State officials said features of successful vaccination clinics in the Northeast Kingdom will be adopted for upcoming vaccination clinics around the state.
Agency of Human Services Secretary Mike Smith highlighted the drive-through clinic at the Barton fairgrounds last week, as well as last month’s mobile clinics in Essex County, both of which accommodated walk-ins, as examples of future clinics the state hopes will reach a wider swath of Vermonters and continue the push to higher vaccination rates.
Smith, Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine and Gov. Phil Scott all encouraged Vermonters to sign up to get vaccinated, especially people in the younger age brackets who thus far have been slow to sign up.
“If you haven’t done so already, please make an appointment to be vaccinated, your participation is critical for us to reach the next milestones in the Vermont Forward Plan,” said Smith.
Smith said the state is transitioning its vaccination program to not only continue the mass vaccination clinics as it has been doing, but to also deploy popup clinics at colleges, worksites, fairgrounds and others, as well as for all Vermont clinics to begin accepting walk-ins for potential extra doses.
“This is done in an attempt to get as many people vaccinated as possible by making it easy and convenient,” added Smith.
He highlighted a clinic at Northern Vermont University-Lyndon on Friday, a drive-through walk-in-only clinic at Bear Ridge Speedway in Bradford on Saturday, the barnstorming clinics to be conducted by local EMS agencies across the region this weekend, as well as plans that are in development for a clinic at the fairgrounds in Lancaster, N.H. on May 21 to serve Essex County residents. The clinics are open to all eligible Vermonters and will all be able to accept walk-ins as vaccine supply lasts.
“Registration is preferred but we will take a few walk-ins,” said Smith.
State officials said they were pleased with last week’s clinic in Barton that served over 100 walk-ins as a prime example of making the vaccine as accessible as possible.
Thus far the state has used all of its weekly allocations from the federal government and is now first in the nation for doses administered per 100,000 residents, but concern remains about reaching higher vaccination levels as quickly as possible.
Department of Financial Regulation Commissioner Michael Pieciak, who oversees the state’s COVID data analysis and modeling, said current case data shows conditions are generally stable across Vermont while noting there was improvement this week in Orleans County and the Northeast Kingdom as a whole.
“However Essex County did see a jump in cases this week and this was something we were concerned about last week considering the high case count in Coos County in New Hampshire and the counties in western Maine as well,” said Pieciak.
He noted that cases had come down a bit in those counties in New Hampshire and Maine, but still issued a warning to residents in the area.
“We want to provide an extra word of caution to those living in the area to make sure you are getting tested regularly and most importantly getting vaccinated,” said Pieciak.
After going 6 days with no new cases, there have been 19 in Essex County in the last 7 days.
St. Johnsbury Academy Monday evening announced another case had been identified, but that it would not interrupt in-person operations.
That is not the case in Lunenburg, however, which has been remote since April 27 and announced Monday that there were now cases within the first-, third- and fifth-grade communities at the school and as a result, the school would need to extend its remote learning for another week. Students are expected to return on Tuesday, May 11.
Families with connectivity challenges were encouraged to contact the school to receive an internet hot spot to aid the students in their coursework.