The slate grey clouds of stick season remind Vermonters that colder weather is right around the corner. This has been a warmer-than-normal autumn (so far), which has made for continued outdoor activity.

But soon we move indoors, where we return to close quarters.

Our state’s impressive vaccination rate (just under 90% of all eligible Vermonters have received at least one dose of a vaccine) puts us in good standing compared to other states.

But we are still seeing some troubling numbers.

On Monday, Vermont had 163 new COVID cases, bringing the total since the state Department of Health started tracking it up to 40,340. COVID hospitalizations tallied 47 with three of those patients in ICU.

In Washington County on Monday, there were a dozen new cases, bringing the 14-day total up to 214. In Rutland County, there were 23 new cases, bringing the 14-day total to 273.

There have been 368 COVID-related deaths in Vermont — still far fewer than other states.

And more than 516,000 tests have been done here; and some 34,500 individuals have recovered thus far.

The numbers continue to be on track for the Scott administration, which — despite pressure from educators, health care workers and others to reinstate a state of emergency — is holding the line on its “compared to other states” mantra, and doubling down on the position that “what we are doing is working.”

But what happens when we all move indoors?

If the Northeast Correctional Complex in St. Johnsbury is any indicator, there could be rough days ahead this winter. The facility is on full lockdown today after seven incarcerated individuals in general population tested positive for COVID-19.

“All incarcerated individuals live in the same housing unit. The first case was detected through testing conducted October 25, resulting in the unit being placed on full lockdown. Testing on October 29 revealed six additional positive cases from that unit. ... The entire facility will be tested on Tuesday and Friday,” a news release issued Monday afternoon states.

And school districts around the state have also been struggling with spikes in numbers of young Vermonters, as well as educators and staff.

The pandemic continues to take its toll. It may not feel as acute here in Vermont, but the global numbers are staggering.

According to a report on National Public Radio on Monday, global deaths from COVID-19 have surpassed 5 million, according to the data released by Johns Hopkins University’s coronavirus tracker.

The report stated the U.S. leads the world in the number of confirmed deaths from the virus with more than 745,800 people dead from COVID-19. Brazil (with more than 607,000 deaths) and India (with more than 450,000 deaths) follow the U.S. in the number of lives lost since the start of the pandemic.

But in other parts of the world, health officials are seeing worrying signs of a coronavirus surge — just as some nations are relaxing measures to international travelers.

Five million deaths. “Yet another tragic milestone of the pandemic comes just as the U.S. prepares to start vaccinating children between the ages of 5 and 11,” the NPR report stated.

Indeed, the United States is on the verge of expanding its COVID-19 vaccination effort to children ages 5 to 11. It’s a notable milestone during a pandemic in which more than 8,000 children in that age bracket have been hospitalized with the virus, according to the Associated Press.

We need more tools and strategies in this battle against coronavirus, and we need to be following the facts and science so we don’t push into Year Three next March. We hope the next series of vaccinations happen soon, and the rollout is smooth.

The doses for 5- to 11-year-olds are one-third the amount given to teens and adults. They are being shipped in their own vials with a special orange cap to avoid mix-ups with the adult-sized doses.

The kid-sized doses are being distributed to a variety of locations, including pediatrician offices and pharmacies. Counties and schools in some locations are choosing to set up clinics where parents can take their children to get vaccinated.

The vaccines have yet to secure final approval from the CDC, although many believe that will happen this week. The exact day when the first shots will occur is still be to be determined.

In Vermont, based on 2019 Census data, we are talking about 43,996 kids between 5 and 11. The state has 15,900 initial doses, or 36%.

This fall and winter, let’s all kick this thing to the curb.

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