Vt. officials warn dental practices to remain closed

MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) Thousands of Vermonters are still unsure about when they can return to work, and Monday there was a warning about reopening too soon for one particular health sector -- dental practices.

"I would caution practices from making premature announcements," said Vt. Agency of Human Services Secretary Mike Smith. He warned dental offices that emergency care only is allowed right now. And they cannot assume that on May 18 they will be able to begin routine care for patients again. "It would be premature to conclude that this ban will be lifted at that time."

That's because it's unclear if they will be able to protect everyone. PPE supply chains are still limited and some hygenists have expressed concerns about their close-contact work. The health department is right now working with dental groups to come up with reopening guidance for dentists as well as other health care sectors like physical therapy, chiropractic work, acupuncture, and eye care. But Smith did say inpatient elective medical procedures could begin again soon if the data remains favorable.

Vermont Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine Monday provided an update on expanded testing. "We are encouraging people with symptoms, no matter how mild, to call their health care provider for a referral to testing," Levine said.

He says the state can do 1,000 tests a day. Three more pop-up testing sites are happening this week in Bennington, Brattleboro and White River Junction to test health care workers, first responders, essential child care providers. Added to the list to get tested are travelers, including summer residents. If after a week of quarantine they have no symptoms, they can get tested to see if they have the virus. If they're healthy, they can end their quarantine.

Dr. Levine said he thinks there will be a vaccine for COVID-19 but not for a year or two. "To think about within a year, while it would be wonderful, it really wouldn't be that plausible to me," he said.

But he did reveal that this week, Vermont hospitals will be getting Remdesivir, an antiviral drug that's showing promise in shortening the illness.

When asked about religious gatherings and when restrictions on those would be lifted, Governor Scott urged patience. "It will come in time," he said. He reiterating that the 10-person limit is still in effect for that and all other gatherings.