by Doug McClure
MONTPELIER – As the holiday season and colder weather approach, most of the towns we cover have seen smaller impacts from COVID than the rest of the state. While Orleans County is fourth-worst in the state for COVID numbers, with north of 300 new cases in the past two weeks, Craftsbury and Greensboro have only seen a handful of cases since schools re-opened at the beginning of September, and neither Lakeview nor Craftsbury Academy have had active cases in the past week. Craftsbury has only had one case this school year, according to the state.
That is in large contrast to the overall statewide picture. Just two towns north of Craftsbury and one town north of Greensboro, the rate of new cases per town is the highest level in the state’s classification system. On September 1, only Barton was in that category, with 205 cases, but that number has now grown to 310. In the month since schools re-opened, the state is reporting 827 cases in schools.
Most of the schools in our coverage area have not seen more than a case or two. Twinfield Union started the year out on an inauspicious note due to the large COVID outbreak in the wider community impacting the entire elementary school and sending multiple grades into quarantine. That situation is resolved, but principal Mark Mooney said Tuesday that one case in the sixth grade had sent the entire grade into quarantine. He said that “sixth graders can receive a COVID test as early as tomorrow [Wednesday] and can return with a negative result.”
Hardwick Elementary School saw a recent spike in cases, with seven reported over the weekend after three other cases last week. HES principal Patrick Pennock said “We had one case reported on Friday and seven cases reported on Sunday. All grades are learning remotely this week (Tu-F). We are doing in-school testing for staff and students who sign up for it once a week.”
Both OSSU and Twinfield Union are conducting testing every Tuesday. In his email to the school community reporting the seven new cases, Rosenberg wrote “This coming Tuesday it would be extremely helpful to be able to test as many individuals as we can.”
The new cases come as the vaccination rate for children remains largely unchanged since schools opened. As of Tuesday, Orleans County children ages 12-15 are 55% vaccinated, and 16- and 17-year-olds 54% vaccinated. In Caledonia County, 65% of those 12-15 are vaccinated and 73% of those 16-17, well below the statewide rate for those age groups.
Until vaccines are approved for children under 12, though, the vaccination rate for that age group is zero. Last Thursday, Pfizer submitted its vaccine Comirnaty for Emergency Use Authorization for children five to eleven years of age to federal regulators. A ruling could come by the end of the month.
At the same time, booster shots have become a topic of discussion, with everyone over 65 eligible for a booster of their Pfizer vaccine eight months after their second shot, plus other people over eighteen who meet certain conditions. The FDA is meeting Thursday and Friday to discuss booster shots for the Moderna/Spikevax vaccine and the Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccine.