Vermont’s governor and health commissioner said Sunday a patient in the southwestern corner of the state has preliminarily tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.
The Centers for Disease Control now must confirm the initial test, which was conducted by a state-run lab in Vermont.
“This patient is on the more serious end of the spectrum of illness,” said Dr. Mark Levine, the commissioner of the Vermont Department of Health.
Levine said the patient is now in a special isolation room inside Southwestern Vermont Medical Center in Bennington. The facility is designed to cut the chances of airborne infection, Levine explained.
The hospital told NECN affiliate NBC 5 News that it is treating a male patient from Bennington County.
The Vermont Department of Health said it is still investigating where the man could’ve been exposed, though Levine noted that early on, it wasn’t looking like foreign travel was involved.
Experts are also tracing anyone he might’ve come in contact with, Levine said, so their risk can be assessed.
“We’ve seen the first, and this might be the tip of the iceberg in some respects,” said Gov. Phil Scott, R-Vermont. “We hope to continue to contain; prevent as much as we can.”
The Vermont Department of Health would not share many specifics on the patient, but said the fact that the case requires hospitalization makes it an outlier. Levine noted more than eight out of 10 people who get sick from coronavirus have milder symptoms.
Levine told reporters he understands the news may be alarming to some in Bennington County, but he said he doesn’t want Vermonters to be overly worried.
The commissioner said many preventative steps you’ve likely heard about recently are good to help keep yourself and others from getting sick. Those include frequent handwashing, staying home if you’re sick, avoiding others who are sick, and practicing good respiratory hygiene like coughing into your sleeve.
More information on the disease is available through this state website.
Vermont is planning for what to do if the coronavirus spreads, Gov. Scott and Dr. Levine said.
“If we need to pull the trigger on mitigation measures which include social distancing measures—whether they involve schools, whether they involve workplaces, whether they involving canceling mass gatherings—those things are all being planned for,” the health commissioner said. “We hope they never happen.”
More than 200 other Vermonters were being monitored at home for possible symptoms, according to health department numbers from Sunday afternoon. Many of those are people who recently returned from countries with a lot of disease activity.
Because Bennington is so close to the New York and Massachusetts borders, Gov. Scott said it’s vital that states keep working together well.