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Scott asks Vermonters to stay united, avoid virus political polarization

(WCAX)
Published: Jun. 22, 2020 at 9:31 AM EDT
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Vermont Governor Phil Scott Monday asked Vermonters to remain united in the fight against COVID-19 as the number of new cases in other parts of the country is on the rise and the fight against the virus has become increasingly politically polarized.

Vermont Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine said that despite the nice weather and vacation season, the virus is "here and doesn't seem to be going anywhere." He said that while the Northeast, including Vermont, is looking better, there are a dozen states in other parts of the country that recorded single-day records in new cases this weekend.

Levine said the fastest growing demographic of those infected are people 18 to 44 years old. He says it appears the outbreaks we're seeing nationally appear to be among people not following health guidelines like wearing masks and social distancing.

As of Monday, Vermont health officials reported a total of 1,163 coronavirus cases. The death toll remains at 56.

SPIGOT TURN EXPECTED THIS WEEK

Scott Monday says he hopes to have most businesses back to half capacity by July 1, an announcement that could come later this week. He said he understands how difficult the pandemic emergency has been, but reiterated that the measures Vermont took to flatten the curve saved lives. He said the state's measured reopening has kept people safe.

Conrad Osborne with Kiss the Cook, a Burlington cookware and gift store, says they've taken the opportunity to revamp their online presence, but that they'll be glad when they're able to hire more employees back.

"With only three people down from our 15 we did have, it's been a little more pressure in terms of personal workload. But in general, things are going well and it's nice to see everyone back again," he said.

Scott also hinted at expansions for travel from out-of-state -- including air travel -- but did not offer any potential dates for when that might happen again -- and said it would depend on how the virus caseload looks in those other states.

STATE INVESTIGATING RUTLAND AND WINDHAM COUNTY OUTBREAKS

The Winooski-Burlington area outbreak has recorded a total of 110 cases. Of those, only 30% have symptoms and the median age is 24. There are also new two new outbreaks, with cases reported at a Rutland County worksite and at a Windham County residential community. Two adults and four children are infected in that cluster. Pop-up testing sites are being set up in those counties.

PRISON INTAKE SYSTEM FINDS TWO CASES

A Vermont inmate has tested positive for COVID-19. It happened Saturday at the Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility in South Burlington. Vermont tests all prisoners when they arrive in jail, but the state says new intakes pose the greatest risk for spreading the disease. The state says the new inmate did not have contact with general population at the prison but did interact with some inmates and staff. Testing is underway.

All staff and inmates at the jail in Rutland also got tested over the weekend after a positive test with a new intake there last week. The results of that weekend-testing showed no other inmates or staff have it. They will be tested again on the 29th.

DID FARM TO FAMILY RECIPIENTS COMMIT FRAUD?

The Islander newspaper asked state officials Monday about possible fraud with the Farm to Family program after some people reportedly picked up food and resold it. AHS Secretary Mike Smith says they will investigate that. He said that while he applauded the program, he repeated that he wants to get Vermonters back into the traditional food distribution system including 3Squares Vermont and local food banks.

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