Gov. Phil Scott emphasized the personal responsibility of Vermonters to help keep those at greatest risk from COVID-19 out of the hospital at his weekly virus briefing Tuesday.
Getting vaccinated is key and those eligible for a booster shot should get theirs as soon as possible, he said during the news conference. He also urged Vermonters to think about how they can reduce exposure to the elderly by getting tested and avoiding high-risk situations before visiting them. Unvaccinated Vermonters should wear a mask around others or in a populated setting, he said.
“And I want to be very clear: if you're one of the Vermonters who is never going to get vaccinated, it's even more important that you do your part, to avoid spreading COVID to someone who is at risk or putting your children in a position where they're out sick from school,” Scott said. “Because not getting vaccinated, taking no precautions at all, and carelessly exposing an elderly family member, neighbor, customer or patient is selfish and it's dangerous.”
Vermont COVID-19 cases rose 10% over the last seven days and 39% over the last 14 days, according to Michael Pieciak, commissioner of the Vermont Department of Financial Regulation, who is handling the data.
Half of the state's current residents with the disease did not know where they contracted it, while many had been in a crowded indoor space where there was little mask wearing, Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine said.
In other pandemic-related developments:
While the governor's administration has extended a motel voucher program for some of the most vulnerable homeless Vermonters to the end of December, advocates on Tuesday called for the program to last through the winter and include those who lost access to the state-paid motel rooms this summer.
In July, the state extended the motel voucher program for families with children, the disabled, pregnant women and other vulnerable people, and gave $2,500 checks to those no longer eligible. Scott later extended the program for those still eligible until Oct. 21, and now until Dec. 31.
“We are so glad that the administration is ceasing to ask Vermonters to trade their shelter for money. Also that there is a slightly longer reprieve before Vermonters ‘currently in the program’ in crisis will have to worry about where they go next yet again,” said a letter to the governor on Tuesday from advocates who said they have been sleeping outside on the Statehouse steps for the last five days in protest. “However, to not include the 1,000 plus Vermonters that you exited is unacceptable."
Among other things, the administration has proposed moving those in the motel rooms to longer-term motel rentals also to be paid for with federal rescue funds with a goal of providing more permanent housing in the future. About 950 households are now in motels with the number of rooms at capacity as tourism has increased, said Department for Children and Families Commissioner Sean Brown.
“We were able to house over 2,000 households ... during the pandemic because the economy essentially shut down and hotels were not serving travelers and tourism, tourists. That has now changed,” he said.