‘First’ extension of stay at home to be announced Friday

By Shawn Cunningham
© Telegraph Publishing LLC

Gov. Phil Scott announced Wednesday that on Friday he will announce the “first extension” of his stay-at-home orders that have closed shops, restaurants and schools and kept many people at home.

Governor Scott speaks at the Wednesday press conference

During his Wednesday press conference, Scott also said that the administration would also provide an update on the modeling used to predict the spread of the coronavirus, noting that it shows that the state has a lower infection rate than originally projected and that measures being taken are working.

While assuring that the state will do everything it can to minimize the virus’s damage to health and the economy, Scott said, “These steps are saving lives. Grandparents, parents, friends and neighbors are staying alive because Vermonters have done the right thing, but we can’t lift our foot off the gas just yet.”

“On Friday you can expect an expansion of the state of emergency order,” Scott continued. “This may get harder before it gets easier, but as soon as the data shows a leveling and downward trend,  then and only then will we open the spigot – a quarter turn at a time to get folks back to work in a way that’s safe.”

Pressed on the length of the extension, Scott demured.

“Just expect it will be extended,” said Scott. “We want to make sure we are making any clarifications needed, it will come as no surprise, but we want to make sure we cover everything in this first extension.”

Levine offers update, talks ticks

Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine said that the results of testing – except for the days when the tests from two residential care facilities spiked the numbers – have been fairly stable at about 10 percent of those tested being positive.

He pointed to this as correlating with the various measures taken by the state and that adding these data to the modeling shows that “we are not heading toward a worst-case scenario and in fact the scenario may be even better than we thought.”

Levine said that the state has enough testing capacity to continue at a high level, including mildly symptomatic people. “Testing remains a core part of our strategy to contain and suppress the virus,” said Levine, noting  that testing will be even more important when social distancing is relaxed to find and quarantine individuals who are infected before they can spread the virus. Levine said that the state has received a limited amount of rapid testing capacity this week and would begin to portion it out around the state.

Turning to the warming weather, Levine encouraged Vermonters to get outside for exercise — while maintaining social distancing — but to remember to watch for ticks.

“They are out in abundance now looking for that first blood meal of the season,” he cautioned.

First state prison inmate tests positive

Mike Smith, secretary of the Agency of Human Services, told reporters that an inmate at the Northwest State Correctional Facility in Swanton has tested positive for the coronavirus. According to Smith, the inmate began showing symptoms on Monday, April 6 and was immediately placed in a negative pressure room at the prison.

Smith said that three Department of Corrections employees in Swanton have tested positive as had another DOC employee at the prison in Newport. Two of the employees in Swanton had possible or confirmed contact with inmates and the prison was put in a modified lockdown on Sunday and a full lockdown on Monday.

Farmers markets on hold

In response to a question about the beginning of Vermont’s farmers market season, which for many starts in mid-May, Gov. Scott said the state did not want to create a situation where there are mass gatherings.

He added that the administration has asked businesses for a plan to keep people safe and that he has asked the Agency of Agriculture to work with farmers markets “to see if there is another way of accomplishing what they want to do.”

Calling it a vital service, Scott said that he hopes to find a way for markets “to open in a different way so that people are not mingling in one area.”

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