Governor: Face mask rules coming, 'Stay Home' order to be extended

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Governor: Face mask rules coming, 'Stay Home' order to be extended

Fri, 04/03/2020 - 5:36pm -- tim

by Timothy McQuiston, Vermont Business Magazine There will soon be guidance on what Vermonters should and must be wearing cloth face masks, according to Governor Phil Scott and Health Commissioner Mark Levine, MD. This update came today at the governor's press conference. They are waiting for further instruction from the CDC on what can be worn and by whom. It could be as simple as a scarf and could include everyone still working out in the public. Scott also said that within the next few days he will extend and give more detail on his "Stay Home, Stay Safe Order."

He also said that he will not begin to allow businesses to renew operations, even outdoor businesses, until he's confident that the state has reached a peak in COVID-19 cases. Yesterday, state officials said that peak is expected by early May under current modeling.

Dr Levine also said that the number of positive COVID-19 cases was up to 389, which is an increase of 29, but there were no new deaths. The number of deaths stands at 17. Chittenden County far exceeds all other counties with 199 cases. Addison County is clearly second with 32. There are still no confirmed cases in Grand Isle or Essex counties.

Dr Levine said that the change in the state's position on the use of face masks is coming directly from the CDC, but he added that it's a change he agrees with. This change comes in part because of data showing that infected people may be asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic for up to 48 hours before showing signs of illness. Therefore they could be spreading the virus. Wearing a cloth mask would reduce the risk of spreading the virus, according to the CDC, but not reduce the risk of acquiring it.

Governor Scott answers a question Friday, alongside a sign language interpreter and Health Commissioner Levine. Video screen shot.

Governor Scott said that any new order concerning face masks will not segregate one type of worker from another, suggesting that it will not be a requirement of just, say, supermarket workers.

Two things that Dr Levine was clear on was that these cloth masks were not intended and will not keep the wearer safe, they are intended to keep others safe; and that the public should not be wearing the N95 respirator masks, which should be reserved for health care workers and first responders and others coming in direct contact with someone who is sick.

In any case, Levine and Scott insisted that social distancing and hand washing were still the two most important behaviors for everyone to stay safe and stay healthy.

He said that the state has sufficient PPEs at the moment, but if their is a surge in the illness, such personal protective equipment will be needed by frontline workers and should be kept in reserve.

He said the state has been and continues to operate under a worst-case-scenario plan, despite relatively good news presented at a press conference Thursday. The modeling data presented Thursday indicated that Vermont is indeed bending the curve toward a slower growth rate in cases. The irony of slowing the growth is that it likely will also put off the peak. But Dr Levine said, "That's a good thing."

Health care officials everywhere are most concerned about a fast-developing surge, with a resultant surge in the number of deaths because the healthcare system will be overwhelmed. This happened in Italy and Spain and in parts of the New York City area.

Concern over a surge, even if unlikely, has led the state to setup a medical volunteer site.

Human Services Secretary Mike Smith said they have got a good response to the request for volunteers but need more. Licensing restrictions have been relaxed to afford more opportunity to support the system if things take a turn for the worse. To date, he said, the surge capacity and new surge sites have not needed to be employed.

Click HERE to learn how to join the Medical Reserve Corp

Also as a followup to yesterday's presentation on modeling (click HERE), Dr Levine said that Vermonters should expect an echo of new cases several months down the road as new infections make a comeback. Experience from other coronavirus cases suggest that this could occur and might require a second round of containment efforts. Other cases have not required the same level of extreme measures. Work on a COVID-19 vaccine is under way on many fronts, but the international press suggests this could take upwards of 18 months, if one was successful. To date there are no vaccines for coronaviruses, including Sars and Mers.

Vermonters are being asked to stay home as much as possible to keep everyone safe during this pandemic. Please leave for essentials only, such as food, and keep a safe distance of six feet between yourself and others. This is helping slow the spread of the virus and protecting people who are more vulnerable. Though we can all feel isolated at this time, we can, and should, connect with each other through technology, reading books, playing games and finding hobbies we enjoy. We’re all in this together.

If you have symptoms of COVID-19 and mild illness, you can stay home and treat your symptoms. Not everyone needs to be tested, and testing is only done through the referral of health care professional. Testing is not treatment. Use the NEW CDC Self Checker Tool (link is external) to help you make decisions about seeking medical care.
The coronavirus attacks the lungs, making it harder for people who smoke or vape – tobacco, cannabis or anything else – to fight off the virus, putting them at much greater risk of severe illness, even death. There has never been a better time to quit. Find resources at 802QUITS.org
 
Residents and non-residents coming to Vermont ­– for anything other than an essential purpose ­­– should quarantine at home for 14 days, following a March 30 order from Gov. Phil Scott. Travel to Vermont by anyone located in COVID-19 “hot spots” is discouraged. Read the order (link is external).

health Care Professionals - click for information

when to Call

  • If you have questions about COVID-19: Dial 2-1-1. If you have trouble reaching 2-1-1, dial 1-866-652-4636. You can also use the Ask a Question tool on this page.
  • If you are sick or concerned about your health: Contact your health care provider by phone. Not everybody needs to be tested. Do not call the Health Department. Do not go to the hospital, except in a life-threatening situation.

This update is also available at healthvermont.gov/covid19 under UPDATES

New information is in red

Vermonters are asked to stay home as much as possible to keep everyone safe during this pandemic. Please leave for essentials only, such as food, and keep a safe distance of 6 feet between yourself and others. This is critical to limiting the impact of the virus and protecting people who are more vulnerable to serious illness, including death.

Though we may all feel isolated at this time, we can, and should, connect with each other through technology, reading books, playing games and finding hobbies we enjoy. We’re all in this together.

Visit healthvermont.gov/covid19 for the up-to-date information and guidance. 

New Guidance on Face Masks
On Friday, April 3, Health Commissioner Mark Levine, MD, recommended that Vermonters wear cloth facial masks, or coverings, if they need to leave their homes for essential purposes. This advice is based on new data about how COVID-19 can spread before a person has any symptoms.

Because people may have COVID-19 but no symptoms, wearing a face mask may help keep people from spreading the virus. Face coverings are not a substitute for physical distancing and other prevention measures.

It is important that medical-grade masks be reserved for our health care workers and first responders. This information and more is available at our continually updated FAQ.

Continued Social Distancing and Hand Washing are Essential

Dr. Levine stressed that the most effective way to slow the virus’s spread is to continue to follow the Governor’s Stay Home, Stay Safe Order, respect social distancing, and be vigilant in regularly washing hands and not touching your face. The sacrifices Vermonters are making is beginning to show promising results in slowing the spread, but we must keep up the good work for quite a bit longer to keep us all healthy and safe in the future.

How to Enjoy the Outdoors Safely
The Agency of Natural Resources provided new guidance Friday, April 3, for how Vermonters can get outside and enjoy the fresh air safely:

  • Stay close to home. Find areas close you can walk or bike to. If you must drive, please limit the distance from home to 10 miles, and only drive with members of your household.
  • Practice social distancing while outside. You lower your risk when you stay at least 6 ft. apart from others. This includes having your dog on a leash and close to you.
  • Be cautious and choosing low-risk activities to avoid injury. This will help lower the burden on our hospitals and health care system.
  • Respect signs for closed areas, trails and land. Check www.Trailfinder.info to see if your trail is currently open before you visit.

For more information, visit the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation at https://fpr.vermont.gov/recreation/outdoor-recreation-and-covid-19

Vermont’s Response

Medical surge preparations
On April 2, Gov. Phil Scott announced additional medical surge locations to prepare for a surge of COVID-19 patients and the need for additional hospital and medical capacity. In partnership with the Vermont National Guard, the State is creating two additional high capacity care sites for surge: one in Essex Junction at the Champlain Valley Exposition, which will provide 400 beds staffed primarily by Vermont National Guard personnel; and another in Rutland County, supported by the Rutland Regional Medical Center, which will provide 150 beds. Read more details in the press release.

Forecasting of COVID-19 cases

State officials provided an overview to the media of projections of COVID-19 cases and hospitalization needs. The current models project the “peak” of cases between mid-to-late April and early May. Officials emphasized that the sacrifices Vermonters are making by staying at home are working, and the following weeks will be critical to saving lives.

Volunteering

Gov. Scott is calling all Vermonters into service with the launch of a new website allowing people to sign up for volunteer assistance to support the state’s response to COVID-19: https://vermont.gov/volunteer. The website directs those with medical and healthcare skills to the Medical Reserve Corp (MRC), and those with other needed skills to a quick registration process to sign up to help. Read the press release.

Travel Restrictions

On Monday, March 30, Gov. Scott announced new restrictions on travelers arriving in Vermont. Residents and non-residents coming to Vermont from outside the state ­– for anything other than an essential purpose ­­– should home-quarantine for 14 days. Travel to Vermont by anyone from a COVID-19 “hot spot” is strongly discouraged at this time. Read the order and the press release.

Travelers should follow the CDC’s Domestic Travel Advisory for New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, which advised residents of those states to refrain from non-essential domestic travel for 14 days.

Lodging Operations

The Governor’s order also clarifies that all lodging operations are to be suspended. Lodging facilities – which includes hotels, motels, bed and breakfasts, inns, short term rentals (e.g. VRBO, HomeAway, Airbnb, etc.), and all public and private camping facilities and RV parks – are to be closed except for stated exemptions when supporting the state’s COVID-19 response.

Online lodging reservations are also suspended. The Vermont State Police and local law enforcement will monitor lodging providers for compliance and work with the Attorney General’s Office on additional compliance measures if needed.

Testing

The Department of Health continues to work to expand COVID-19 testing to a broader group of Vermonters ­– including those who have mild to moderate symptoms – to help increase contact tracing efforts and prevent the virus from spreading.

In addition to testing sites at hospitals, we have coordinated the opening of new sites at the Island Pond Health Center in Island Pond, and the Champlain Islands Health Center in South Hero. Another new site will open in Orange County on Tue., April 7 at the Wells River Health Center in Wells River. As previously planned, the National Guard testing site in Putney will close at 3 p.m. on Saturday, April 4. Additional sites will be opened as the needs are determined.

IMPORTANT: Everyone must have a referral from their provider in order to be tested.

  • CALL your health care provider to be evaluated and for the provider to determine if you need a test.
  • DO NOT go to a testing site without an order from your provider.
  • Patients who are NOT experiencing symptoms will not be tested.

Health care providers are encouraged to order a test for patients with symptoms, and can visit healthvermont.gov/covid19-providers for more information.

Additional Actions

On March 26, Gov. Scott directed schools to remain dismissed through the end of the 2019-2020 school year.

On March 24, Gov. Scott issued a “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order and directed the closure of in-person operations for all non-essential businesses, effective 5 p.m. March 25, 2020.  

Read more about what the order means to Vermonters. Read more about what this means for businesses.

The order follows Gov. Scott’s declaration of a state of emergency in March, and a series of community mitigation actions throughout the month.

The Vermont Department of Health has launched VTHelplink, a new, single source clearinghouse for Vermonters to receive free, confidential and personalized information and referrals to substance use prevention, treatment and recovery services throughout the state. Read the press release.

Case Information

New: Limited hospitalization data is now being provided below and at healthvermont.gov/covid19.

COVID-19 Activity in Vermont

Information updated daily by 1:00 p.m. Numbers are preliminary and subject to change. Last updated: April 3, 2020

Positive test results* 389
Total tests conducted 5,228
Deaths+ 17
People being monitored 102
People who have completed monitoring 705

*Includes testing conducted at the Vermont Department of Health Laboratory, commercial labs, and other public health labs.
+Deaths of persons known to have COVID-19. Death certificate may be pending.

Hospital information is updated each weekday by 1:00 p.m. Last updated: April 3, 2020

Hospitalized patients with COVID-19 29
Hospitalized patients under investigation for COVID-19 44

*Data is provided by the Vermont Healthcare Emergency Preparedness Coalition. It is based on hospitals updating this information as they are able. 

State Map of People by County with COVID-19