The sweaty Lindy Hoppers stood in a circle clapping to a hard-driving beat — switching partners and laughing on the ballroom floor of The Champlain Club in Vermont’s largest city.
They clasped hands and rock stepped and spun in and out of quick embraces to swinging jazz rhythms on one of the last hardwood ballrooms in Burlington. With explosions of Covid-19 cases in almost every state fueling yet another nationwide surge in the deadly pandemic, the 30 dancers of all ages and skill levels could be engaging in a risky pleasure. “I thought partner dancing was always going to be the last thing to come back from the pandemic because there’s so much interaction,” said one dancer, Lorilee Schoenbeck, a naturopathic physician.
“It’s aerobic in each other’s faces and you’re constantly changing partners… In this dance venue, this would be an absolute super spreader.” But these dancers are all vaccinated. They reside in America’s most vaccinated state — 83.7% of Vermonters 12 and over have received at least one shot, according to health officials. Throughout Vermont, hospital Covid-19 units are mostly empty. Bars and restaurants are hopping again. In remote rural towns, diners, country stores and campgrounds are filling up.
As the national health crisis evolves into “a pandemic of the unvaccinated,” in the words of US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, Vermont health officials tout the Green Mountain State as the safest place in America. Many Vermonters are venturing out, unmasked and with no fear, just as the CDC recommended on Tuesday that fully vaccinated people wear masks indoors in US counties with soaring transmission rates. “My question is, ‘Do you want to have a life again?'” Schoenbeck said. “We’re living. Get vaccinated. Get back in the game.”