MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — The state of Vermont is continuing to encourage people to get vaccinated against COVID-19, officials said Tuesday.
Speaking a day after Vermont became the first state to see more than 80% of its eligible population receive at least the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccination, officials listed almost 60 locations across the state where people will be able to get vaccinated over the next few days.
“This is remarkable, but we are not stopping there," Agency of Human Services Secretary Mike Smith said during the regular virus briefing, a day after Republican Gov. Phil Scott lifted all remaining restrictions that were imposed because of the pandemic. “We will all benefit if more Vermonters are vaccinated against this terrible virus."
On Monday, Scott lifted all COVID-19 restrictions.
After being asked why he felt so many Vermonters were willing to be vaccinated, Scott said he didn't feel there was a single answer, but he felt most people wanted to do the right thing for their families and friends and they trusted the state's public health leaders
EMERGENCY ORDER EXPIRING
At midnight Tuesday the emergency order that Scott first signed on March 13, 2020, will be allowed to expire. The emergency order gave the governor broad power to act quickly to respond to the emergency, in this case COVID-19.
“In our system of government, extending a state of emergency longer than needed isn’t appropriate and authority must be restored to the normal process with checks and balances," Scott said during his regular briefing.
But while the emergency order is expiring, Scott said he would be a signing separate executive order that will enable people affected by the pandemic who came to rely on both food and housing assistance programs to continue to receive services from those programs.
The order will also enable the Vermont National Guard to remain available to help as needed to continue supporting efforts to fight COVID-19, such as vaccination clinics, as needed.
Vermont's largest hospital and two other hospitals in the state that are part of the University of Vermont Health Network are going to continue requiring visitors to wear masks.
The University of Vermont Medical Center, Porter Medical Center in Middlebury and the Central Vermont Medical Center in Berlin will continue to screen visitors for COVID-19 symptoms before entry and visitors will also be required to wear masks for the duration of their visits.
"Protecting our patients and staff remains our top priority, and we appreciate the ongoing cooperation from our communities,” Dr. John Brumsted, the president of the UVM Health Network, said in a statement.
Now that the state of emergency is ending, meetings of public bodies must be held in person, Vermont Secretary of State Jim Condos said.
During the pandemic, public boards were authorized to hold those meetings remotely.
Condos said boards can still allow people to attend remotely, but a physical meeting location must be provided and those bodies must physically post notices of the meetings.
“Vermont’s public servants have made it clear that our government can still operate and make critical decisions during a public health emergency without sacrificing the right of Vermonters to know how their government is making those decisions and their right to participate in the process,” Condos said in a statement Monday. “As we transition towards our shared ‘new normal,’ it is vital that we use the many successes, best practices, and lessons learned from the last 15 months to improve how we, as trusted public officials, best serve the public.”