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What new numbers reveal about Vermont’s COVID fight

Published: Aug. 7, 2020 at 7:02 PM EDT
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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - State officials used their data modeling of COVID-19 cases this week to highlight Vermont's successes. As our Cat Viglienzoni explains, they said it isn't just Vermont's rural landscape that's keeping our cases low.

"New COVID-19 cases continue to decrease," Vt. Financial Regulation Commissioner Michael Pieciak said.

New coronavirus cases are on the decline by about 10% nationwide compared to last week. And they are dropping slightly in the Northeast for the first time in four weeks. Good news for the 400,000 more travelers allowed into Vermont.

Friday, the state's data monitoring expert released a new analysis showing no evidence that rural areas are immune to the virus, citing states like Mississippi that got overwhelmed. A warning for Vermonters not to get complacent.

"It's important to stay vigilant, as even sparsely populated rural areas like parts of Vermont can quickly become overcome by new waves of infection," Pieciak said.

And Pieciak highlighted why they say the Vermont way of handling the virus is working. In particular, pointing to headlines from other states that had also been doing well during the pandemic-- like Montana, Alaska, Hawaii-- now facing issues around testing results and contact tracing.

Vermont officials pointed to data showing the other states are struggling to keep up with the number of contacts from new COVID-19 cases.

And while the other states' cases are rising, Vermont holds steady with the lowest test positivity rate nationwide.

"I know that for many, caution fatigue is setting in and it's hard to keep the regimen of precautions and handwashing going, but we need to keep it up because it's working," Vt. Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine said.

Levine said safe behaviors, not testing, will prevent people from getting sick. This after facing questions about delays in getting test results and concerns from some about the availability of COVID testing.

"Rest assured that for those who are symptomatic and need a rapid turnaround in Vermont-- we have it," Levine said.

Levine blamed the long wait times on commercial labs which are overwhelmed with the surges in other states. And he said the state is stockpiling supplies to make sure we can test in areas that need them most.

We also learned Friday that the governor has not been tested for the coronavirus. He says he’s following the rules. And he says he doesn’t know of any staffers or administration officials who have tested positive. The health commissioner says he has not been tested either.

Click here for Friday’s presentation on COVID-19 modeling.

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