News from the Vermont Department of Health last week that the number of positive COVID-19 cases hit 487 — an all-time high since the start of the pandemic — was a disturbing reminder of the need for all Vermonters to take precautions to stay healthy.
The most urgent precaution is to receive your vaccination and booster, and sign up your eligible children for the shots.
While unsettling, the one-day record high number of cases in and of itself doesn’t indicate a crisis. The COVID-positive test results peak and fall over the course of a week, depending on a number of factors. The statewide numbers have fallen to 235 on Monday, with 16 new cases in Bennington County (356 over the past 14 days), and 15 in Windham County (174 over the past 14 days). We have lost 384 Vermonters to the virus.
However, leading health officials and Gov. Phil Scott agree that overall and over time the numbers are going in the wrong direction: up.
“Unvaccinated adults are directly contributing to the strain on our hospital capacity. Enough is enough, it’s time to step up and get vaccinated — something over 90 percent of your fellow Vermont adults have done,” the governor said.
He’s right. Enough is enough.
Another driver of the spike in cases is the number of children between the ages of 5 and 11 who are testing positive for COVID-19. The threat is two-fold: First, we worry about the short- and long-term health effects that this virus creates for these children; second, we are concerned about the adults that they expose to COVID-19 — particularly the elderly and other vulnerable communities.
Fortunately, this age group became eligible for the vaccine last week, opening the door to vaccination of about 44,000 young Vermonters. Roughly 11,400 across the state signed up almost immediately for shots. That’s a good start, but it’s just a start.
Closer to home, Southwestern Vermont Medical Center on Friday launched a two-day vaccination clinic for youngsters, and Trey Dobson, chief medical officer at SVMC, said the 600 doses available were quickly reserved by parents anxious to protect their children. Brattleboro Memorial Hospital will also be vaccinating this age group.
This is good news. For some parents, the decision to vaccinate a young child is not an easy one. After all, for parents, these are the most precious little beings in their lives. We fret about everything that could put them at risk, and the buzz of misinformation about vaccinations can plant seeds of doubt.
But the decision to vaccinate is the right one — for the child, for the friends in the classroom, for the family members who want hugs, and for the overall betterment of Vermont’s public health.
Vaccination is critical to slowing the spread of COVID-19. But we should also wear masks in indoor settings, avoid large gatherings, get tested if we feel sick (and stay home from work or school), and be extra cautious around vulnerable Vermonters.
Our hospital capacity is at risk. Our economy continues to lag. Our friends, neighbors and family members continue to get sick and die.
Dobson voiced the view of many when he said the medical community was initially “optimistic” that we were moving in the right direction when the vaccines were approved and administered. But the inexplicable decision by some to decline the shots, along with the explosion of the highly contagious Delta variant of the virus, have dampened that hope. The word he would use now: “disappointed.”
If we want to get our state back on track, we all need to get vaccinated.