Thanksgiving gatherings likely to cause spike in COVID cases, say Vermont officials

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Vermont officials say an increase in cases from Thanksgiving travel and gatherings is unavoidable, and they are ramping up testing efforts in response.

Agency of Human Affairs Secretary Mike Smith says recommended people who have plans for the holiday to get a COVID-19 test 5-7 days after Thanksgiving. He said one concern, though, is making sure the state has an adequate supply of at-home COVID-19 tests, which yield quicker results, as a nationwide inventory shortage continues.

Smith said state-run testing sites are set to receive 1,500 of the antigen tests. They’re also for sale at most pharmacies. “When a more reliable supply chain develops, you will see us moving to testing platforms that have more rapid turn-around capability,” he said.

In the past week, nearly 70,000 people were tested in Vermont, said Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine, who urged people to get vaccinated and those who already are to get a booster shot if eligible.

“The smaller and more vaccinated your gathering is, the safer it is,” Levine said. “Pretty simple and straightforward advice.”

Governor Phil Scott signed legislation Tuesday giving towns in Vermont the authority to enact their own mask mandates. But at his weekly press briefing, Scott maintained his position that a broad statewide mandate is not necessary, saying the data shows the best tool to fight the coronavirus is vaccination.

“To be clear, I am not willing to move us backwards,” the governor said. “And frankly, I think it sends the wrong message about how effective vaccines are and snatches hope from the hands of Vermonters.”

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