Vermont officials announced today that they are temporarily suspending the state’s safe travel policy that allows some people to enter the state without quarantining from areas determined to have low numbers of COVID-19 cases.
The Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development tracks COVID-19 regionally and across the country, updating cases and frequency weekly. The number of active cases per million calculated on a county-by county basis determines any quarantine requirements for travelers to the state. During his regular COVID briefing Governor Phil Scott noted that while the state is not seeing as much growth in the virus as the surrounding region and country there has been a rise in cases. He says action must be taken to protect the most vulnerable and keep the economy open. “Over the last few weeks the number of counties open for travel without a quarantine has been shrinking. As of today it’s down to about three. And the fact is along with social gatherings travel to and from other states without the proper quarantine continues to be one of the common denominators in our rising case counts. So we’re temporarily suspending our travel map and requiring a 14 day quarantine or 7 days and a negative test for any nonessential travel into Vermont.”
Department of Financial Regulation Commissioner Michael Pieciak reports on the COVID forecasts each week. Nationally cases are expected to increase 79% over the next six weeks. The Northeast regional forecast he says is no better, with cases projected to go up 105% in the next six weeks. Pieciak says analysts are looking at the aftermath of Canadian Thanksgiving on October 12th as a baseline for the forecast. “The Atlantic provinces are less prone to get together and have a more traditional holiday. Their cases actually went down in the ensuing weeks since their holiday. These are the Canadian provinces that all celebrate Thanksgiving similar to the U.S. They actually grew, in these provinces plus Ontario, over 200% since their Canadian Thanksgiving. Their health officials attribute that to the holiday gatherings. It’s really a combination unfortunately of travel, which we’re concerned about, and small indoor gatherings which similarly we’re concerned about. And Thanksgiving combines both of those elements.”
The Scott administration also announced that it is expanding its testing program. Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine says the state ranks number one in testing but a test is still is not readily available to everyone who wants or needs it. “To remedy that we are entering into a contract and speedily working toward a plan with CIC Health of Cambridge, Massachusetts to offer testing every day of the week at locations all around the state. The test will be a PCR self-administered nasal swab. Additionally we are markedly increasing surveillance testing to better understand the level of virus that is in our communities so that that will allow us to quickly contain it and prevent the kinds of clusters and outbreaks we are seeing.”
The ramped up testing will initially focus on K-12 teachers and staff.