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Dr. Anthony Fauci Lauds Vermont As A Model For Its Response To COVID-19

Gov. Phil Scott stands at a podium next to a screen with Anthony Fauci on it
ORCA Media
Dr. Anthony Fauci spoke and answered questions during Gov. Phil Scott's twice-weekly press briefing on Tuesday. Fauci lauded Vermont for its COVID-19 response.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country's leading expert on infectious disease, lauded the way Vermont has handled the COVID-19 crisis during a press briefing Tuesday.

Here are five takeways from Gov. Phil Scott's twice-weekly presser:

1. Fauci calls Vermont a model for the rest of the nation

Fauci heads the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, and spoke by video Tuesday. He said Vermont's success is due to the public faithfully following prevention advice, such as wearing masks, avoiding crowds, and keeping physically distant from each other.

"This should be a model for the country, for how you've done it, not withstanding that you're a small state," he said. "But it should be a model for how you get to such a low test positivity that you can actually start to open up the economy in a safe and prudent way."

Fauci also urged Vermonters not to let down their guard. He says the coronavirus is a "formidable foe" that will seize any opportunity to spread.

2. Fauci says politics won't rush vaccine approval

A key part of Fauci's message was to reassure the public on the safety of an eventual vaccine against COVID-19. 

He said approval of a coronavirus vaccine will not be rushed by politics, and will only be given to the public after it's shown to be safe and effective. An independent panel of scientists will judge whether the vaccine is safe, he said, adding that the panel is not beholden to the vaccine developers or the government. 

"If there is a vaccine, which I'm fairly certain there will be, that's safe and effective, I for one would not hesitate to take it, nor would I hesitate to recommend that my entire family do it," he said. "So I feel good about it."

More from Brave Little State: When It's Ready, Who Gets The COVID-19 Vaccine First?

3. Officials say schools need flexibility on reopening

Education Secretary Dan French says schools need to follow a flexible approach when dealing with COVID-19 cases among students and staff.

Since schools reopened a week ago, two cases have been reported at the Crossett Brook Middle School in Duxbury and one case was found in the Hartford School District.

French said Tuesday that both schools have followed Department of Health protocols. But he noted that Crossett Brook officials decided to close, while the Hartford school remains open.

"The point I would make about our guidance for reopening school is that firstly, it is comprehensive and proscriptive," French said. "But how the guidance is implemented at the local level requires a consideration of the operational conditions of each school district, and the conditions vary significantly across the state."

He added the superintendent overseeing Crossett Brook decided to close the school for the rest of the week because of problems finding enough staff for in-person classes.

More from Vermont Edition: Districts Respond To Positive COVID-19 Results One Week Into New School Year

4. Pop-up testing sites organized in response to school cases

The Health Department is organizing pop-up COVID-19 testing sites in central Vermont and the Upper Valley in response to the recent cases in schools.

Human Services Secretary Mike Smith said the department will have testing available Thursday at the Barre auditorium and at the department's district office in White River Junction. Advance registration is required, he said.

Smith added the state is also finalizing a test site at the Waterbury state office complex for Wednesday. He said that site will be administered by the Central Vermont Medical Center.  

5. Scott invites Fauci to visit, sample maple creemees

Twice during the press briefing, Gov. Phil Scott invited the nation's leading expert on COVID-19 to visit Vermont, both to see the state and tosample a maple creemee.

"We look forward to you coming up here to visit and explore the Northeast Kingdom," Scott said. "And we'll give you one of those maple creemees when you do come up. If you need a place to bring your family that's safe, you know our numbers."

More from Brave Little State: Vermont's Maple Creemee Season Appears Immune To Pandemic

Fauci said he appreciated the offers of hospitality. But despite his vast medical expertise, it was not clear that he was familiar with the joys of maple creemees. He seemed to indicate that it was a maple syrup topping applied to ice cream, not the maple-infused soft serve delight known to native and newcomer Vermonters alike. 

"Thank you very much, governor, I appreciate your offer of hospitality," Fauci said. "I am an avid ice cream fan, and I look forward to putting some syrup on there."

Have questions, comments or tips? Send us a message or get in touch with reporter John Dillon @VPRDillon

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John worked for VPR in 2001-2021 as reporter and News Director. Previously, John was a staff writer for the Sunday Times Argus and the Sunday Rutland Herald, responsible for breaking stories and in-depth features on local issues. He has also served as Communications Director for the Vermont Health Care Authority and Bureau Chief for UPI in Montpelier.
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