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Office of Mayor Miro Weinberger

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Mornings with Miro

Join Mayor Weinberger every Wednesday morning at 8:00 - 9:00 am at The Bagel Cafe and Deli on North Avenue. This event is open to the public and all are welcome to join in-person and discuss City topics of interest (or any other issues on your mind!). 

Mayor's Covid Update, November 12, 2021

We have reached a confusing and uncertain moment in our long battle against the global Covid-19 pandemic.   

On the one hand, vaccinations have made the great majority of us far safer than we were at the beginning of 2021, and now even our 5-11 year-olds are starting to receive these safe and life-saving vaccines moving our community much closer to full vaccination. On the other hand, in recent weeks we have repeatedly seen record numbers of cases here in Vermont, bucking the national trends in a confusing and concerning way.   

I want to tell you what we know about the status of the virus here in Burlington and Chittenden County – which is doing considerably better than many other areas of the state – to share some updates on the Covid work the City is pursuing, and to offer guidance from our Analytics Team about how to navigate the upcoming holiday season in these uncertain times. 

In Chittenden County + Burlington the virus’s spread has generally been stable since late August 

In recent weeks the news headlines have been focused on record case numbers statewide.  The weekly per-capita case rate in Chittenden County has been both relatively stable since mid-August and considerably lower than most of the other counties of the state. Our other indicators of transmission risk, wastewater testing and the daily positive test rate (a percentage of all Covid tests that result in a positive), have generally also been stable. In the last couple of days, after a long period of stability, we have seen a significant rise in the seven-day average of new infections and this is something we are monitoring carefully. 

Another reassuring and important data point: UVMMC President and COO Dr. Steven Leffler shared with me at the end of the week that after some challenging months, driven by a variety of factors including Covid, our hospital is in good shape right now and he does not have any immediate capacity concerns. While Chittenden County has been relatively stable other parts of the state have seen a significant surge, meaning that capacity across Vermont has been tight, but up to this point it is adequate. UVMMC has added 15 inpatient beds and 16 Emergency Room beds and currently has ICU capacity.  

We believe that Chittenden County’s stability relative to harder-hit parts of the state can be attributed to our very high local vaccination rates, vaccine or testing mandates of many large local employers, strong virus control measures on our college campuses, and your continued diligence following recommendations to wear masks when indoors in public spaces where the vaccination status of people near you is unknown.  

While, like most of the country, Covid transmission remains “high” in Chittenden County warranting continued vigilance especially around vulnerable populations, our progress with vaccinations means that with some precautions we can fully enjoy the holidays with loved ones this year. 

Preparing to Move Indoors and Welcome the Holiday Season 

I know many of our neighbors struggled with isolation and the loss of normalcy last winter, and that we all look forward to the full return of community and tradition this holiday season. As Dr. Anthony Faucci stated this week, vaccinated individuals should be able to safely enjoy the holidays this year. For vaccinated people, Covid risks are comparable to many other low-level risks, like driving a car, that we generally do not allow to get in the way of spending time with loved ones. However, the elderly and other vulnerable individuals face extra risk, and the current levels of transmission warrant some precautions by all of us.

Here are Covid interventions our Analytics Team recommends you follow this holiday season, especially if your holiday plans include seeing elderly, unvaccinated children, or other vulnerable individuals: 

  • First and foremost, if you are not vaccinated, you should get vaccinated. At the end of October, the CDC published some of the most comprehensive data yet about the Delta wave and “breakthrough infections” that clearly shows is that the risk of death from Covid is 12 times higher for unvaccinated people versus those who are vaccinated. If you haven’t been vaccinated yet you can get an appointment or find information about available clinics here.
  • If you are 18+ and it has been more than six months since you became fully vaccinated, you can and should get a free vaccine booster. There is growing consensus is that the approved vaccines lose a modest amount of effectiveness after six months. This waning protection can be addressed by booster shots which are now widely available and free. Learn more about boosters here
  • If you are the parent or guardian of a child 5-11 years old who has not been vaccinated, you should know the vaccine is safe for children. When everyone eligible in your household is fully vaccinated your whole family and our neighbors will be better protected. Learn more here
  • If you are an employer in Burlington, I encourage you to require vaccinations or weekly testing for your staff and to require mask-wearing wherever your team interacts with the public indoors. The City implemented this in early October and saw our employee vaccination rates increase substantially without out any staff departures – many other organizations nationally have had the same experience.  
  • If you travel, host guests, or attend large gatherings, you can provide yourself and those you’re visiting with peace of mind by getting a Covid test, before and after, either through the State testing program or by purchasing a rapid test from a local pharmacy.  
  • Trust and act on the science that says asymptomatic transmission by vaccinated individuals is very rare. This means that when visiting elderly or immunocompromised loved ones, you can be confident they are safe when vaccinated individuals are not symptomatic. If someone does develop symptoms, you can use rapid tests to regain peace of mind, and then follow that up with a PCR test. Earlier this fall when my elderly in-laws came to Burlington, using a rapid test in this manner helped us have a safe and stress-free visit. 
  • If you are spending time in indoor public spaces, like retail shops, event venues, or public transit – you should wear a mask regardless of your vaccination status. Mask wearing continues to provide an extra level of protection in these settings during periods of higher transmission with very little downside. 
  • When gathering indoors, open a window to improve ventilation. According to the CDC, even slightly opening a window can bring the benefits of outdoor airflow

Keeping our Kids Safe and in the Classroom  

Keeping our kids safe and at school has been a clear priority of our community’s collective efforts throughout the pandemic. We are facing new challenges in this effort as a result of the Delta variant and continued high transmission levels, making a quick rollout of vaccinations for 5-11 year-olds and the implementation of a Test to Stay program very important. In recent weeks I have stayed in close touch with school and state leaders to try to ensure that these efforts stay on track and offer the City’s support where we can be helpful. 

Here are the latest updates on these efforts I have from a visit to the CP Smith vaccination clinic and then a call with Vermont Education Secretary Dan French and Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine at the end of the day Friday: 

Vaccinations of 5-11 year olds. We just concluded a week in which four Burlington Schools offered vaccination clinics with the help of the State. Burlington families faced some unexpected complications in this roll out, but after a lot of work by the local schools and the State, we ended the week with shots in the arms of more than a third of Burlington 5-11 students, which is comparable to the amount of pediatric vaccine doses available statewide. If you are one of the many families who has not been able to sign up yet here are some important things to know: 

  • Your child can get vaccinated in a variety of settings. I urged the State leaders to set up more school-based clinics as soon as possible and they indicated that this was likely. In addition, there are or will soon be opportunities for child vaccinations in pharmacies, BIPOC clinics, and in pediatrician offices.  
  • Many more vaccination opportunities for your child are coming very soon. While all of the options for child vaccinations are scarce in Chittenden County right now, the State is working hard to secure more doses, and expects that by soon after Thanksgiving the supply of the vaccine will have caught up and anyone who wants a vaccine will be able to get one. 
  • The vaccinations are very safe for your child and will protect not only them but the rest of the household and the community by further lowering opportunities for the virus to spread. 

Test to Stay programs in our schools.  I know from first-hand experience – a healthy Ada was home almost all week because she was a close contact! -- that infections among students or school faculty are currently very disruptive because of quarantine and testing rules for close contacts.  A single case can shut a whole classroom down for days, costing our kids critical education time and disrupting work for parents and caregivers. It is critical that our schools have Test to Stay rapid-testing capacities for kids who are not fully vaccinated as soon as possible. Such programs can nearly instantaneously determine which students are infected and allow Covid-negative students to continue their learning in-person without interruption. A growing number of Vermont schools now have this capacity and I am pressing State officials to bring this capacity to Burlington a soon as possible. Our conversation Friday left me hopeful that our schools should be able to overcome the remaining hurdles and launch these programs very soon.  

The City is going to stay fully engaged in these efforts in the days ahead and I hope to be able to share a definitive update on this soon.  

Flu Season is Here – Get Your Vaccination Now 

Cold and flu season is upon us. One way in which the pandemic has strengthened our public health systems in Burlington is that since August we have been monitoring wastewater for other viruses in addition to Covid. This week, for the first time, we detected small but measurable levels of the flu virus. This finding should be a reminder to everyone that now is the time to get your flu shot – higher adoption rates will reduce the impact of the seasonal flu on the community this year.  

If you have not done so yet, the Vermont Department of Health recommends that everyone 6 months or older get a flu shot as soon as possible. Check with your doctor, your employer or local pharmacies for vaccination opportunities.   

Flu and Covid-19 vaccines can be given at the same time or close together, including for children. If you are getting a Covid-19 vaccine or booster, see if a flu shot is also available. Find out more about getting a flu shot here

 

While these are uncertain times, Burlingtonians have proven time and time again their commitment to community and dedication to doing what is necessary to keep each other safe. I am confident that if we keep working together and trust the science we will reach this significant milestone in vaccinating our younger children, and have a safe and happy holiday season.

Warmly,  

Miro