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The home for VPR's coverage of health and health industry issues affecting the state of Vermont.

Vermont Reports Three New Presumptive Cases Of COVID-19

A sign in front of a church.
Elodie Reed
The Jericho Congregational Church canceled its sugar-on-snow event Saturday, the same day Vermont health officials announced three new presumptive positive cases of COVID-19.

Updated 3 p.m. 3/15/2020

The Vermont Department of Health has identified three new presumptive positive cases of COVID-19. A Windsor County man in his 90s is hospitalized at the Veteran’s Administration Hospital in White River Junction. A Washington County man in his 50s is home in isolation, after being treated at Central Vermont Medical Center in Berlin. A Westchester County, New York man in his 50s was evaluated and tested at Springfield Hospital and is now self-isolating. The health department has now identified four presumptive positive cases in Vermont, and a fifth case that has been confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The first case was reported last Sunday.

“We expected that Vermont would see more cases, and that there likely will be more," Health Commissioner Mark Levine commented. "As Governor Scott said yesterday, the full focus of the state is on minimizing spread of COVID-19 in our communities. We all have a critical role to play in flattening the potential curve of infections, and I ask every Vermonter to visit for up to date information about the steps to take to keep themselves and our communities healthy.”

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The health department's "contact tracing team" has been investigating the patients' travel history and related community activities. The team is working to identify people who may have been in close contact with the patients. The department said associated individuals will be assessed for their exposure risk and provided guidance, including recommendations for self-isolation or other restrictions.

The news comes a day after Gov. Phil Scott declared a state of emergency, restricting visitor access to longterm care facilities and prohibiting gatherings of more than 250 people. The governor did not close all schools, as some states have done, but said he may implement additional measures.

Late Saturday, Vermont’s top education official suggested a widespread school closure could come soon.

Education Secretary Dan French released a letter to the school community Saturday urging districts to abide by Scott's decision. French told districts that closing schools and childcare centers now would make it harder for healthcare workers and others to report to work. The decision to keep schools open was done at the recommendation of the Health Department, French said.

But French said a school closure is still “likely,” to combat the spread of coronavirus.

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“At this time, I recommend you plan for the possibility of the prolonged, preemptive closure of the schools in your district,” French wrote. “The decision to close schools will be made with as much advance notice as possible, but we all recognize that this may occur quickly based on the best science and the guidance of the best public health experts we have in Vermont."

And, one day after Jay Peak Resorts closed its slopes for the season, the company that owns Stowe Mountain Resort, Mount Snow and Okemo Mountain Resort said it was closing for at least one week.

Vail Resorts said all employees will be paid this week despite the closure, which it described as a “pause." The company closed all its North American resorts.

Killington Resort and Pico Mountain made a similar announcement very early Sunday morning, suspending operations through March 22.

"We will continue to monitor the dynamic COVID-19 situation and reassess our approach for the rest of the season," the resort said.

While Killington said its ticket and reservations department would continue serving those it has on site, it will not take any new reservations for the rest of the month.

Bolton Valley said it would suspend operations at 4 p.m. Sunday for an "undefined period of time."

Correction 3/14/2020 3:40 p.m.: The Vermont Department of Health previously reported the Westchester County resident was hopitalized in Springfield.

Amy is an award winning journalist who has worked in print and radio in Vermont since 1991. Her first job in professional radio was at WVMX in Stowe, where she worked as News Director and co-host of The Morning Show. She was a VPR contributor from 2006 to 2020.
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