MONTPELIER — As COVID-19 vaccinations ramp up in Vermont, state officials have announced that some pandemic-related restrictions will begin rolling back next week.
Gov. Phil Scott announced during a press conference Friday that, beginning Tuesday, Feb. 23, fully vaccinated Vermonters will no longer have to quarantine after traveling out of state. Those coming from out of state will also not need to quarantine if they can provide proof of full vaccination.
“We’re going to do this carefully and methodically, like we have throughout the pandemic,” Scott said, noting that residents would still be expected to comply with health guidelines like masking and social distancing.
Agency of Human Services Secretary Mike Smith followed this with an announcement that visitation and congregation guidance at some long-term care facilities would also be relaxed next week.
Here are three key takeaways from Friday’s press conference:
1. Travel restrictions loosened
Scott said Vermonters must have received two vaccine doses to be considered fully vaccinated, and will only be eligible for the reduced travel restriction two weeks after the second dose. He said that fully vaccinated Vermonters will receive vaccination cards, and that these cards should be on hand when Vermonters travel in or out of state so that they can be displayed upon request.
If case numbers continue to decline, Scott said the state may further loosen restrictions.
“What you can expect is as we continue to see the numbers go the right way, we’ll continue to turn the spigot a little bit more,” he said.
2. Updated long-term care facility guidance
Beginning next Friday, Feb. 26, Smith said fully vaccinated residents at long-term care facilities where there is no active outbreak may be able to take part in congregate activities. He said this would also depend on if the facility in question is within federal guidance for COVID-19 positivity rates.
Smith said visitations would also be allowed for facilities that meet the guidance criteria, but whether or not visitors must be vaccinated is being left up to the individual care facilities.
“We believe facilities can set a path forward and still maintain the safety standards we’ve been dedicated to throughout the pandemic,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine.
According to Smith, 93% of long-term care facility residents have received their first dose, while 74% have received two doses and are fully vaccinated. In addition, he said 75% of staff across the state have been vaccinated.
Smith said the completed guidelines would be shared online and with facilities next week.
3. Next steps coming in March
With the state’s vaccine allocation increasing in recent weeks, and growing numbers of vaccination appointments, Smith said the next phase of the state’s vaccine rollout could come as soon as the first week of March.
Vermonters age 70 and older have been eligible for vaccination since Tuesday. As of Friday, 21,000 Vermonters in that age band had signed up for vaccination appointments, and 42,000 Vermonters across the state had received two doses and are considered fully vaccinated.
The next phase of vaccine rollout would make Vermonters age 65 and older eligible to schedule appointments. Once that phase is completed, the next phase would allow Vermonters with a certain list of high-risk medical conditions to be eligible.
To that end, Levine said type 1 diabetes would be added to the list of medical conditions eligible during that phase. Smith said that in addition to self-attesting for a condition, applicants in that phase will go through a verification process that has yet to be finalized.
“We’ll outline that as soon as we have the IT program put it together,” Smith said.