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MONTPELIER — Gov. Phil Scott is pleading for younger Vermonters to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

“We’re in the final laps of this race,” he said at the twice weekly news conference about the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. “Getting a vaccine is easier now than it’s ever been and there’s plenty of appointments.”

He suggested people snap a photo of themselves getting vaccinated to send to their mom as a Mother’s Day gift.

According to Financial Regulation Commissioner Michael Pieciak’s presentation on Vermont data, COVID-19 cases are down 61 percent since April 1 and infections in those 40 and older have decreased by 22 percent last week.

“We can explain this by taking a look at the vaccination rates,” he said.

About 78 percent of Vermonters 40 and older have received at least one vaccine dose, and about 41 percent of Vermonters 39 and younger have received at least one vaccine dose.

“I want to congratulate all Vermonters,” said Mike Smith, secretary of the Agency of Human Services. “We are now first in the nation for vaccines administered per 100,000 people. This is quite an accomplishment but we still have more work to do.”

Smith said the state will be offering more pop-up clinics and walk-ins at colleges, speedways, fairgrounds and other places where people gather to make it more convenient to get vaccinated. On Sunday, walk-ins were welcomed at a clinic in Newfane run by Rescue Inc.

Pieciak noted Vermont’s vaccination rate for 18- to 29-year-olds is slightly behind the national average.

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Daily COVID-19 cases have been as low as 34 on Monday and reached more than 100 only once in the last two weeks, Health Commissioner Mark Levine said. He described vaccinations making “a big difference.”

“We almost never see a case in anyone over 65 days these days,” he said. “Death rates have plummeted, especially in those over 65. And when a death occurs, it is almost invariably in an unvaccinated person.”

This week, only one active outbreak was reported in a long-term care facility. Our House Residential Care Homes of Rutland has six cases, according to Pieciak’s presentation.

In the last seven days, Vermont reported a nearly 13 percent decrease in COVID-19 hospitalizations. In the last 14 days, numbers dropped by about 19 percent.

Three deaths last week were attributed to the virus, one more than the prior week and the same number as the week before that. There were six deaths related to the virus during the week of April 12.

For May, Vermont is anticipated to have between five and 15 deaths resulting from the virus.

Sarah Squirrell, commissioner of the Department of Mental Health, said students lost social interactions, personal connection, safety, structure and routine during the pandemic. She reported depression and anxiety in younger populations being on the rise.

“The Agency of Education’s recovery plan clearly lays out that as our children and youth return to school, we need to attend to their social and emotional wellbeing, structure and reestablishing strong and secure relationships,” she said, adding that camp and recreational activities in the summer will help with reconnection. “We have a lot of work to do but I have confidence we can do this ...”