NEWPORT, Vt. (WFFF) — Vermont Gov. Phil Scott got his COVID booster shot on Thursday, but a dose of Moderna wasn’t the only reason he visited the Northeast Kingdom. Scott, administration officials, and health care workers gathered outside North Country Hospital to discuss the growing number of COVID-19 cases in Orleans County.
On Thursday, the state reported 316 new cases—23% in Orleans County. Over the last two weeks, the county reported 400 cases. Human Services Secretary Mike Smith said cases there are three times higher than the statewide average. Meanwhile, the vaccination rate is the third-lowest in the state.
According to Vermont Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine, “This county was actually in the national news last week for being the top dozen counties in the country for cases that were new.” He said reporting pandemic data to local officials and lawmakers provided critical insight into some of Vermont’s rural areas. “From them, we learned that many in the populous didn’t really know how bad things might be in Orleans County regarding this pandemic.”
Scott says nearly 85%of cases in Vermont are among the unvaccinated. He urged people who have yet to get the shot to “listen to the science, listen to the data, listen to the health experts. “If we do, we can beat this virus and we can go back to being independent because once again, it’s ruling our lives, and it’s been ruling our lives for far too long,” he said.
But some Orleans County residents are still hesitant about the vaccine. Chelsea Stevens, of Newport City, said her husband had COVID, but they still aren’t comfortable with the vaccine. “We feel the vaccine was pushed too quickly. There was not enough time to really do the research and the study needed to make sure it was safe,” said Stevens. “At the time my husband was sick, I was 7 months pregnant with our twins, and we were not willing to take the risks the doctors wanted us to take.”
“We are big believers that everyone has the right to make their own choices,” she said. “We have families that got the vaccine, and we don’t hold it against them. They decided to go with it, and we decided to not.”