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Editor's note: Colleen Scott of Brattleboro wrote a letter to Vermont Gov. Phil Scott regarding his stance on Brattleboro's attempt to mandate masks in public indoor spaces ("Governor: Brattleboro lacks authority for broad mask mandate," Aug. 24). Colleen Scott's letter ("Local businesses should have mask mandate") was published by the Reformer on Aug. 27. She received this letter last week in response from the governor's office.

Dear Colleen,

Thank you for reaching out regarding COVID-19 restrictions. We appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts.

Throughout the pandemic, the governor and his administration have made decisions and recommendations by following the data, trusting the science, and looking at the big picture, knowing nothing about this pandemic is a simple “black or white” choice.

We understand changes to CDC recommendations will raise questions and concerns for some in Vermont. It is important to note, the CDC creates its guidance with the entire country in mind, which means they are considering states with the lowest vaccination rates, and highest cases, hospitalizations and deaths. In contrast, as of August 17, Vermont has vaccinated 85.1 percent of its eligible population, which still leads the nation.

To be clear, since the end of the State of Emergency, the state has recommended the unvaccinated wear masks when in indoor settings. This has not changed and continues to be encouraged.

Further, the state has asked schools to require masking for all students, teachers and staff during the first 10 instructional days of school. Mask requirements should remain in place for all those not yet eligible for the vaccine, which is currently kids under 12. For those who are eligible (12+), once 80 percent of that population in the school has had both doses of the vaccine, the mask requirement can be lifted for that group. Again, this would just be lifted for the eligible population and only if the 80 percent threshold is met at the school. You can read more on the state’s school guidance here.

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In Vermont, the data shows vaccines are working to prevent cases and to prevent the severity of cases when they happen. Importantly, Vermont continues to have the lowest hospitalization rate in the country, and we’ve had zero pediatric hospitalizations. Our data also shows COVID-19 cases remain rare among fully vaccinated individuals, and when they do occur, they are often asymptomatic. Since January, only 2 percent of cases among Vermonters have been fully vaccinated. Of the more than 430,000 fully vaccinated Vermonters, 0.1 percent have contracted COVID-19; only 0.004 percent have been hospitalized; and 0.002 percent have died, most of whom had other chronic conditions that contributed to this outcome.

Please understand these numbers are not to diminish the tragic loss of Vermonters or the severity of COVID-19. Rather, they are to reinforce that the vaccines are working and to help Vermonters understand their current risk, which continues to be very low for those who are fully vaccinated. Further, we are not currently seeing severe outcomes among children.

This data shows our high vaccination rate means we can, and should, be thinking differently about this virus and how we manage it, which is why we are not currently changing statewide guidance or adding new recommendations. It is also important to note that without a State of Emergency, the state cannot add new mandates. The data does not currently support declaring a State of Emergency, which carries tremendous weight and needs solid justification.

There are also prevention steps on the Department of Health’s website, which may provide more comfort and an added layer of protection for you in crowded places, in indoor settings, or if you decide to travel.

As the governor has said, and as he has done throughout Vermont’s nation-leading response to the pandemic, he and his team will continue to watch the data, and are always open to making changes if the data demonstrates a need.

Thank you again for reaching out.

Sincerely,

Philip B. Scott

Governor