State reports 1st Covid death in 6 weeks; Scott expands retail capacity as mask mandate goes into effect

Retailers can now open to 50 percent customer capacity as mask mandate goes into effect. Photo by Arturo Rey on Unsplash

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The Vermont Department of Health this week reported the first Covid-19 related death in more than six weeks, bringing Vermont’s statewide total to 57. Although the Health Department did not release any detailed information on the victim, data sources indicated the person was older than 80 and from Washington County.

Gov. Phil Scott has again “turned the spigot” slightly, expanding retailer capacity from 25 percent to 50 percent beginning this weekend. Scott said that his recent mask mandate, which goes into effect on tomorrow, Saturday, Aug. 1, was a factor in making that decision. Vermont will also be supporting the mask mandate effort by distributing 200,000 free cloth masks throughout the state.

Despite the death, Vermont continues to have the lowest total positive case number and the lowest positivity rate in the nation. Total positive cases this week, based on data published on the Vermont Health Department’s daily dashboard, indicated a weekly gain of 29 cases from Friday, July 24 to Friday, July 31, significantly down from the 51 cases reported last week, and the lowest weekly total since mid-June. According to ongoing modeling being done by Michael Pieciak, the commissioner of the state’s Department of Financial Relations, these latest numbers are on trend showing “very low levels of case growth in the weeks ahead.”

During the Friday, July 31 press conference, state Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine reported that six prisoners from Vermont who were transferred from the Tallahatchie County Correctional Facility in Mississippi to the Marble Valley Correctional Facility in Rutland have tested positive for Covid-19. They arrived by van transport on Tuesday and were immediately quarantined after following strict protocols during the admissions process. Levine said that no Marble Valley staff or other prisoners were exposed to the infected arrivals and pointed to their system of strict protocols as an effective way to stop the spread of the virus.

The number of “People Tested” this past week totaled 6,676, with a daily average of 953, trending just shy of the state’s ideal testing daily average of 1000.

Chittenden County continues to lead the state in new cases with an increase of nine. Bennington County saw an increase of two, standing now at 83. Windham County again gained just one case this week, and now stands at 101. Windsor County reported just one new case, totaling 70.

Hospitalized patients have decreased by one, with just two people currently hospitalized with the virus. The “hospitalization under investigation” number has increased from nine to 14.

“Contacts Monitored,” which includes close contacts of people who have already tested positive, has dropped sharply again this week, going from 60 down to 29. Continuing the trend from last week, travelers being monitored, which includes those participating in the Sara Alert system, is up just slightly from 1,087 to 1,102.

The pop-up Covid-19 testing schedule for Springfield includes dates on Aug. 4 and Aug. 11 at the Springfield UU Meetinghouse. No new dates have been added since last week. To schedule a test, click on this link and scroll down to the appropriate date.

Also on Friday, July 31, the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development updated Vermont’s cross-state travel information map, which identifies the surrounding counties throughout the Northeast that can now freely travel to Vermont without quarantine. Those include counties in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maryland, Delaware, Virginia and 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 dropped this week, eliminating possible quarantine-free travelers by 2.3 million, leaving just 4.8 million possible travelers in our surrounding area. Click this link to see the latest updates to this interactive county map.

For more state-wide details on Covid-19 information and resources, click here.

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