MONTPELIER — The Vermont Department of Health reported 146 new cases of the novel coronavirus Friday, two cases shy of the number reported Thursday, which was a single-day record.
Also, the state’s health commissioner reported Vermont could start receiving doses of a vaccine as early as next month.
Gov. Phil Scott said at his regular Friday news conference another resident who had the virus has died, bringing the state’s total to 62.
“After months without a single death, we’ve sadly lost four more Vermonters in the last two weeks,” Scott said.
Three of those deaths were residents at Rutland Healthcare and Rehabilitation. That facility now has 38 cases among residents and staff.
State officials are monitoring an outbreak at Four Seasons Care Home in Northfield, which has 31 cases among residents and staff. Fewer than six cases also been reported at Berlin Health and Rehabilitation Center, as well.
Washington County has been hit the hardest when it comes to new cases. Despite having a third of the population, Washington County has seen 351 new cases in the past two weeks compared with 245 cases in Chittenden County. State officials have attributed the spike in central Vermont to the remnants of an outbreak at the hockey rink in Montpelier last month as well as people socially gathering while not following state guidelines such as wearing a mask and keeping physical distance from others.
“Every single one of us has a responsibility to help slow this down, protect our loved ones and preserve our hospital capacity,” the governor said.
He again urged residents to abide by the state’s restrictions, which were increased last week by shutting down bars and clubs for in person service. The governor clarified a restriction stating people could not meet with someone from another household.
He said those that live alone can gather with one other household, but they still need to limit their contact with others.
The state had received pushback from residents who didn’t understand why they couldn’t go for a walk outside with a neighbor or friend, but they could sit inside with strangers in a restaurant. The governor had said contact tracing showed restaurants weren’t the cause of the increase in cases, it was people gathering socially and not following guidelines. But Scott said Friday those engaging in outdoor fitness involving no more than two people are allowed to do so.
State officials have strongly suggested residents not travel and visit family and friends this holiday season.
Dr. Mark Levine, commissioner of the state’s health department, said the expectation was by the end of Friday, Pfizer would seek an emergency use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the pharmaceutical company’s vaccine. Levine said the Advisory Council on Immunization Practices, which advises the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, will meet Monday to receive information about the vaccine.
“Perhaps the earliest Vermont could see a vaccine on its doorsteps for a limited number of doses would be in the range of Dec. 10,” the commissioner said.