Vermonters meet vaccine goal; COVID-19 restrictions to expire at midnight Tuesday

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MONTPELIER – Gov. Phil Scott said Vermont had succeeded in reaching 80 percent of eligible residents with at least one dose of the COVID-19, a goal that allowed him to lift all pandemic-related restrictions on residents, schools and businesses.

At a “special announcement” in Montpelier, the governor touted the state’s vaccination strategy, which made Vermont the first state in the nation to vaccinate 80 percent of its eligible population.

“Now that we have hit 80%, as promised and effective immediately, I am lifting all remaining state pandemic restrictions and the State of Emergency will formally end at midnight June 15,” Scott said.

“And here’s why: Because it’s safe to do so. It is safe because Vermonters have done their part to keep spread of the virus low throughout the pandemic and stepped up to get vaccinated. In fact, no state in the nation is in a better or safer position to do this than we are.”

The announcement came 15 months after the governor stood at the same podium to declare a State of Emergency. At that time, there were only two known cases of COVID-19 in Vermont. He credited the efforts of all Vermonters in reaching his 80 vaccination percent goal.

“Through it all, we have shown the nation, and much of the world, how to respond when there is no playbook, and how to do it with civility and respect,” Scott said. “But, this is no surprise to me, and should be no surprise to anyone who knows anything about what it means to be a Vermonter.”

State Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine took some time to thank his staff, and said he’s seen nothing but complete dedication from every member of the Vermont Department of Health.

“These public servants approached each challenge with thoughtfulness, care, compassion and expertise,” Dr. Levine said. “You are my public health heroes.”

In the early days of the pandemic, Scott drew comparisons to the 1918 Spanish Influenza, the last major outbreak Vermont had dealt with. On Monday, he turned to the state’s history again: the first day of the Battle of Gettysburg, when General John Sedgwick sent the order to “put the Vermonters ahead” due to their character and courage.

“157 years later, we again showed that when the nation is in need of leadership and hope, when America needs to find its path forward to solve problems and help people, when in dark times our country needs a state to light the way, Vermonters will always step forward and lead the charge,” Scott said.

When asked what advice he would give the next Vermont governor responding to a global pandemic, Scott said “trust the science, trust the data, trust your people, put a good team together, and always tell the truth.”

Under the state’s Vermont Forward plan, all restrictions on indoor and outdoor gatherings have been lifted. However, some situations, such as public transportation and long-term care facilities, will remain subject to federal health guidelines. Health officials are also encouraging Vermonters who have not been vaccinated to continue to wear masks and practice social distancing.

Scott had teased Monday’s announcement a day earlier on Twitter, saying just 322 people needed to get their first COVID-19 shot to trigger the 80 percent threshold to remove all pandemic-related restrictions.

The Biden administration took note of Vermont’s vaccination campaign in a tweet from White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain.

Scott initially set a July 4 goal for reopening Vermont completely. On May 21, he said all remaining restrictions would be lifted if the state reached the 80 percent vaccination rate. At the time, more than 350,000 Vermonters had received at least one dose.

On Friday, the health department’s vaccine dashboard reported 444,187 had received at least one dose, with 390,000 fully vaccinated.

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