Concerns increase as more-contagious COVID strain inches closer to Vermont

Published: Jan. 5, 2021 at 6:33 PM EST
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MANCHESTER, Vt. (WCAX) - The first case of the new, faster-spreading coronavirus strain has been identified in our region. A man in Saratoga Springs, New York, tested positive for it.

Saratoga Springs is about 45 miles west of Manchester, Vermont, where our Olivia Lyons was talking to people in town.

Some people are worried and tell me many from Saratoga frequent the area to go skiing. And because of travel, people say they would not be surprised if this strain is already in Vermont.

“It’s not that far from here. So people are going back and forth, running errands and stuff like that. So it is concerning,” said Danielle Moran of Arlington.

Manchester, Vermont, is just about an hour away from Saratoga, New York, where the UK strain of the coronavirus was detected, and people in Vermont have mixed feelings about the potential for the variant making its way into the Green Mountain State.

Matthew Jenkins of Jamaica, Vermont, skis every morning at Stratton Mountain. He says a lot of people from Saratoga travel there, too.

“As long as I’m outdoors, it doesn’t bother me. The base lodge is closed down. There’s no going inside, so it doesn’t concern me, at this point. I may change,” Jenkins said.

“With the amount of tourism we see in Manchester and the lack of people that we see quarantining and following guidelines, you do worry that you’ll see an uptick in infections,” said Morgan Kelley of New Morning Natural Foods.

Kelley says it is worrisome because he can control what happens in his family’s store but has to trust other people are being safe in their daily lives.

“Skiing is awesome, but at the same time, it’s not worth getting yourself sick or your family sick or a small community sick,” Kelley said.

Carrie Aubrey of Danby says she’s not afraid of this new strain.

“It is scary but, to the point, we just need to get back out there and live our lives,” Aubrey said.

Ryan Gauthier, who moved to Wardsboro, Vermont, from Boston, is being cautious and taking it day by day.

“The new strain has probably spread so much that we already know in the community right now that it could already be here and we just wouldn’t even know it,” Gauthier said.

“I assume it is here, frankly,” said Dr. Wouter Rietsema, an infectious disease specialist at the Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital.

Reitsema says the new strain is serious, but there is still more to be discovered.

“Obviously if it infects more people at the end of the day, the numbers go up. What we really don’t know, we really do not know, how much more infectious it is,” Rietsema said.

Vermont Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine says he does expect the new strain to reach the Green Mountain State.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo warned that it should be taken seriously.

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