Vermont Governor Phil Scott held his latest COVID-19 update Friday morning. Agency heads provided updates on several issues including a possible cluster of the coronavirus.
There have been some concerns about a small cluster of coronavirus in Rutland County. Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine says they are in the initial phase of investigating the situation. “It was a gathering and we’re actually trying to get more details on the exact nature of that and where the initial exposure might have actually occurred. The investigation is actually very early. We’re obviously interviewing possible cases, conducting contact tracing. Currently there are only a small number of cases. Small number means under six. And that precludes us from actually offering much more descriptive information.”
Vermont Agency of Human Services Secretary Mike Smith reported that the state applied for and will receive an increased allotment in September for 3-Squares Vermont, the state’s version of food stamps. “This extra help is available to Vermont as part of the federal Coronavirus relief bill. It will not be a permanent change to households’ monthly benefits but it is critical to provide eligible Vermont families with additional resources during this time of uncertainty.”
Dr. Levine touched on new and controversial guidelines issued earlier this week by the CDC on who should be tested for COVID-19. “It’s important to accurately know the percent positivity in our state and you can only do that if you have a sufficient number of people in the state tested who have no symptoms. So to be clear our guidance in Vermont has not changed.”
Schools and colleges are in the process of opening. The Department of Financial Regulation tracks COVID-19 data and provides modeling reports at each Friday briefing. The latest report included a comparison between the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Northern Vermont University. The 30,000 student North Carolina college, which has now switched all undergraduate classes to virtual, had conducted 4,887 tests and gotten 945 positive results. Meanwhile the college in Vermont with 1,500 students has done 2,347 tests with no positive results.
Governor Scott attributes the difference to Vermont’s aggressive testing policy for returning students. “This is another case where Vermont is taking a different path. And we were adamant about making sure that we did this safely. And if we can open up our colleges and universities in a safe way and provide for the testing to show people that we’re doing it in a safe manner then it builds upon that trust to further open up the economy to further open up in-person instruction in our K-through-12 schools and so forth. We have to build upon our success in order to get back to some sort of normalcy.”
The Department of Financial Regulation reports that the state has maintained the lowest per capita infection rate in the country since the beginning of the pandemic and the lowest infection and positivity rates nationally over the past seven days.