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Gov. Scott sets 80% vaccination rate goal

Gov. Phil Scott announced at the Friday, May 21, press conference that when 80% 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 remove its remaining health restrictions.

Vermont has held the top position for its rate of vaccination in the U.S. for weeks. As of Tuesday, May 25, 76.9% of eligible Vermonters have been vaccinated.

“This is exciting,” said Mike Smith, secretary of the Agency of Human Services, “but there is still much work to do.”

Vermont needs to reach an additional 17,250 people to actually hit 80%, Smith said Tuesday.

Scott believes that Vermont could hit the 80% target as soon as Memorial Day if it has “good days,” but next week is more likely.

The state’s seven-day average has been about 2,500 does 1 vaccinations per day, which had “dropped about 30% in the past week,” Scott said, Friday. “Let’s keep our momentum going. Let’s finish strong. Let’s continue to show the nation, and the world, what this brave little state is capable of.”

“Hitting 80% of the eligible population, which is over 70% of the total population, will be an incredible achievement,” Scott said.

Referring to the coming Memorial Day weekend, State Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine said, “throughout this pandemic, I’ve usually shared guidance on what we shouldn’t do for the holidays … But this time, I’d like to celebrate for a moment, all the things we can do again, thanks to the vaccine: You can get together with friends and family, most likely without masks and distancing, if you’re fully vaccinated,” he said. “You can grill, swim, boat … You can go to a farmers market or concert or car race or a baseball game. You can travel without having to get tested.”

As vaccination rates rise, COVID-19 cases are falling. Vermont reported just nine cases of the virus Tuesday, one of the lowest one-day totals in months, according to Michael Pieciak, commissioner of financial regulation.

Step 4 of the Vermont Forward plan was originally estimated to be hit around the Fourth of July, but vaccines supply has outpaced expectation — as have Vermonters eagerness to get vaccinated — which has led the state to hit that threshold a month early.

On May 14, Vermont moved into Step 3, the penultimate step, of the Vermont Forward plan after hitting its June 1 vaccination target two weeks ahead of schedule.

“As you know, Vermont continues to be a national and global leader in vaccinations. This is due to the hard work of hundreds of people, including volunteers, staff at AHS, the departments of Health and Public Safety, EMS teams, the National Guard, local partners, businesses and so many others,” Governor Scott said, Friday. “Most importantly, it is because Vermonters have stepped up to do the right thing.”

It has never been easier to get your COVID-19 vaccine. All Vermonters age 12 and older can find the schedule for daily walk-in clinics, or can register for an appointment, at healthvermont.gov/myvaccine.

“So, if you are on the fence, or have not gotten around to making your appointment yet, now is the time. Because we have a chance to get back to normal faster,” Scott said. “To those who have already been vaccinated, you can still help. It could be a simple as offering someone a ride, helping them find the closest vaccination site or telling them your story as to why you got yours.

“Employers, you can help by offering an incentive or at least a few hours off to employees so they can get their vaccines, or by asking us to bring the vaccine to your worksite.

“I understand why some might not have felt the urgency yet, but now is your time to do the right thing. We are counting on you to help us lift restrictions early, including gathering sizes, masks, social distancing, the curfew at bars, and the rest.

“Now is your time to lead us to the finish line,” Scott said.

Erin Petenko/VTDigger contributed to this report.

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