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Gov. Scott quarantining after possible COVID exposure

Published: Jan. 19, 2021 at 6:04 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 19, 2021 at 6:22 PM EST
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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - Vermont Gov. Phil Scott and members of his Cabinet are going into COVID quarantine after possible exposure to the virus.

Along with the governor, Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine, Human Services Secretary Mike Smith and Public Safety Commissioner Michael Shirling are also in quarantine. On Tuesday, they were informed that a contractor who provided services at the governor’s coronavirus briefings on Friday and Tuesday tested positive for COVID-19.

There are no reports of COVID symptoms from the governor or his team, but officials say that out of an abundance of caution, they will follow quarantine guidelines and the governor will execute his duties remotely.

Rebecca Kelley, Scott’s communications director, says she doesn’t anticipate the situation will impact the governor’s ability to lead Vermont’s pandemic response.

“We don’t expect it to. We expect it to be business as usual,” she said. “He has been able to do a lot of and most of his meetings really have been done remotely anyway and we anticipate that that will still move forward.”

Right now, a format for Friday’s COVID-19 press conference is still being worked on. If Scott does test positive for the coronavirus, Kelley says the administration is prepared.

“We have a lot of those tools already in place and those resources already in place. Most of the meetings, if not all of the meetings, take place remotely at this point anyway, so I’d expect that we won’t see too much disruption to our operations on that front,” she said.

State contact tracers have begun their investigation and will provide guidance to all those who are identified as close contacts. Close contacts are defined as anyone who has been in close proximity-- generally 6 feet or less-- of the positive case for 15 minutes or more.

WCAX News Statehouse Reporter Calvin Cutler, who attends most of the COVID press briefings, says they take place in a large auditorium with about 100 seats and plenty of room for physical distancing to allow people to stay apart.

“I sit behind the first bank of seats so I’m a good 20 to 25 feet from the governor,” Cutler said.

Cutler says he got a call from the Health Department Tuesday night saying he was not deemed a close contact because of his distance and because he wears a mask inside the building at all times. That’s just one of the many COVID guidelines that are strictly enforced by Scott’s team.

“Sometimes people aren’t wearing their masks or your mask slips below your nose, members of the governor’s security detail will come up and be like, ‘Hey, excuse me. Would you mind putting on your mask again?’ So yeah, certainly throughout the pandemic, they run a pretty tight ship in there I will say,” Cutler said.

Kelley says Gov. Scott and Dr. Levine have not gotten the COVID vaccine. She says they both want to wait their turn in line. She says she doesn’t anticipate their stance changing based on this experience.

Click here to read the statement from the governor’s office.

Related Story:

Vt. officials say rate of new COVID cases appears to have plateaued

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