Scott extends state of emergency to Oct. 15 CDC says Vermont's contract tracing method 'best in nation'

By Joanna Harrison for Unsplash.


©2020 Telegraph Publishing LLC

Gov. Phil Scott has extended the state of emergency through Oct. 15, allowing the governor to issue executive orders as the state continues with ongoing efforts to manage the coronavirus pandemic.

News from the Vermont Department of Health remains overwhelmingly positive for Vermont as the state continues to lead the nation in low coronavirus numbers with the lowest positivity rate and the lowest per capita case total in the country. As an added accolade, Dr. Mark Levine, commissioner of the Vermont Department of Health, said that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week acknowledged that Vermont’s contract tracing method was the “best in the nation.”

Numbers across all populations are looking upbeat this week, with Department of Health reporting a total of 26 new Covid-19 cases, a 50 percent drop from the 53 cases reported last week, for a total of 1,668 total cases. These numbers are based on data published on the state’s daily dashboard, tracking cases reported from Friday, Sept. 4 to Friday, Sept. 11. There were no new deaths reported this week. That number continues to hold at 58.

Scott confirmed that as early as next Friday, he may be ready to announce another “turn of the spigot” in the struggling hospitality sector but would look to data and science to make sure it was safe to do so.

Commissioner Michael Pieciak of the state Department of Financial Regulations, who does predictive modeling for the state, said that the numbers for college students also continue to be upbeat with over 42,000 tests given and only 38 positives, which is a .09 percent positivity rating.

Richard Schneider, higher education chairman for the Vermont Restart Task Force, declared Phase 1 a success with all students now having arrived and cleared for class and no students remaining in isolation. He said they are also succeeding in the state’s goal to make Vermont the safest place in America to go to college.

The task force’s three-pronged effort includes Phase 1: for students to arrive uninfected; Phase 2: to keep students uninfected; and Phase 3: is to identify those infected, isolate, contact trace, and take care of them until they can return to class.

Levine was asked about K-12 students, but said that with school having been in session just four days since Tuesday, Sept. 8, they did not have any data and would need to wait a bit longer to see. He also added that it seemed “to be going really well” and that he was “not aware of any contact tracing at a K-12 school so far.”

Levine also cautioned that though numbers are low, the state would be looking with great attention at the impact of Labor Day, college restart and K-12 school restart next week.

Vigorous statewide testing continued this week, with a total of 6,377 new individuals tested, down from last week. But overall testing numbers this week were near the 25,000 mark as second and third tests of college students were administered in addition to other statewide testing sites.

Chittenden County saw an increase of just seven positive cases this week for a total of 808, a downward trend for Chittenden that typically accounts for about half of all new cases in the state. More unusual, Orleans County in the North East Kingdom saw an increase of seven cases, with the number jumping from 15 to 22. When asked whether they were following an outbreak there, Levine said there was nothing the Health Department was aware of but that they were looking into it. Rutland County (Killington) saw an increase of just one new case for a total of 126 this week, a good sign after the state had been monitoring a recent outbreak there. Windham County gained no new cases and remained at 123 while Windsor County reported two new cases, totaling 82.

Hospitalized patients with Covid-19 remained the same with just one per under hospital care with Covid-19. The “hospitalization under investigation” number gained two, for a total of three.

Contacts Monitored, which includes close contacts of people who have already tested positive, has dropped dramatically from 79 to 38. Travelers being monitored, which includes those participating in the Sara Alert system, also dropped, going from 595 to 477.

The pop-up Covid-19 testing schedule for Springfield has Tuesday dates through September available on Sept. 15, Sept. 22 and Sept. 29. The testing location is at the Springfield UU Meetinghouse on Fairground Road. To schedule a test, click on this link and scroll down to the “Register for Pop-Up Testing” button. This site has recently added a link to sign up to be notified of  future testing dates in the area of your choice.

The Agency of Commerce and Community Development updated Vermont’s cross-state travel information map on Friday, Sept. 11. This map identifies the surrounding counties throughout the Northeast that can now freely travel to Vermont without quarantine. This is a county-by-county list for those areas that have less than 400 active Covid-19 cases per 1 million residents and is updated weekly. Eligible travel counties increased slightly this week, with possible travelers to Vermont going from 5.2 million to 5.6 million. Click this link to see the latest updates to this interactive county map.

When asked if there were state plans for curtailing Halloween activities including trick or treating, Levine said that Vermonters could come up with some creative solutions for Halloween activities as long as they adhere to existing health protocols, although he acknowledged some citizens might opt not to welcome trick or treaters to their homes for their own safety. He joked that “everyone should wear a mask.”

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

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