WESTMINSTER — On Aug. 7, Vermont recorded 112 cases of Covid - at the time the highest single-day count since April 29.
I was one of those cases.
I was also the third person in my household to test positive for Covid with a breakthrough case this past week. All of us were fully vaccinated. (Twenty people who spent time with us during days we were potentially contagious have tested negative - the vaccines are working, with a small number of exceptions).
My son and I had very minor symptoms. My 60-year-old husband had a few rougher days, but he felt good by day five. While uncomfortable, he never experienced any life-threatening symptoms and was never close to needing hospitalization.
Vermont was a model state for much of the pandemic, developing effective policies to keep our infection, hospitalization, and death rates low. My entire first session in the Legislature was held on Zoom, while many students attended school remotely.
Stores, movie theaters, and other businesses strictly regulated masks and visitor numbers when it was determined it was safe enough to be open to the public at all.
The restrictive public policies for masking, out-of-state quarantine requirements, and limits on gathering sizes, indoors and out, protected Vermonters and kept our Covid numbers low.
When Gov. Phil Scott declared the end to the state of emergency on June 14, restrictions were lifted. With a few recent exceptions (such as requiring Department of Corrections employees to get vaccinated), our statewide policies have not changed since those optimistic days of hoping to reach herd immunity by reaching 80-percent vaccination rates.
However, the situation in Vermont in regard to the virus is changing with the presence of the delta variant.
We need to be more careful.
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During my time of isolation at home, I have been doing a lot of research about the Delta variant and how it increases the chance of contracting or spreading Covid.
• It is reported that immunization prevents 95 percent of serious cases of Covid (including hospitalization and/or death).
• Immunizations are working but, while they reduce the chance of contracting Covid and reduce the severity of symptoms, they do not eliminate the risk of contracting the illness.
• The high immunization rate in Vermont is slowing the spread in our state and reducing the severity of symptoms. Our high vaccination rate is helping keep people safer than in other states.
• Vermont reported two new Covid deaths on Monday, Aug. 9. On Friday, Aug. 13, 23 people were hospitalized with the virus, seven of those in intensive care.
• Numbers are expected to rise for three to five weeks, then peak and recede, if Delta acts in Vermont as it has in other locations.
• Our Covid numbers in Vermont are rising. Thirteen counties are now considered “hot spots,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (five with “high” transmission and eight others with “substantial” spread).
• Vermonters' risk of contracting COVID has changed in the past month as the Delta has become prominent.
• The CDC recommends indoor masking. Our statewide policies do not reflect the increased danger, but they leave the choice to local businesses and municipalities. Individuals can do so without a mandate - let's do this.
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Perhaps Vermonters need to again be more conservative to protect both our residents and visitors to our state. (This is likely the only time you will ever hear the words “more conservative” come from me, a progressive Democrat.)
Though many school districts are adopting masking policies, we don't have a statewide masking policy for schools. People are going to restaurants and movie theaters, attending large gatherings indoors and out (mostly unmasked), and traveling and hosting visitors from out of state.
Many think they are safe because they are immunized. It is time for Vermonters to be more careful again to reduce risk of spread.
The rate of positive tests of immunized Vermonters on Aug. 13 was reported to be 3.1 percent. This is a low rate, but it is growing.
I want to help Vermonters stay safe by knowing they should be more cautious again.
They should limit or avoid visits to areas at a high risk for Covid and avoid contact with guests from those places. They should wear masks indoors, especially for prolonged periods (like in a school or at work or with guests from outside your household). They should limit large gatherings (especially indoors).
Even a vaccinated Vermonter could spread Covid to someone vulnerable. None of us wants to do that. We all need to be careful to protect our community members.
So get vaccinated - and even if you are vaccinated, put your mask back on, and be cautious.
Stay safe, Vermont! We'll get through this.