Vt. officials respond to first suspected case of coronavirus

Published: Mar. 8, 2020 at 8:10 PM EDT
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The Vermont State Lab Sunday confirmed the first COVID-19 case in the state. Confirmation from the CDC is expected on Monday.

There are over 200 people being monitored for coronavirus in Vermont. 28 others have tested negative.

State health officials say they are constantly monitoring for the virus, and the possible spread of it throughout Vermont. They expect more cases of COVID-19 in the state.

"To my fellow Vermonters, I know this news is concerning but I urge you to put this into context, though we have our first confirmed case, we individually and at the state level can do much to avoid the spread," said Governor Phil Scott.

Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine says the health department is taking every action to limit the spread of the virus, and is trusting the clinical community to determine who needs to be tested.

"If they feel that their patient should have testing their patent will have testing," said Dr. Levine.

Governor Scott says the State will ensure that anyone who meets the medical requirements for testing for COVID-19 can do so at no cost. That will help ensure that the cost of testing for COVID-19 will not be a concern, if the test is determined to be medically necessary.

Following new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, returning travelers whose last day in China, Italy, South Korea or Iran was March 4 or afterwards should stay home and monitor their health for 14 days after returning to the United States. Travelers returning from Japan should monitor their health for 14 days after returning to the United States.

All travelers who have returned from those countries in the last 14 days should call the Health Department at 802-863-7240. The Health Department will be in regular contact with you for 14 days since the day you left the affected area to monitor you for symptoms of shortness of breath, cough or fever. If you develop these symptoms, contact your health care provider right away.

Governor Scott says the state is also working with officials in

Massachusetts and New York due to the proximity of the case to Bennington.

"It's really important for all of us as a region to work together in these times to share as much information as possible," said Governor Scott.

Officials say virus concerns are not at the level to limit public outings, and at this point, towns and cities will make.decisions about school closings and local gatherings.

"Right now, we're leaving it to the localities with guidance from the Health Department, but again, this could change from day to day, the Governor said.

The Health Department is working to strengthen protections for older Vermonters, including developing screening questions for visitors to long-term care facilities to identify anyone at risk. These have been made available for hospitals or other health care facilities.

According to the Vermont Health Department, person-to-person spread of the virus is thought to occur mainly via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Much is still unknown about how the virus spreads. Take these everyday preventive actions to help stop the spread of germs:

• Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

• Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.

• Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

• Stay home when you are sick.

• Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.

• Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

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