Vt. Investigates Clusters of COVID Cases

Vermont officials are urging people to remain vigilant as they investigate two new possible outbreaks

Health officials urged residents to remain vigilant as they investigate two new "small clusters" of coronavirus cases in Rutland County and Windham County.

"We know the virus is still here - it didn’t magically disappear. It's still among us, which is why we must continue to place restrictions," Gov. Phil Scott said Monday. "Let me be clear, we're going to see new cases. These outbreaks will continue to happen - that's the nature of virus. We need to remain vigilant until there is a vaccine or other treatment available. I know we can do this, we've already proven just how strong we are."

Scott said he will continue to keep an eye on the state's coronavirus data to make a final determination on whether or not he will proceed with allowing businesses and venues to operate at 50% capacity, which he announced last week.

Starting Friday, restaurants along with events, arts, culture and entertainment venues are slated to go from 25 to 50 percent capacity with a maximum of up to 75 customers or guests inside and 150 outside.

On the same day, outdoor sporting events will be allowed to resume with up to 150 people -- including participants and spectators -- as long as spectator areas can accommodate social-distancing space of at least 100 square feet per person.

Officials have also announced the decision to allow drive-in events where cars can be properly distanced ahead of Fourth of July celebrations next month.

The number of cases in an outbreak in the state has been following in Winooski and Burlinton areas has reached 110. The state has now reported a total of 56 deaths.

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Health Commissioner Mark Levine said that any time a positive case is found through contact tracing, that triggers an investigation to determine the size of a potential outbreak. The cases involved in two communities in Rutland and Windham Counties do not appear to be widespread, according to officials. Pop-up testing sites are opening in both areas for people to get tested.

"Really I would call them confined in a very small way as opposed to lots of activity around," Levine said Monday. Still, Levine urged people to, "Stay home if ill, wash your hands like crazy, physically distance and wear facial coverings."

The state reported 12 new positive tests for the coronavirus Sunday, bringing the statewide total to 1,159. The death toll remains at 56.

A major Vermont hospital is seeing more drug overdoses but fewer people asking for help for a new rapid-response care plan because people are staying away amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Last week, the Vermont Agency of Education issued new back-to-school guidance for the fall that includes mandatory face coverings for students and teachers and bus stop temperature scans.

The guidance recommends that another adult ride the bus with the driver to assist with screenings, which would be done before students board. Both adults also must wear face coverings. Students would be assigned seats on the bus.

Facial coverings may be removed during outdoor activities where students and staff can maintain physical distancing and have ready access to put them back as needed when the activities are over, according to the guidance.

With cafeterias closed, students should be offered school meals in their classrooms, and if that’s not possible, grab-and-go carts could be made available for students to collect meals in small groups, the guidance said.

Every school district and independent school “should establish a COVID-19 coordinator to establish, review and implement health and safety protocols,” the guidance says. That person “should be a school nurse or other health professional qualified to interpret guidelines and ensure they are implemented to the best standard of practice.”.

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