VDH COVID-19 update: State officials look toward reopening schools, getting to next vax phase

-A A +A

VDH COVID-19 update: State officials look toward reopening schools, getting to next vax phase

Fri, 02/26/2021 - 5:33pm -- tim

Vermont Business Magazine Human Services Secretary Mike Smith said at Governor Scott's press briefing today that more news should be coming Tuesday on the next phase of the vaccine rollout. This could include "Part A and Part B" groups for what is generally referred to as Phase 5, or the high-risk chronic conditions phase. He said they are also considering school staff and teachers as part of this phase. Splitting the phase into two groups could happen because of the large number of people, which Smith said was about 75,000 Vermonters.

Scott said he expected the current 65 and older phase will only take about two weeks to complete. He said they are sticking with their plan of targeting those most likely to get severely ill or dying from COVID-19, or as they call it the "preserve life strategy" as they prioritize the vaccination phases.

He also emphasized that Vermonters must stick with the health protocols or wearing a mask, social distancing and not gathering so the state can get through the pandemic as quickly as possible.

One of the many casualties of the pandemic has been the academic and mental health impact on students. The sooner that the state can re-open all the schools to in-person education the better for everyone, he said. Right now, about 30 percent of schools are open to in-person learning, 50 percent have employed a hybrid option and 20 percent are still fully remote.

Health Commissioner Mark Levine acknowledged that many groups were advocating to move up the priority list. Grocery store workers also could be part of the next phase.

"I would say this controversy will continue until the end of this vaccination process," Dr Levine said.

In answer to a question of the persistence of deaths despite the decline in overall COVID-19 cases (there was another one reported today for a statewide total of 204), he said that the recent fatalities continue to come from older Vermonters. Although, he said one recent death was of someone in their 50s with underlining health conditions.

As for the new Walgreen vaccination rollout, which is separately administered from the state vaccination program, it opened Thursday for 65+ and immediately filled up its slots for the next few days. While separate, it will still follow the same state phases.

COVID-19 Daily Update

February 26, 2021

New or updated information is in red and bold

This update is available online at healthvermont.gov/covid19

Click the “See the Daily Update” button

Vermont youth struggling without supports of in-person learning, officials say

Governor Phil Scott said at Friday’s press conference that despite all the efforts that have gone into adjusting to remote and hybrid learning during the pandemic — it’s not enough.

“As a result, our kids are not OK, and I know that’s not acceptable to any of us,” he said.

Many kids are struggling seriously enough to end up in emergency departments, he said. In addition, kids are reporting more anxiety, stress, sleeplessness and substance misuse. 

“This is not a reflection of the hard work and commitment by our educators,” Gov. Scott said. “But it is evidence that even the very best remote learning experience doesn’t compare to the value and benefits of in-person education.”

Mental Health Commissioner Sarah Squirrell said a lack of in-person instruction means students miss out on social interaction and personal connection, a sense of safety, and the structure the routine.

She also noted the toll taken on Vermont’s most vulnerable children — including those with disabilities, special health needs, those without internet access, English language learners and more.
With this data, the advent of vaccines and a return to warmer weather, Education Secretary Dan French said we can anticipate the conditions in our communities will start to improve significantly. He outlined the education system’s plans for recovery, as we build momentum toward full in-person learning this spring.

In an update about the COVID-19 vaccine, Gov. Scott also said that with increased supply, “I’m open to adjusting our strategy after we protect those at greatest risk of death.” Vermonters can expect some additions to our vaccine strategy sometime next week, he said.

Vaccine Appointments Open to Vermonters 65 and Older Starting Monday March 1

On Monday, March 1, Vermonters age 65 and older will be able to make an appointment to get vaccinated.

Get a head start on the process now by creating your account in the Health Department’s online system. That way, it'll be smooth sailing when it’s your turn to make an appointment for your first dose.

If you already have an account because you were tested for COVID-19 through a Health Department site, use the same account when it is time to make your vaccine appointment.

Visit HealthVermont.gov/MyVaccine to get started and find more on:  

  • How to create an account and appointment for yourself  
  • How to add a dependent or spouse to your account 
  • Information you need to make an appointment 
  • Answers to commonly asked questions 
  • Current vaccine eligibility and time estimates for upcoming priority groups. 

Slow the Spread of COVID-19 — Get Tested!

As the state moves forward with its vaccination program, it continues to be equally important that people know if they have the virus – and the only way to know is to be tested.

Visit healthvermont.gov/testing to find a nearby test site. You can make an appointment or just walk in!

Knowing if you carry the virus means you can act to protect yourself, your loved ones and your community from COVID-19. If you got together with anyone outside your household, think you might have been exposed to the virus, or have any symptoms (no matter how mild) — get tested!

There are more than enough testing supplies and opportunities throughout the state. Testing is free to all, and many sites now let you take your own sample using a short swab in your nose.

If you’re a close contact of someone with COVID-19, you can use this timeline to help guide when to get tested.

If you have symptoms of COVID-19, please contact your health care provider so they can refer you for testing. If you don’t have a provider, you can call 2-1-1.

New on healthvermont.gov

One in 7 cases of COVID-19 are among Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC). Rates of COVID-19 are two times higher for BIPOC compared with white non-Hispanic residents. View our latest Weekly Data Summary Spotlight to learn more about the 1,742 Vermont resident cases who are Asian, African American or Black, American Indian or Alaskan Native, Hispanic or race other than white.

COVID-19 Activity in Vermont

As of 12 p.m. on February 26, 2021

Data is updated daily.

NOTE: Numbers for monitoring are no longer reported on the dashboard, as our COVID-19 reporting evolves to share the most relevant information. We continue to internally track travelers and contacts monitored, and people who have completed monitoring.





New cases*



(14,963 total)


Currently hospitalized




Hospitalized in ICU




Hospitalized under investigation




Percent Positive (7-day average)




People tested




Total tests




Total people recovered








Find more data on COVID-19 Activity at: healthvermont.gov/currentactivity.

COVID-19 Vaccine Data

As of 12 p.m. on February 26, 2021

Data is updated Tuesdays through Saturdays.





Total people who have received least one dose of vaccine


(17.6% of population)


Total people who have received two doses of vaccine (completed)




Find more vaccine data on the COVID-19 Vaccine Dashboard: healthvermont.gov/covid19-vaccine-data.

Additional Resources About Vaccination and More

Take Care of Your Emotional and Mental Health

If you or someone you know is in crisis or needs emotional support, help is available 24/7:

Call your local mental health crisis line. 

Text VT to 741741 to talk with someone at the Crisis Text Line.

Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

You can also get more information and resources:

Visit our Coping with Stress web page.

Get connected to Alcohol and Drug Support Services at VT Helplink.

Get self-help tips and connect to mental health services at COVID Support VT.