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‘We Need To Remain Vigilant’: Vt. Officials Urge Residents To Continue COVID-19 Prevention

A man in a suit and tie stands at a podium with two flags behind him.
ORCA Media
Gov. Phil Scott speaking at a press conference Monday. Scott and public health officials urged Vermonters to keep following guidelines, like social distancing and wearing masks, to prevent new COVID-19 infections.

State officials are reminding Vermonters to continue following public health guidance, like social distancing and wearing cloth masks, to limit the spread of COVID-19 as more sectors of the economy open up.

“As I’ve said many times, we know the virus is still here, it didn’t magically disappear, it’s still among us, said Gov. Phil Scott Monday at his thrice-weekly press conference. “We need to remain vigilant.”

On Monday, the Department of Health reported four news cases of COVID-19, all in Chittenden County. So far, 956 people are reported to have recovered from the virus, and 56 have died.

Health Commissioner Mark Levine echoed the governor’s call and told Vermonters to keep practicing physical distancing, wear masks in public and frequently wash their hands.

“We can’t lose track of the fact that the virus hasn’t gone anywhere,” Levine said. “We need to continue to be vigilant, cautious and protective of the most vulnerable in society and in our own families.”

Scott and Levine’s urging for adherence to public health guidelines comes as coronavirus cases have surged in many states around the country. The number of newly confirmed coronavirus cases around the U.S. per day is more than 26,000, up from 21,000 two weeks ago, according to the Associated Press.

"We can't lose track of the fact that the virus hasn't gone anywhere. We need to continue to be vigilant, cautious and protective of the most vulnerable in society and in our own families." ?— Mark Levine, Health Commissioner

New clusters

Vermont, which has slowly allowed more sectors of the economy to reopen, has not seen new cases spike, though the state is still working to contain an outbreak in Winooski and Burlington, and around the state, other, smaller clusters have popped up.

There are now 110 cases associated with the Winooski and Burlington outbreak, according to Levine.

“Until we really don’t have anything new associated with it, it’s not 100% over,” he said. “But clearly, we’ve received incredible compliance by all who’ve been affected by this, and there’s every indication it’s going in the right direction.”

More from VPR: 'We Don't Not Pick Up The Phone': Working As A Community Liaison In A Pandemic

The Health Department is offering pop-up testing in Winooski through Wednesday and in Burlington between Wednesday and Friday.

Levine said the health department was also investigating two new clusters in Rutland and Bennington Counties.

In Rutland county, the virus has been detected in two people, and the Health Department is “aware of others that might have symptoms,” Levine said. “And in Windham county, two adults and four children.”

The state will offer pop up testing in both counties this week.

New corrections case

The Department of Corrections is also dealing with a new coronavirus infection, this time at the state’s women’s prison in South Burlington.

Secretary of Human Services Mike Smith said a new inmate at Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility tested positive for the virus on Saturday. He said the infected person did have contact with prision staffers and other inmates.

More from Brave Little State: How Are Vermont Prisons Handling COVID-19?

“Contacting tracing is underway at that facility,” Smith said. “The Department of Health and Corrections are coordinating on a mass testing of the Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility.”

This is the second new coronavirus infection detected in a new inmate at a state correctional facility. Last week, a man extradited from Florida tested positive at Marble Valley Regional Correctional Facility. Smith said on Monday that mass testing at that facility found no additional cases.

Continued reopening

But Scott said that as long as Vermont continues to see low case growth, he’ll keep reducing restrictions on things like gatherings and dining in restaurants.

“At this point, we’re still opening up,” Scott said. “And hopefully we’ll have more announcements by the end of the week.”

Liam is Vermont Public’s public safety reporter, focusing on law enforcement, courts and the prison system.
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