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MONTPELIER — With July 4 approaching fast, the governor spent some time encouraging gatherings that were frowned upon earlier in the COVID-19 pandemic.

“After 16 long and difficult months,” Gov. Phil Scott said, “this Fourth of July weekend, vaccinated Vermonters can feel safe celebrating with their friends, attending fireworks and parades, ... not having to fear the virus. Why? Because vaccines work.”

At his weekly news conference Tuesday, Scott said the holiday would carry “greater meaning than usual.” He called Vermont “one of the most vaccinated places on the planet.”

“We stayed united, worked hard and sacrificed a lot to get to this point,” he said.

With 81.9 percent of eligible Vermonters having received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose, state officials aren’t as worried about the Delta variant causing concern in areas where fewer shots have been administered. Scott said the high rate means children who aren’t eligible for vaccines are more protected than other places because there’s less transmission in the community.

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Michael Pieciak, commissioner of the Department of Financial Regulation, said Vermont has the highest COVID vaccination rates in the United States and the fewest COVID hospitalizations per capita in the country. The state hasn’t reported a death from the virus in three weeks and is averaging just more than five new cases each day.

Mike Smith, secretary of the Agency of Human Services, said the state will announce more vaccination clinics at fairgrounds across Vermont as fairs open up for the summer, and will have 10 to 14 regional resource centers for testing and vaccinations moving forward. Pop-up clinics will continue to be offered when requested and “perhaps where vaccinations have lagged,” he added.

Hospitals are getting an increase in visits after people delayed care for other health issues during the pandemic, Health Commissioner Mark Levine said. He suggested that waiting can worsen health issues.

“I strongly encourage anyone who has put off preventative care or screenings or kids’ immunizations to get caught up when you can,” he said. “I recently just did that myself.”