VDH COVID-19 Update: Protesting in the age of coronavirus

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VDH COVID-19 Update: Protesting in the age of coronavirus

Mon, 06/01/2020 - 6:01pm -- tim

Vermont Business Magazine The Vermont Department of Health today reported two new cases of COVID-19, no deaths, and none hospitalized. But Governor Scott began his remarks at today's press briefing by talking about the death of George Floyd in Minnesota at the hands of police, the reactions, and the justifiable outrage it sparked across the nation. He announced the formation of a Racial Equity Task Force. He also supported the call for charging all four police officers in the case with murder. Scott said he was proud of how Vermonters protested peacefully in response. VDH Commissioner Levine urged protesters to maintain the social distancing and the wearing of facial coverings even as he acknowledged the necessity of crowd sizes being larger than the health guidance would otherwise warrant. See below.

Daily Update on Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)

June 1, 2020

New information is in red

Find this update at healthvermont.gov/covid19 by clicking the “See the Latest Update” button.

Please visit the Vermont Department of Health’s updated COVID-19 web and data pages healthvermont.gov/covid19.

Racial Equity Task Force

Governor Scott (with DMV Commissioner Minoli) announced a new Racial Equity Task Force. He also said DMV operations for drivers' and permit testing would resume this week. ORCA Media screen grab.

At Monday’s press conference, Governor Phil Scott addressed the tragic death of George Floyd in Minnesota, the reactions, and the justifiable outrage it sparked across the nation.

“For many people today, every time something like this happens, it’s another reminder of how long communities of color have been waiting for equity, and how little things have changed,” said Governor Scott.

The Governor emphasized that we need to acknowledge these incidents are systemic — built into our social systems, our economic systems and everything in between, and that we are not immune in Vermont.

He announced the launch of a Racial Equity Task Force, charged with:

  • Looking at the disparities in COVID-19 infection and death rates
  • Evaluating supports for racially diverse populations
  • Reviewing current state and federal law on hate speech
  • Contemplating ways to encourage Vermonters from a range of racial and ethnic groups to run and serve in public office, at all levels.

Gov. Scott acknowledged a taskforce is not the cure-all, encouraging Vermonters to take time to reflect on what role each of us can play to end hate, racism and bigotry.

“And for those of us who are white, who aren’t typically the victim of it, we need to take a very close look, because the reality is, it’s everywhere, even here,” he said. “The good news is, we can fix this without waiting for a vaccine, or other solutions out of our control, it just takes us uniting, to make this a better country for everyone, because like the coronavirus, this is literally in our hands.”

Protest Safely

In his remarks, Health Commissioner Mark Levine, MD asked Vermonters who engage in public protests and other civic activities to be aware that the same COVID safety precautions apply as with any other gathering.

“In attempting to address the great ills in our society — systemic racism, historic injustice, trauma, mistreatment by authorities, and severe health inequities — we do not want to create a greater threat to public health by accelerating the spread of COVID,” Dr. Levine said. “We hope and ask that protests in Vermont can be done in a way that is consistent with state guidelines to protect the health of every one of us.”

Protests over the weekend were peaceful and respectful, he said. Many participants were wearing facial coverings, but the size of gatherings and lack of physical distance between people is a cause for concern.

Free COVID-19 Testing This Week in Winooski

Dr. Levine announced the Health Department will offer free COVID-19 testing every day this week for Winooski community members at the O’Brien Community Center, 32 Mallets Bay Avenue in Winooski.

Sign up for an appointment and get more information at: https://humanresources.vermont.gov/winooski, or call 2-1-1.

The Health Department is investigating a cluster of COVID-19 cases in Winooski. It is not an outbreak of the virus spreading throughout the city.

The department has been in contact with the individuals and is providing appropriate guidance — including for self-isolation and quarantine. The contact tracing team has been reaching out to any of these individuals’ close contacts to identify any further risk and need for testing.

“This is a public health effort. It’s what we do every day,” said Dr. Levine. “Our epidemiology team, along with our Burlington Local Health Office staff – the people who community members in Chittenden County see for WIC clinics, immunizations and all our local health services – will be leading our outreach, contact tracing and testing efforts.”

Dr. Levine noted that the nature of this virus – and any highly communicable disease – is its ability to spread easily from person to person, especially in more populated areas. He reiterated that all Vermonters should continue to follow the same precautions: practice physical distancing, use face coverings when around other people, regularly wash your hands and stay home if you’re sick.

New on healthvermont.gov

Traveler Information

Traveling to Vermont or coming back from a trip out of state? The Health Department’s new travel web page is dedicated to providing Vermonters with travel-related information and guidance, including for quarantining and testing.

NEW: Anyone coming to Vermont is strongly encouraged to sign up for daily symptom check reminders. You can:

✔ Get fast, easy, and free reminders by email, text or phone to check yourself for symptoms

✔ Access the Health Department for guidance and information quickly if you develop symptoms

✔ Help our public health teams contain the spread of COVID-19

The symptom check reminders, called Sara Alert, is not a contact tracing system. It is not GPS-based, so it does not monitor a person’s movements or track their location.

College students returning to Burlington can also use this web page as a resource — along with the city’s Supportive Quarantine Pilot Program — and sign up for Sara Alert.

Restart Vermont

Governor Phil Scott and the Department of Motor Vehicles today also announced a restart plan for resuming driver’s license tests and a new service for Vermonters to receive their learner’s permit online as the state begins limited resumption of services paused due to COVID-19. Read the press release.

Testing Information

COVID-19 Pop-Up Test Sites Open for Asymptomatic Vermonters

Appointments are still available at pop-up sites located throughout the state to test people who do not have symptoms of COVID-19 for the virus. Find locations and make an appointment to be tested at humanresources.vermont.gov/popups. You can also call 2-1-1 or 802-828-2828. All clinics operate from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

We especially encourage health care workers, first responders, child care providers, and people returning to Vermont – such as college students, people who winter out of state and second home owners – to consider being tested.

Vermonters With Even Mild Symptoms Should Call Their Doctor to Be Tested

People with even mild symptoms are encouraged to call their health care provider to get tested. This includes parents of children who have possible symptoms. Your health care provider will ensure you receive proper care and treatment.

If you don’t have a health care provider: Dial 2-1-1 to connect with a community or hospital-connected clinic.

Case Information

Current COVID-19 Activity in Vermont

As of 11:00 a.m. on June 1, 2020

Total cases*




Currently hospitalized




Hospitalized under investigation




Total people recovered








People tested




People being monitored




People completed monitoring




*Includes testing conducted at the Health Department Laboratory, commercial labs and other public health labs.

+Death occurring in persons known to have COVID-19. Death certificate may be pending. 

Hospitalization data is provided by the Vermont Healthcare Emergency Preparedness Coalition and is based on hospitals updating this information.

Find more information on new data dashboard at healthvermont.gov/covid19 by clicking on the map of Vermont.

Guidance for Vermonters

  • If you are having a medical emergency, call 9-1-1 or go to the hospital.
  • If you are having even mild symptoms of COVID-19, call your health care provider.
  • Most information is available online: Visit our regularly updated Frequently Asked Questions or use the chat bot to ask your COVID-19 question.
  • If you still have health-related COVID-19 questions, call the Health Department at 802-863-7240.
  • For non-health related questions, dial 2-1-1 or 1-866-652-4636.

Food Distribution

The Vermont Foodbank and the Vermont National continue to distribute meals to those in need throughout May and June. Supplies at each site are limited. For the full list of locations and details, visit: https://vem.vermont.gov/pods

Make Wearing a Mask a Habit

As Vermont gradually opens, wearing face coverings is more important than ever. Even with a mask, we still need to keep 6 feet between ourselves and other people. Learn more about why and how we need to wear masks.

Keep a List of Your Close Contacts
Health officials suggest that Vermonters keep a journal of contacts – a list of other people with whom you have been in close contact with each day. If you get sick, this will make it easier to get in touch with those people and so they can take precautions to prevent further spread of COVID-19, including being tested if recommended.

Take Steps to Prevent the Spread of Rabies in Pets and Wildlife

As days get longer and warmer you and your pets may come into more contact with wild animals — including baby animals. To prevent the spread of rabies, the best thing to do is leave wildlife alone and enjoy them from a distance.

Rabies is a deadly viral disease of the brain that infects mammals and is fatal to both humans and animals. Pets should be vaccinated for rabies. State law requires dogs and cats to be vaccinated. Get more details in the May 29 press release.

Take Care of Your Emotional and Mental Health

Feeling anxious, confused, overwhelmed or powerless is common during an infectious disease outbreak. If you or someone you know is in crisis or needs emotional support, help is available 24/7: