During his weekly press conference Tuesday, Gov. Phil Scott signaled support for the use of vaccine passports to visit service establishments such as restaurants and bars.
“In the coming weeks my team will meet with trade associations, employers, and other organizations who talk through the benefits of requiring vaccination or testing for employees where we continue to see transmission,” he said.
Of restaurants, he noted that some businesses are privately requiring vaccines for entry, which he implied he supports, calling it “a good idea.”
“It’s a step in the right direction. We’d like to see more businesses take that approach as well. We’re working on that,” Scott said.
He also said a return back to the broad coronavirus mandates of 2020 is unlikely.
“You’ve heard me talk at length over the last several weeks about why I don’t think we should reinstate mandates and continue to live under a perpetual state of emergency more than 20 months into this. … Let us not forget that many restrictions — like mandatory distancing, gathering and visitation limits — had a negative impact on physical and mental health.”
To Vermonters who don’t plan to get shots and boosters for COVID, Scott said, “Let me be clear: you will be infected sooner or later, it’s just a matter of time. And if you are unvaccinated and you get it, your fate is clear.”
Current data from the Vermont Health Department does not show any age bracket facing statistically significant threats from COVID-19. Records show Vermont has had 436 virus-related deaths statewide over the past two years, and no age group is experiencing a high number of deaths from the virus. For residents age 19 and under, there are no recorded Vermont deaths. In the 20-29 age bracket, there are 5.4 COVID-associated deaths recorded per 10,000 people. That number is 9.1 for ages 30 to 39, then 13.4 for ages 40 to 49, and 22.7 for 50 to 59.
Despite the low health risk to any particular individual, Scott says Vermonters should consider the use of vaccine passports to enter certain establishments in society.
“The science tells us that the virus spread is much more likely to occur in settings where you are with someone for over 15 minutes, as opposed to brief interactions in places like convenience stores,” he said. “In addition, restaurants, bars and clubs are places where these types of longer interactions occur and masking is obviously much less practical.”
At the start, Scott reflected on how long the subject of COVID-19 has dominated his administration.
“Most of us are tired of talking about COVID-19,” he said. “Many of us thought that once people were vaccinated, most of the problems would go away. But unfortunately, I think I’m clear that this isn’t going away any time soon, or for quite some time.
“The good news is, because of our highest-in-the-nation vaccination rate, as the country has endured Delta, we’ve maintained one of the lowest hospitalization rates in the nation and death rates in the nation while leading in testing.”
The governor also expressed openness to having unvaccinated Vermonters pay more for their health insurance.
As of Dec. 10, it was determined via the World Health Organization that there have been no deaths from the Omicron variant. However, on Monday the United Kingdom reported one death.
A major South African study concludes the Omicron variant causes less severe illness than prior strains, the Washington Post reported Tuesday.