At a press conference Tuesday, Gov. Phil Scott met repeated questioning on why he is keeping Vermont under a state of emergency even as his health commissioner confirms that the state is not having a COVID-19 crisis.
The Green Mountain State has had two deaths from COVID-19 over the past month, and 58 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic. Of those coronavirus victims, just 13 were patients under the age of 70. The state has only three hospitalizations.
At his regularly scheduled media briefing, Scott was asked what conditions he is waiting for to lift the state of emergency and allow Vermonters to get back to living and working as normal.
“You know we’re so mobile in this country, and truly as a region, meaning this is migrating towards us. That’s why I took some of the action I did about three or four weeks ago,” he said. “So I don’t know, again, when the right time is, but I can tell you it’s while the virus is heading towards us, that is not the right time to release.”
According to Johns Hopkins University, the number of deaths compared to the number of confirmed cases in the United States is 3.1 percent. Eight out of 10 of those victims are over the age of 65, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Scott said he pays attention to death counts and total cases.
“I watch the death rates as well,” he said. “Again 32,000 [deaths] in New York alone. Certainly even our neighbors to our east in New Hampshire have over 400 deaths. Every death is meaningful, and the 58 in Vermont is something that I think about every day. I don’t want there to be 59, I don’t want there to be 60, and I’m sure you don’t want a family member to be one of those numbers either.”
Scott was asked what percentage of deaths in those nearby states involved other severe illnesses, but he said he couldn’t comment on that.
Comorbidities are underlying health problems that contribute to the death of a patient. For example, according to the National Health Service in England, over 95 percent of COVID deaths recorded in England and Wales had potentially serious comorbidities.
Health Commissioner Mark Levine, who also attends the regular press conferences, said Vermont is leading the nation in favorable COVID-19 statistics.
“So the last week, Vermont was indeed noted to being the state with both the lowest number of new cases per 100,000 — eight as compared with the national average of 112 — and the lowest percent positivity rate, which remains as you can see well below 1 percent.”
He also noted that Vermont’s cases in the state are mostly clustered together — 62.4 percent of the new cases are crowded into three counties.
When another reporter pressed the governor about his new extension of the state of emergency, Scott would not commit to a specific time table or checkpoint that would have him end the emergency status.
“I’m not ready to commit to that at this point,” he said. “I just don’t know. We’ll have to maintain and watch this virus and see where it brings us. There are other approaches — there could be a point in time when we could cease the executive order and do something, legislative action for instance.”