Vt. health officials: Hoopcats fans attending game do not need testing

Published: Mar. 19, 2020 at 6:03 PM EDT
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Vermont health officials Thursday said that UVM Hoopcats fans who attended a game earlier this month with a referee that later tested positive for coronavirus do not need to be tested, but they say the incident does reinforce a couple of key precautions that everyone should be aware of.

In a crowded gym on March 7, hundreds of UVM basketball fans showed up to cheer the Hoopcats on in the quarterfinals. At that time, coronavirus wasn't as much of a concern here. Twelve days later, the America East conference announced that a referee of that game tested positive for the virus. That led several people, including Channel 3 sports reporter Jack Fitzsimmons, to wonder if they needed to be tested too.

"I would say the risk is very low," said Vt. Deputy Health Commissioner Tracy Dolan. She says simply being in the crowd does not make you at high risk, and points out it's impossible to know when the people got sick. That's why she says hand washing, staying home if you feel ill, and social distancing are so important.

"In general, we're not encouraging people to come in for a test if they have mild illness or a general concern unless they believe they were a very close contact," Dolan said.

She too has seen the national videos of young people flocking to beaches in Florida for spring break..

Reporter Cat Viglienzoni: Is that something we're seeing here in Vermont -- that young people aren't taking it seriously?

Tracy Dolan: You know, I haven't seen evidence of that. I feel like Vermonters are actually taking this seriously -- Vermonters of all ages.

When we were out and about in Burlington, we saw some people practicing good social distancing. Others -- not. We asked people how they were making sure they followed the recommendation.

"I'm staying home most of the time," said Hugh McCaslin.

"I was... my hands like every 15 minutes. Every time I get a chance, I wash my hands" said Ian Buck of Bennington.

"I'm about to get out of the city. Move to an area that's a lot less populated. Not really gathering in big groups. I play music so the concert halls are all shut down," said JD Tolstoi of Chester.

"I've been hibernating in my house, and when I come out I don't ride the bus like I normally do. I've been walking," said Tiffany Bottisti of Burlington.

We also asked the health department about the new numbers out that showed younger people were ending up in the hospital with serious symptoms. Dolan says the virus is still too new for there to be good scientific studies about who it affects and how, and she says from what we've seen here, most of the cases are in older adults.

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