Need help remembering life before Covid? Direction Vermont – –

Need help remembering life before Covid? Direction Vermont – –

FAIRFAX, Vermont — Last week a group of seniors who attended Reverend Elizabeth Griffin’s weight training class at an old church did something that seemed drastic. They had lessons without their masks.

Since the whole group was vaccinated, they could leave the masks at home according to the new city rules.

“My life is kayaking and biking and I could still do it all. But socialization. This is something that I really missed, ”said Colleen Steen, wearing a pink workout top and celebrating her 75th birthday with hand weights and a few deep knee bends.

Ms. Steen said she now has a lot of encounters that start with the question, “Are we kissing again?” And then they do.

Vermont is the most vaccinated state in America. And that means Vermonters are living their lives as in 2019 or as close as they can get.

Reverend Elizabeth Griffin after her exercise class at Fairfax, where she can now teach without a mask.

Eighth grade students from Stowe Middle School recently held a graduation rehearsal.

Hospitals are closing their Covid departments and cases of new infections are plummeting. But it’s the little things that have the most impact, say Vermont residents: Schools hold in-person graduation ceremonies. High fives and hugs are common. Self-serve coffee is back. The grocery store no longer requires a mask.

“You feel naked,” said Sheila Dooley, 69, after her first experience grocery shopping without a mask since the start of the pandemic.

Vermont said 80% of the state’s eligible population received at least one shot of the vaccine. The state had recently relaxed most of the restrictions on Covid-19, and the few that remained applied to unvaccinated people. On Monday, authorities lifted all remaining rules. The state is now leaving it up to companies to decide whether they still prefer to wear masks, and some stores have not fully embraced the dropping of all rules.

Cases, measured by an average daily number of cases over seven days, have fallen 94% since April 1. Hospitalizations have halved in two weeks, and one patient has died from Covid-19 in the past three weeks.

“When we hit the 80% level, that basically tells Vermonters that their lives are really going to be a lot closer to what they considered normal before the pandemic,” said Mark Levine, state health commissioner. .

State health officials say the threshold is not a declaration of herd immunity and instead was set as a target to ensure enough people are vaccinated so that the disease does not spread.

“The government is going to be out of sight and giving advice but not going to create a situation where there is a warrant for the masks or a capacity limit or curfews or whatever,” Dr Levine said. .

Vermont has fully vaccinated 61.9% of its total population, compared to 43.7% for the entire United States, according to data from the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A few factors have helped increase Vermont’s vaccination rate. The state’s aging, predominantly white liberal residents are among a demographic that is least hesitant to get vaccinated, according to data from survey and data analysis firm Civiqs. Its population is regularly ranked among the healthiest in the country.

The most important factor was that, overall, the people of Vermont trusted and listened to state health officials. In a year-long study published in March 2021 by researchers at Harvard Medical School, Northeastern, Rutgers and Northwestern universities, Vermont Republican Gov. Phil Scott maintained the highest level of approval for a governor among the electors. At the same time, Vermonters, surveyed in April 2020, listed public health officials as their most trusted source of information on Covid-19.

Vermont adopted strict travel restrictions in March 2020. When the state relaxed those restrictions – allowing residents to end a 14-day quarantine a week earlier with a negative Covid-19 test – enough residents got followed the rules according to which the spread of the disease was limited, according to the data.

“Vermont was that green island, surrounded by red New York, red Maine, red New Hampshire, red Canada,” said Michael Rousse, chief medical officer at Northeastern Vermont Regional Hospital, of the first outbreak of Covid -19.

Owner Sonia Rivera worked with a client of the Incognito salon in Montpellier. Vermont officials lifted all remaining Covid-19 rules on Monday.

A wing used to treat Covid-19 patients at Northwestern Medical Center in St. Albans was empty.

The hospital has not had a patient hospitalized for Covid-19 for weeks. For hospital workers, that means they will soon be able to walk through the once-restricted Covid-19 wing to the cafeteria. Last week they were allowed to distribute their own coffee for the first time.

At Northwestern Medical Center in St. Albans, Chief Medical Officer John Minadeo walked through the hospital’s now empty Covid-19 ward last week.

The room was darkened and emptied of its staff. Signs of how to wear protective clothing, disassembled air handling equipment and duct tape on the floor to separate doctors from patients recalled the old use of the department.

At one point, half of their allocated beds were filled with Covid-19 patients. With two staff members working with each patient, they expected to be overwhelmed. They never have been. Now they are talking about what to do with the space. “There is less fear now,” he said.

Donald Dupuis, chief medical officer at Copley Hospital, said he had not spent more than two days outside the hospital. Next month, he’s going on vacation to Montana. “I won’t even take out my phone to fish,” he said.

Today, he said, on his way home from the hospital, he stopped at his usual place, a gas station which is also a local food market and a Nepalese restaurant in the city center. of Morrisville. For the first time, the owner had taken off his mask and a curtain in front of the cashier had fallen.

“No one had a mask. The shower curtain was down and people generally seemed quite relieved, ”he said.

Indoor meals, weight training, concerts. These once banal events return to everyday life. But because of Covid-19, everyone now has a different level of comfort. What happens in the brain when we decide what is risky and what is not? Photographic illustration: Laura Kammermann

Last week, Stowe High School principal Gretchen Muller was actively preparing for an outdoor graduation ceremony for her seniors. Even more exciting: this year, families could attend and sit in real chairs. Last year, senior graduates celebrated by getting out of their cars one at a time at Stowe Mountain Resort when their names were called and everyone rang the bell remotely.

Government officials hope that the state’s high immunization rates will, over time, attract people seeking highly skilled jobs and become an economic boon.

Colleen Steen on her way home from Reverend Griffin’s exercise class.

Smugglers’ Notch Resort is preparing to fully open for the summer season.

At Smugglers’ Notch Resort, a family ski and summer vacation destination in Northwest Vermont, employees were busy preparing for the start of their summer season. Guest bookings are on par with pre-pandemic levels, according to Steve Clokey, the resort’s vice president of marketing. Last year, the resort was operating at 40% normal occupancy, he said.

“At first it was, ‘Don’t touch anything.’ Then it was like, ‘How do you share a basketball? Can you play basketball outside? Said Stacey Comishock, Director of Water Sports and Activities.

She laughed, thinking they even had a “dirty” bucket for mini-golf balls. And the supplies at the crafting table weren’t helping you anymore. They had to be in individual cups. “We spent a lot less time pulling wide-eyed wood chips off the floor,” she said.

Now, with at least 83% of its staff vaccinated, the resort tells customers vaccinated they can leave the masks at home. Since young children and some guests are still unvaccinated, the resort is asking staff to remain masked around guests. But vaccinated staff can socialize with each other without a mask.

Hayden Duquette, 18, a lifeguard in the resort’s pool and slide, said he was delighted to be able to push guests down the slide again.

An emergency medical technician waits to distribute Covid-19 vaccines at the Smugglers’ Notch Resort.

America’s vaccination effort

More WSJ coverage on the distribution of the Covid-19 vaccine, selected by editors.

Write to Julie Wernau at [email protected]

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