six state prisons. A potential testing alternative may be offered.
“We have an obligation to protect the most vulnerable under our care,” Scott said, adding the rise of the highly transmissible Delta variant was a key factor in his decision. "We just think it's a good idea considering what we're seeing across the country."
Though 84.6 percent of eligible Vermonters have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and more than 75 percent are fully vaccinated, there are still around 85,000 eligible Vermonters who have not yet been vaccinated. Genome sequencing has shown that the more contagious Delta variant of the virus now makes up around 90 percent of infections in the state, Health Commissioner Mark Levine said.
Levine urged Vermont's vaccine holdouts to get their shots.
"At this time in our experience with COVID-19, this is the No. 1 thing, the most important action any of us can take," Levine said.
Only about 2 percent of COVID-19 cases in the state since January have been among fully vaccinated Vermonters. Of the 24 people currently hospitalized for COVID-19, 75 percent are unvaccinated, said Levine.
In his weekly data and modeling report, Financial Regulation Commissioner Michael Pieciak said that though COVID-19 cases continue to rise in Vermont, the rate of growth has slowed in recent weeks. Pieciak said cases are expected to continue to rise over the next three weeks — peaking at a seven-day average of around 140-147 cases a day — and then begin falling in late August or early September.
Though hospitalizations are up, Vermont continues to have the lowest hospitalization rates in the country, Pieciak said. Vermont has had three COVID-19 fatalities in August.
Vaccinations are also on the rise in the state. This week, 2,763 people were vaccinated, up 12 percent from last week. Pieciak said that vaccinations rates are rising more quickly among 12- to 15-year-olds.
Labor Commissioner Michael Harrington said that the federal extended unemployment benefit programs are due to expire on September 4. That will leave about 10,000 Vermonters without weekly unemployment benefits. An additional 5,000 people will see a decrease in their benefits. The Department of Labor is providing in-person and virtual job placement assistance, workshops and training opportunities.
Scott also weighed in on the just-breaking news that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo will resign, following a report by the state’s attorney general that he sexually harassed 11 women.
“With the mounting credible allegations against him, I think it was the right decision to make," Scott said. "I think it’s for the best for the people of New York."