Montpelier, Vt. – 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 – and your booster dose – visit healthvermont.gov/myvaccine.
Transcript of Governor Scott’s remarks:
GOVERNOR SCOTT: Today Commissioner Pieciak will provide his data presentation, Secretary French will give an education update, Secretary Smith will discuss vaccinations and hospital capacity and Dr. Levine will provide a health update and give some tips for families as we approach Thanksgiving.
But first, I want to reiterate how important it is for Vermonters to use common sense and take precautions as we approach the holidays, so we don’t adversely impact our ICU capacity.
The number one commonsense thing you can do is get vaccinated.
The data speaks for itself: About three quarters of Vermont’s hospitalizations and about 70% of our cases are among the unvaccinated. So, the best way to protect yourself and your family is still to get the vaccine.
It’s also important to get your booster. As you’ve heard us say, if you’re over 18 and it’s been six months since you received your second dose of Moderna or Pfizer or two months since J&J, we want you to get boosted.
Vermont currently leads the nation in boosters among those over the age of 65 but we can, and need to, do better because its already having a positive effect. In the past 30 days, even as total cases have increased, the case rate for those over 65 has actually declined about 2.5%.
Now, this is important because we know this population is most at risk and it also could explain why Vermont’s hospitalization rate remains among the lowest in the nation, even as cases have climbed.
So please get your booster. Make it a priority.
Given where we are right now, as we’ve said, Vermonters should also wear masks indoors; be smart about indoor events; use testing as a tool; and of course, stay home when sick.
Before you go to a gathering, particularly one that might include elderly people for Thanksgiving, take a test as a precaution. This may be a big part of how we’ll manage COVID-19 in the years to come, especially as at-home rapid tests become more available.
We’re also working to increase access to treatments like Monoclonal Antibodies to help further limit hospitalizations. Florida and Texas have had a tremendous amount of success with this strategy.
All these steps – in addition to the measures we have in place in schools, long term care and healthcare facilities – will help protect the most vulnerable and keep our health care system stable, which has been our top priority from the very start.
I continue to believe being honest with Vermonters about what we’re seeing and encouraging vaccination as the best path forward, while also calling for certain steps when needed, is the right approach because a perpetual state of emergency and unilateral Executive authority is not healthy for our democracy or our people.
Considering 44 other states, including 17 out of 23 governors who are Democrats, are taking this same approach – meaning they don’t have mandates in place – tells me most governors, regardless of party, agree this is the path forward.
However, Vermont’s legislative leaders – the Speaker and the Pro Tem, in particular – have made clear they believe a statewide mask mandate and further mandates are needed right now.
Again, I disagree. But to move forward, I extended an olive branch, proposing a compromise. My offer is to call them back for a special session for the sole purpose of passing a law that would give municipalities the authority to implement mask mandates in their communities. I’ve asked for this authority to end by April 30 and the legislation to stipulate that municipalities have to revote on it every 30 days, just like we did for the State of Emergency.
This was something the Vermont League of Cities and Towns asked for last week and I see it as a compromise between my position and the legislative leadership’s position.
I’ve been clear with them that this is as far as I’m willing to go and I will veto anything else because I do not think mask mandates will move us towards our goals, and I think we need to move out of a perpetual state of mandates.
As I read in some of the articles today, it appears the Legislature is planning to come back, so we’ll move forward on our end.
As we’ve done over the last 20 months and will continue to do, we’ve focused on taking steps to protect vulnerable Vermonters and our healthcare system.
Do not mistake a lack of mandates for a lack of action.
This is the path forward and I, for one, have faith in the people of Vermont – who have stepped up throughout this entire pandemic – and that knowing we need their help to protect the elderly and our healthcare system, they will take the steps we’re asking them to take, without mandates.