BRATTLEBORO — Vermont could see the end of nearly all COVID-19 restrictions weeks ahead of schedule.
All it will take is about 18,000 more Vermonters to get vaccinated against the virus in the coming days.
At his May 21 news briefing, Gov. Phil Scott said that when 80 percent of Vermont's eligible population - those age 12 and older - have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, the state will enter Step 4 of the Vermont Forward plan and immediately remove its remaining restrictions.
On May 14, Vermont moved into Step 3 of the reopening plan after hitting its June 1 vaccination target more than two weeks ahead of schedule.
Scott had previously set July 4 as the date that all restrictions would be lifted.
Vermont currently ranks first in the nation in rate of vaccination, with nearly 77 percent of Vermonters age 12 and older having received at least one dose.
According to Agency of Human Services Secretary Mike Smith, an additional 17,250 people would need to be vaccinated to reach the 80 percent threshold to remove restrictions early.
As of May 25, 423,000 Vermonters age 12 and over have received at least one dose of vaccine.
Scott said he issued the challenge because of the state's vaccination success, which has resulted in an 85 percent drop in COVID-19 cases since April 1. He said Vermont is “getting close to the end of this race with just a few hurdles left” and, at the state's current vaccination pace, the goal could be reached by early June.
The state has plenty of vaccine to go around. Scott said on May 25 that Vermont is one of only seven states in the country requesting more vaccine from the federal government, and that Vermont's allocation remains adequate to meet the 80 percent goal.
A sweet incentive
The Vermont Agency of Agriculture and Vermont dairy farmers have teamed up provide 10,000 “Creemee for a Shot” coupons, good for one small free creemee at participating vendors, to those who get the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccination at a state of Vermont vaccination event.
Local creemee stands participating in this promotion include Fast Eddie's in Brattleboro and The Creemee Stand in Wilmington. The coupons are limited to the first 10,000 people who receive a vaccine dose on a first-come, first served basis, until all coupons have been claimed.
Thousands of Vermonters got their creemees and a shot over the past few days, and dozens of events were held around the state.
To celebrate National EMS Week, first responders held walk-in clinics across Windham County and other sites around the state.
School-based clinics were also offered around southern Vermont, and the state is slated to hold walk-in clinics for hospitality workers in Manchester on Tuesday, June 1 and Bennington on Wednesday, June 2.
The Health Department says that more opportunities will become available in the coming days for people around Vermont to get either the Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine, or the first dose of the Pfizer or Moderna two-shot vaccines, at walk-in clinics, with no appointments needed.
Also, the residency requirement for getting a vaccine in Vermont has ended. Anyone over the age of 12 can now get vaccinated in the state.
Vaccine appointments are still available across the state for those 12 and older. To register for an appointment, visit healthvermont.gov/MyVaccine, or call 855-722-7878 if you need assistance. Watch the @healthvermont social media feeds, or check healthvermont.gov for more walk-in opportunities in the coming days.
Having an impact
Department of Financial Regulation Commissioner Mike Pieciak said May 25 that the state's COVID-19 numbers are the best they have been in six months, with fewer new cases, fewer hospitalizations, and fewer deaths.
He gave credit to the state's vaccination effort for the encouraging trend, which has led to seven straight weeks of decline.
Pieciak said that new cases are down 39 percent from the previous week and 85 percent from April 1. The 219 new cases reported in the seven-day period ending on May 24 marked the lowest number since early November 2020. Those seven days also marked the first week without a fatality since the end of October 2020.
Neighboring states, and the province of Quebec, are showing similar positive trends, he said.
Pieciak said that based on the state's data, an estimated 235 people did not die in Vermont over the past six months because of the high number of Vermonters who got vaccinated.
Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine said the data “highlights the incredible progress Vermont has made in reducing the spread of the virus,” and encouraged Vermonters to “keep up the good work.”
“It matters,” he said.