MONTPELIER, Vt. (NEWS10/WFFF) – Tuesday afternoon, Gov. Phil Scott, Department of Health Commissioner Mark Levine, M.D. and other officials were informed that a contractor who provided services at the governor’s coronavirus briefings on Friday, Jan. 15 and Tuesday, Jan. 19 has tested positive for COVID-19.
The briefings are conducted under state guidance, with safety protocols, including physical distancing, in place. However, out of an abundance of caution, because they speak at the podium for extended periods of time, Gov. Scott, Dr. Levine, and other administration officials in attendance will quarantine and be tested based on guidance from the Vermont Department of Health.
Officials decided to take caution and quarantine as they had spent extended periods of time speaking at the lectern, the statement said. State contact tracers have begun their investigation and will provide guidance to all those who are identified as close contacts. Close contacts are defined as anyone who has been in close proximity (generally 6-feet or less) of the positive case for 15 minutes or more.
The Governor’s Office has reached out to those in attendance at the briefings. They will also receive a call from the Department of Health. Until further notice, Gov. Scott will continue to fulfill all of his duties, including leading Vermont’s pandemic response, while working remotely.
Earlier Tuesday, officials said the number of new COVID-19 cases reported in Vermont is starting to decrease, giving way to cautious optimism that the third wave of the virus was at an end in the state. In addition to the reduction in the new cases in Vermont and across the region, hospitalizations are down slightly and it’s been several days since Vermont has seen a COVID-19 fatality, officials said.
But the numbers are still significantly higher than they were several months ago, and it’s unclear how long it will take before those numbers decrease enough to begin further loosening of restrictions meant to slow the spread of the virus. That comes as state officials are planning for the second phase of the vaccine campaign, for people over age 75. But the vaccination efforts are hampered by not knowing how much vaccine the state will receive, officials say.
“Uncertainty about the allocations coming to Vermont means there is no real opportunity to change our approach currently,” Levine said Tuesday during the twice-weekly virus briefing. “The age-prioritization approach to saving lives is indeed our north star. It is data driven and simple.”
After older Vermonters are vaccinated, the focus will shift to people between 18 and 64 who have underlying conditions that make them more susceptible to complications from the virus.