Drop in Waterbury COVID-19 cases; three area schools receive COVID grants – Waterbury Roundabout
The latest release of community COVID-19 data from the Vermont Department of Health shows the number of cases in Waterbury has fallen to mid-December levels. Meanwhile, three local schools have been named recipients of the first state grants linked to high vaccination rates among students.
For the first time since December 22, Waterbury has recorded only double-digit cases. The latest community-specific data from the Ministry of Health is for the seven days ending February 2 for which 42 new cases were reported, bringing Waterbury’s total to 1,418 since the start of the pandemic. In the seven days ending Dec. 22, the city recorded 41 cases.
The spike in cases due to the Omicron variant has occurred over the past two months. In addition, the use of rapid home tests has increased. The state’s case count is based on PCR tests administered at state-sponsored testing sites and reports Vermonters make after taking the tests at home. Over the past two to three weeks, schools have also ended surveillance testing using PCR tests, eliminating thousands of tests per week from the state system. Schools have a reserve of home tests that students and school staff can use when a positive case is identified at school, but it is up to those families and individuals to report their results.
Just as cases are falling in Waterbury, the numbers in other nearby communities have also fallen over the past week.
In the Harwood Unified Union School District, a total of 72 cases have been reported. In addition to the Waterbury cases, Moretown had 11 and Waitsfield 10; Warren had 4 and Duxbury 3, according to community data from the Department of Health.
Likewise, case reports in Middlesex and Stowe fell to single digits with 5 and 6 respectively in the state report.
In Washington County, community spread from Barre City remains high with 166 cases reported last week for a pandemic total of 3,352; 19 more were recorded for Barre Town; Montpellier had 41, bringing its total since March 2020 to 1,064.
Statewide, daily reports of new cases have also dropped, with the daily seven-day average now exceeding just over 500 cases per day. Hospitalizations are also gradually decreasing. On Friday, 92 were in hospital, 21 in intensive care.
The deaths continue, with January ranking as the second deadliest month of the pandemic, with 65 Vermont residents dying; 71 died in December 2020, according to state records. During the first days of February, 8 Vermont residents died.
This week, school was in session from Monday to Wednesday, with local schools closed for two snow days at the end of the week. Nevertheless, school administrators have reported a total of 17 cases of COVID-19.
Crossett Brook Middle School had the most with 6; Harwood Union Middle/High School had 4; Brookside Primary and Fayston Elementary each had 2; Moretown, Warren and Waitsfield all recorded one each.
School Immunization Incentive Grants Announced
During the governor’s weekly COVID-19 response press conference on Tuesday, Vermont Secretary of Education Dan French noted that Vermont is a national leader in vaccinating children. About 60% of Vermont children ages 5 to 11 have received at least one dose of the vaccine, French said, and about half are now vaccinated with two doses. (A booster shot has not yet been recommended for children under 12.)
“It’s a remarkable achievement,” French said. “[It] will go a long way to protecting our students and keeping our schools open. »
French then noted that some schools have now reached the point of having more than 80% of their student populations vaccinated. This proportion was mentioned as a benchmark for when state guidelines may recommend relaxing mask requirements.
This threshold was also used to determine state grants to schools. French announced that six schools have now applied for state vaccine incentive grants available to public and private schools. Four grants have been approved, three of which will go to schools in the Waterbury-Mad River Valley area, French said.
With 100% of its students vaccinated, Green Mountain Valley School in Waitsfield has been approved for a $3,000 grant, French said.
Crossett Brook Middle School and Harwood Union Middle/High School have reached 87% of their student populations vaccinated. Harwood received a grant of $7,725 and Crossett Brook $3,855, French said.
The fourth grant of $2,000 will go to Open Fields School, a small private school with a maximum of 22 students aged 4 to 12 in Thetford.
French said the rewards were calculated using a formula based on sign-ups. Waterbury Roundabout has asked the Education Agency for a breakdown of how this scheme works and has yet to receive a response.
For example, Crossett Brook has an enrollment of 295 students this school year and Harwood has 579. Their per-student amounts for their scholarships are just over $13. With 130 students enrolled according to its website, GMVS’s price is just over $23 per student. By this same calculation, the Open Fields grant amounts to just under $91 per student.
The scholarships come with a requirement that students be involved in the decision to use the scholarship funds, French explained.
Asked about the awards this week, Crossett Brook manager Tom Drake and Harwood co-lead Megan McDonough said they had just received information about the grants and had not yet considered how. which they would decide where they would be used.
Vaccination clinics and tests
In addition to pharmacies, state testing sites and primary care offices, two vaccination clinics are planned for the area next week for first, second or booster doses.
This Saturday, February 5, from 1-4 p.m. at the Waterbury Winterfest Party in the Park at Rusty Parker Park in downtown Waterbury. Walk-ins are welcome. The clinic will also have a limited number of home COVID-19 test kits.
Friday, February 11, from 1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. in the gymnasium at Waitsfield Elementary School. Register by calling 855-722-7878, Mon. – Fri. 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
More information about vaccination appointments and clinics is online at healthvermont.gov/myvaccine.
COVID-19 testing is continuing at the Waterbury Ambulance Station at 1727 Guptil Road in Waterbury Centre, although hours have been reduced somewhat recently.
The station is open on Mondays, Tuesdays, Fridays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Wednesday from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m., Thursday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Walk-ins are accepted, but appointments are recommended.
More information on COVID-19 testing is online at healthvermont.gov/covid-19/testing.