MONTPELIER — With COVID-19 numbers declining in Vermont and nationally, booster shots being administered for all three vaccines against the virus, and younger children expected to become eligible for shots soon, Gov. Phil Scott sees no reason to reimpose a state of emergency. That announcement came Tuesday, despite pleas from legislators and others who want to bring back a mask mandate and other measures to protect Vermonters from the virus and the Delta variant.
“I think we’re doing everything we should,” Scott said during his weekly news conference. “I’m more hopeful today than I have been in weeks.”
State lawmakers, along with health care workers, teachers and others, held a news conference on Monday calling for a return to virus mitigation measures due to a rising number of cases in Vermont (see story on page A3). Scott is encouraging mask use indoors but not requiring it as he had earlier in the pandemic when he declared a state of emergency. He said Tuesday that a state of emergency should not be abused or overused.
“It has its time and place ... I can assure you this isn’t it,” he said. “We’ll get through this, but I believe that we’re all working to overcome this, and I’m hopeful with the numbers we’re seeing.”
Nationally in the last seven days, COVID-related infections decreased by 13.1 percent, hospitalizations dropped by about 10.2 percent, and deaths have gone down by about 1.2 percent. Cases in Vermont decreased by 15 percent in the same time period and dropped by 7 percent over the last 14 days; 53 people with the virus were hospitalized in the state as of Tuesday.
Michael Pieciak, commissioner of the Department of Financial Regulation, cautioned that numbers have decreased only to go up again in Vermont during the wave associated with the Delta variant.
“We’re still seeing a great deal of uncertainty,” he said.
However, he said, case counts, as well as hospitalizations and deaths, are expected to improve over the next week.
Secretary of Education Dan French said the state now recommends schools hold off until Jan. 18 — after the holidays are over — before considering easing mask mandates. After that date, the Agency of Education suggests mask requirements in schools can be dropped if at least 80 percent of the students are vaccinated.
French called the anticipated authorization of vaccinations for children 5 and older a “gamechanger” for elementary schools.