Op/Ed

Guest editorial: COVID spreading again; time to take precautions

On Aug. 7 Vermont recorded 112 cases of COVID-19, at the time the highest single-day count since April 29. I was one of those cases, and the third person in my family to test positive to COVID with a breakthrough case in early August.

All three of us who developed breakthrough COVID were fully vaccinated: my husband and I, residents of Westminster, and our son, visiting from Miami. Twenty people who spent time with us during the days we were potentially contagious were tested and all were negative. Thankfully, the vaccines are working, with a small number of exceptions.

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. Scott declared the state of emergency ended on June 14, restrictions were lifted. With a few recent exceptions (such as requiring Department of Corrections employees to vaccinate), our statewide policies have not changed since those optimistic days of reaching 80% vaccination rates and the hope that brought for herd immunity.

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.

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/spreading COVID. It is reported that immunization prevents 95% 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 COVID.

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 and, while uncomfortable, he never experienced any life-threatening symptoms and was never close to needing hospitalization.

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 Vermont COVID numbers 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 at the levels we have in most of our state. Our statewide policies do not reflect the increased danger, but leave the choice up to local businesses and municipalities.

Let’s mask up to protect one another.

Vermonters need to again be more conservative to protect both our residents and visitors to our state. Though many school districts are adopting masking policies, we don’t have a statewide masking policy for schools. People are going to restaurants, movie theaters, attending large gatherings indoors and out (mostly unmasked), traveling out of state and hosting visitors from out of state, and many think they are safe because they are immunized.

It is time for Vermonters to be more careful to reduce risk of spread. We each need to be responsible for protecting ourselves and our neighbors.

The rate of positive tests of immunized Vermonters on Aug. 13 was reported to be 3.1%. This is a low rate but it is a growing rate. I want to help Vermonters stay safe by knowing they should be more cautious again: limiting or avoiding visits to high COVID areas and guests from those places; wearing masks indoors, especially for prolonged periods (like in a school or at work or with guests from outside your household); and limiting large gatherings (especially indoors), etc. A vaccinated Vermonter could spread COVID to someone vulnerable. None of us want to do that. We all need to be careful to protect our community members.

COVID is spreading again. Get vaccinated, but even if you are vaccinated, put your mask back on and be cautious. Stay safe, Vermont! We’ll get through this!

Note: Rep. Michelle Bos-Lun is a Vermont state representative from Westminster.

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