At his weekly press conference, Governor Phil Scott delivered the following remarks.
Click here to view the full press conference, including additional remarks from Health Commissioner Mark Levine, MD, Education Secretary Dan French, Human Services Secretary Mike Smith, and the state’s weekly data and modeling presentation from Financial Regulation Commissioner Michael Pieciak.
To find out where to get a free, safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine today, visit healthvermont.gov/myvaccine.
Transcript of Governor Scott’s remarks:
Good afternoon. Today’s briefing will focus on our weekly data update, vaccine boosters, plans for quickly vaccinating kids under 12, and use of rapid tests and contact tracing to keep kids in school.
But before we dive into those updates, I want to define more clearly what I mean when I ask Vermonters to think about personal responsibility at this point in our COVID response.
I see this as the key to moving forward because what we did for 15 months – before vaccines – was necessary, but is not sustainable, or good for our well-being.
Specifically, I want to talk about the connection between personal responsibility and keeping those at greatest risk, meaning the oldest people in our lives, especially those with underlying conditions, out of the hospital.
And how by making some easy choices, we can also help regulate case counts that can lead to hospitalizations and transition from pandemic to endemic.
So, what do I mean by personal responsibility?
First, it means if you can, please get vaccinated.
The good news is vaccines remain incredibly effective. The data shows they significantly reduce cases among the vaccinated, with less than 1% of vaccinated Vermonters becoming a case. And importantly, only three-tenths of a percent of vaccinated Vermonters have been hospitalized.
The vaccine is also reducing the overall case fatality rate, which is now below 0.5%.
Additionally, some studies are now suggesting that those rare “breakthrough cases” may be much less infectious to others, than scientists originally thought.
Next, if you are choosing to not get vaccinated, it means understanding the risks to yourself, your friends and family and your community.
The data is clear: By not getting vaccinated you are more likely to get sick from COVID and you are much more likely to spread it to others.
At this point, there is no doubt that if you are unvaccinated, the virus will find you. And it will continue to circulate among the unvaccinated at a rate that slows our progress and stresses our hospitals, nursing homes and schools.
Here’s the data:
About 61% of all our cases since July are among the unvaccinated, even though there are only about 133,000 Vermonters – about 30% of the total population – who remain unvaccinated. This proves yet again that vaccines work and when children under 12 become eligible, parents need to step up.
Additionally, with the unvaccinated making up about 75% of our COVID hospitalizations and of those in the ICU, hospitalizations are still being driven by the unvaccinated and mostly adults who are eligible to get their shot. This is putting pressure on our healthcare system.
Now, we are seeing more and more people step up every day and I appreciate those who are doing so because it does not come easy for them. And we need to accept that a small number of Vermonters are going to remain unvaccinated for one reason or another. As frustrating as that is, it does no good to shame them or get angry. In fact, it’s counterproductive and does nothing to persuade them.
But I do hope those who haven’t yet gotten their shot will think long and hard about what all of this means and their role in it.
Finally, personal responsibility is about recognizing that COVID is still a real concern for the elderly, especially those with underlying conditions like heart or lung disease, if they’ve been a heavy smoker or if their immune system is suppressed because they are being treated for cancer. Dr. Levine will review the list of these underlying conditions in a little more detail but if you know someone who has one of these conditions and they are elderly, they are at high risk of being hospitalized or dying from COVID.
Each of us, whether vaccinated or not, need to step up and do our part to protect the old and sick in our lives.
So, what does “stepping up” look like?
Second, if you’re over 65 and eligible, get your booster shot as soon as possible. The data tells us the older you are the more important it is to get a booster.
Third, take a little time to think about how you can reduce the risk of exposure for the vulnerable elderly in your life.
For example, if you’re going to visit elderly parents, grandparents or friends, think about avoiding high risk situations in the week or two before you visit them, and take a test before you go. And if you’ve got unvaccinated kids in school and doing afterschool activities, have them take a test a few days before you visit vulnerable family or friends.
One more thing: If you are unvaccinated, wear a mask around others.
These sorts of simple, commonsense steps can go a long way to protect our loved ones and preserve hospital capacity.
And I want to be very clear: If you’re one of the Vermonters who is never going to get vaccinated, it’s even more important that you do your part to avoid spreading COVID to someone who is at risk or putting your children in a position where they’re out sick from school. Because not getting vaccinated, taking no precautions at all, and carelessly exposing an elderly family member, neighbor, customer or patient is selfish and dangerous.
So hopefully this clears up what I mean when I talk about “personal responsibility.”
Because the reality is, with each of us taking it upon ourselves to do simple and reasonable things to reduce risk, we can make a big difference.
I realize this has been a stressful 19 months for all of us. And this transition from pandemic to endemic is going to take months – the fact is, it’s going to be a bumpy ride, with ups and downs. And just to complicate things, we have flu season just around the corner.
But I want to be very clear: We are making progress and we can make a difference.