Vermont slowly closing in on reopening goals

Vermont News

MONTPELIER, Vt. (WFFF) — As of Monday, 79.4% of eligible Vermonters had received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, which means only 3,139 more people need to step up in order to reach Gov. Phil Scott’s 80% threshold to lift all restrictions.

Vermont Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine urged parents and caregivers of children over age 12 to get them vaccinated. Roughly 52 percent of the 12 to 15 age group have received their first dose.

“I know the approval for this age group is more recent, but let me assure parents, caregivers, and these young Vermonters—clinical studies show the vaccines are safe and effective for 12- to 17-year-olds,” Dr. Levine said. “Any short-term side effects from the vaccine appear to be similar to what adults may experience. And we have the benefit of data from millions of adults that have now vaccinated.”  

When Scott’s goal was announced on May 21, roughly 28,000 Vermonters were asked to step up and help reach it. On average, about 1,500 have daily, and Gov. Scott had some advice for those who may be getting impatient.

“Go to your friends, neighbors, and family, and get them to get their vaccinations so we can reach it sooner,” Scott said. “We all need goals in life, and this was one I thought was attainable, it still is, and if we reach it when I think we will, we’ll be two weeks ahead of schedule.”

Ahead of reaching that target, many Vermonters who have relied on emergency motel housing or the eviction moratorium during the pandemic to avoid homelessness are preparing for both measures to be lifted.

Vermont Human Services Secretary Mike Smith said it likely would’ve cost the state nearly $100 million in fiscal year 2022 to continue the motel emergency housing program at its current capacity of over 2,000 people. Some will remain eligible beyond July 1, including those with a disability or children.

“We’re offering stipends to people that are leaving the program to help them transition, and we’ve also expanded shelter capacity, which will further increase as the pandemic winds down,” Smith said.

Meanwhile, 30 days after the state of emergency is lifted, Vermont’s eviction moratorium will expire. Scott said there will be some support available depending on the person’s situation.

“From what I’m hearing from some of the landlords, some people are taking advantage of this situation,” Scott said. “We’ll see how this all sugars off, but we will continue to do whatever we can for those who legitimately can’t pay their rent, and we’ll make sure they have someplace to go.”

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