Winooski outbreak expands to Burlington

Published: Jun. 8, 2020 at 4:50 AM EDT
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Vermont health officials say a coronavirus outbreak in the Winooski area has grown and now includes cases in Burlington and the surrounding area.

Governor Phil Scott and state health officials Monday announced the case count in the Winooski outbreak had increased to 62 confirmed positive cases tied to a network of families.

It's been two weeks since the first cases were detected, sparking more than a 1,000 people to get tested. The Governor said their testing and tracing strategy is working. "That's exactly what we need to be doing to draw a fire line around this outbreak," Scott said.

Of the cases, 48 are in Winooski, nine are in Burlington, and five are in other towns. Officials say the investigation started when officials realized similarities with the cases. "There were shared activities of, I think, several types, including we think transmission within households," said Vermont state epidemiologist Patsy Kelso

She says they've reached out to anyone considered a close contact with the cases, and while they'll likely never know which person got the virus first or how, they said they could have been exposed to the virus at the end of April. What's important now, officials say, is that they're boxing it in. They urged people in Winooski and Burlington to get tested.

"This could happen anywhere," said Vt. Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine. "There is no shame in getting the virus."

Of those infected, 38 were adults and 24 were children. Officials say 1 in 5 displayed COVID-19 symptoms and of the children who got the virus, most were asymptomatic. We asked if that was a concern, given previous statements that children have been viewed as less likely to transmit the virus.

"This is within a household and it's still quite plausible that the adults in the household had the initial infection and that the children are testing positive because they have been in close quarters with adults in the same household," Levine said.

Cities like Burlington are now responding to the outbreak. Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger Monday said the cases in his city are within four families. He urged them to take advantage of hotel isolation services if they need them. "These are people that I really think we should try to get them isolated. They've probably been exposed to the virus. They may not have it yet, so we should get them into a place where they are no longer at daily risk of being infected by one of their family members," Weinberger said.

Free testing here and in Burlington is continuing all week to monitor the outbreak. As for when they'll consider the outbreak over, the state epidemiologist says that's when there are 28 days of no new cases connected to it.

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