Surge in COVID cases prompts Vt. officials to impose quarantine for all travelers
MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - With coronavirus cases surging across the country, Vermont is looking to clamp down on travel from out of state. All visitors or residents returning from beyond Vermont’s borders are now required to quarantine.
Vermont Governor Phil Scott Tuesday said he is increasingly worried about interstate travel and containing a virus that has run amok in many areas around the region. “This does give me pause, I am concerned,” Scott said.
New modeling data released Tuesday shows Vermont in the middle of a “sea of red” indicating a rate of COVID cases that make those areas unsafe to travel to or from. And cases here are expected to increase over 100% in the coming weeks. “It is showing that continued steady growth that we’ve been concerned about at different points and we are certainly concerned about today,” said DFR Commissioner Mike Pieciak.
State leaders are now scrapping the travel map that guided Vermonters to safe areas out of state and allowed those from “safe” counties to come without a quarantine. Instead, all travelers to Vermont are now called upon to undergo a mandatory two-week quarantine or a seven-day quarantine with a negative COVID test. “If you don’t need to travel right now, don’t,” Scott said.
And to make sure businesses are doing their part, plainclothes law enforcement will check in on restaurants and hotels. They’re still leaning on education and guidance, but if there are repeat warnings, the issue may be forwarded to the attorney general’s office. “If the education effort fell short because there was active resistance -- which we’ve only seen on a couple of occasions throughout the past few months -- that might trigger an enhanced response right out of the gate,” said Vt. Public Safety Commissioner Michael Schirling.
Vermont is also expanding its testing program to locations across the state every day of the week. And starting next week, every Vermont teacher can choose to be tested once a month. The governor says these new measures will help Vermont keep its schools and our businesses open. “Please do your part. I know it’s a choice, but I’m asking you to make the right choice for the right reasons,” Scott said. He also addressed those who may be skeptics about the dangers of the virus by saying, “refusing to do your part is dangerous to the rest of us.”
And he says these new restrictions will have an impact on an already hurting hospitality sector including ski resorts, hotels, and restaurants. Right now a key legislative committee is mulling over how to reallocate tens of millions of dollars left over from the CARES Act. The governor wants to invest $75 million of that into more small business grants to help weather the storm. But even then, he says we need more help from Congress.
COVID cases in Vermont spiked Monday at 46, the highest since this spring. Officials said those numbers are expected to go up to 40 to 60 a day over the next six weeks.
State officials reminded Vermonters that gatherings need to be 10 or fewer people with trusted households only. Pieciak asked Vermonters re-think their holiday plans. He showed what can happen at family gatherings, citing data from Canada, where cases grew by more than 200% after their Thanksgiving holiday last month. “There is a lot to lose,” Pieciak said.
Vermont saw one new COVID death this past week -- the first since July. Vt. Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine asked that Vermonters honor this person by following health guidelines. “We need to act and we need to act now,” he said.
The state has seen an uptick in hospitalizations with a dozen patients now admitted -- four of them in the ICU. One emergency hospital remains set up at the Essex fairgrounds if needed. AHS Secretary Mike Smith says the other surge hospitals that were taken down can go back up quickly.
The health department is now dealing with 20 outbreaks and 63 situations at schools, child care centers, health care facilities, worksites, and social gatherings. The state is responding right now to cases at Rutland Health and Rehab, a skilled nursing facility in Rutland. There are now 125 cases linked to the hockey and broomball leagues in central Vermont with 76 of those cases at St. Michael’s College. The state also added 15 new cases across 10 K-12 grade schools in the past week. In higher education, there are 22 new cases in the last week. The state is ramping up testing of teachers and staff across Vermont.
As of Tuesday, Vermont health officials reported 46 new coronavirus cases for a total of 2,462. There have been a total of 59 deaths. The state’s percent positive seven-day average is 0.7%. A total of 195,455 tests have been conducted, 207 travelers are being monitored, 10,611 have completed monitoring, and 1,936 have recovered.
As a way to observe Veteran’s Day on Wednesday, Gov. Scott said be sure to thank a veteran, and also wear a mask to help protect them in the same way that they protected the country.
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