Total Covid-19 cases continue slow growth as Scott mandates masks

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Despite Covid-19 numbers in Vermont that lead the nation in optimistic trends, including the lowest total positive case number and the lowest positivity rate,  Gov.  Phil Scott announced a statewide mask mandate beginning Aug. 1. Scott cited concerns over increased cases to the south and west of Vermont, the current tourist season and the need to protect the gains Vermont has made, as factors.

The governor’s order requires people over the age of 2 to wear face coverings when indoors and when outdoors and unable to maintain a 6-foot distance between others. Exceptions to the order include those who are eating or drinking, engaged in strenuous exercise or those with health restrictions or emotional disabilities. The state will continue to move forward with its educational campaign on the importance of wearing masks versus introducing compliance enforcement measures.

Total cases over the past week, based on data published on the Vermont Department of Health daily dashboard, showed a total of 51 cases reported from Friday, July 17 to Friday, July 24, down slightly from last week’s gain of 57 cases. The numbers announced during Friday’s press conference were 52 cases this week; 55 last week, a slight discrepancy. The total number of cases currently stands at 1,385. There were no new deaths reported.

Total deaths in Vermont have stood at 56 since June 18, earning Vermont the distinction of being the only state in the nation that has not had a new Covid-19 death in over a month.

During the Tuesday, July 21 press conference earlier this week, Vermont Dept. of Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine shed more light on the ongoing investigation into the reported surge of positive cases that resulted from antigen testing through the Manchester Medical Center last week. The Department of Health’s retesting efforts, using the more sensitive PCR test, confirmed that 48 of 52 of the cases retested were in fact, negative; with four being positive.

Levine was quick to defend the antigen test, saying there was a place for the rapid test, especially for certain testing scenarios but that such a wide difference in results was unexpected and, thus far, unexplained. Levine said the state was investigating, and meeting with the Centers for Disease Control, to see if there were any other factors that may explain the discordant test results.

Temperature checks will be a feature of daily life at school

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As a result of wide-spread community concern, increased testing in Bennington and Windham counties was increased, with more than 1,600 people tested in the previous week; only five of which were positive. Levine said that with this low positivity rate, the state did not believe community transmission was occurring.

A reporting discrepancy with the state Health Department data dashboard also came to light this week. The number of People Tested  reported on Friday, July 17 was inflated by 8,880. The error was published in  The Chester Telegraph’s report that the daily testing average had doubled from the prior week. According to Public Health Officer Communication Bennett Truman, the miscalculation was corrected by the end of the day on July 17. The People Tested total this past week, according to the corrected data dashboard numbers, was 8,326, a daily average of 1,189, which coincides with Levine’s estimation during Friday’s press conference, that the state was averaging close to 1,200 tests per day.

Chittenden County continues to lead the state in new cases with over half coming from within its borders. Bennington County (Manchester) saw an increase of four, standing now at 81. Windham County (Londonderry) gained just one, reaching the 100 mark. Windsor County reported four new cases, totaling 69.

Three patients are currently hospitalized with the virus, down one from last week. The “hospitalization under investigation” number, which had jumped from nine to 29 the week prior, reverted back down to nine this week.

Contacts Monitored, which includes close contacts of people who have already tested positive, has dropped significantly from 105 down to 60. Travelers Being Monitored, which includes those participating in the Sara Alert system, has decreased by 251 and now stands at 1,087.

The pop-up Covid-19 testing schedule for Springfield has added two more dates on Aug. 4 and Aug. 11 at the Springfield UU Meetinghouse. To schedule a test, click on this link and scroll down to the appropriate date.

The Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development updated Vermont’s cross-state travel information map on Friday, July 24. This map identifies the surrounding counties throughout the northeast that can now freely travel to Vermont without quarantine including counties in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia. This is a county-by-county list for those areas that have less than 400 active Covid-19 cases per million residents and is updated weekly. Eligible travel counties have increased slightly this week, up about 200,000 to 7.1 million possible travelers. Click this link to see the latest updates to this interactive county map.

For more state-wide details on Covid-19 information and resources, visit https://www.healthvermont.gov/

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