MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — The state of Vermont is getting ready to make it possible for more state employees to return to their pre-pandemic workplaces, Administration Secretary Susanne Young said Monday.

Due to improving pandemic conditions, beginning April 1 state officials will be able to authorize requests from more workers to return to their worksite, if they would like to and if there is enough capacity to do so in the office while meeting state distancing guidelines.

In general, though, state employees who can telework should expect to do so through at least May 31, she said.

The state is also preparing for a post-pandemic environment. The results of an employee survey will be taken into account.

"A majority of employees who responded to the survey expressed interest in continuing to work remotely on either a full or part-time basis,” Young said in a statement.

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VACCINE ELIGIBILITY

The next Vermont age group eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, people aged 65 and older, can now register for vaccine appointments.

Online and phone registrations opened on Monday.

Gov. Phil Scott said the emergency use authorization of the new Johnson & Johnson vaccine will allow the state to inoculate more people faster.

“This is another significant step forward in our work to end this pandemic and I join many in Vermont and across the country welcoming this news," he said in a written statement on Saturday.

Following the 65 and older age group, Vermont will start vaccinating residents with certain high-risk health conditions. State officials are expected to discuss that phase on Tuesday.

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VACCINE HUB

An empty store in the Berlin Mall is going to become the COVID-19 vaccine for the Central Vermont Medical Center.

The hospital is going to set up shop next in a portion of the vacant storefront, making it possible for the hospital, which has been vaccinating 50 Vermonters per day who are 75 or older, to increase the number to 200 when it opens and increase the number to 400 by April.

The Times Argus reports the clinic will be staffed five days a week by roughly three dozen medical professionals.

“The logistics of this vaccination clinic are extensive,” said Barbara Quealy, the director of primary care operations at the Berlin hospital. “We’ve had a multidisciplinary team working tirelessly to create a scalable approach that will accelerate vaccination in central Vermont.”

The hospital, located a short distance from the mall, has vaccinated 3,500 people in less than a month, but they did so using conference rooms and the lobby.

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NUMBERS

On Monday the Vermont Health Department reported 85 new cases of the virus that causes COVID-19, bringing the statewide total since the pandemic began to more than 15,284.

There were 24 people hospitalized with COVID-19, including eight in intensive care.

There have been a total of 205 deaths in Vermont from COVID-19 since the pandemic began.

The 7-day rolling average of daily new cases in Vermont did not increase over the past two weeks, going from 111 new cases per day on Feb. 14 to 100.71 new cases per day on Feb. 28.