Governor Scott details development of COVID-19 Task Force

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Governor Scott details development of COVID-19 Task Force

Tue, 03/03/2020 - 7:59am -- tim

Task Force Leading Long-Term Mitigation Planning Effort in Supplement to State’s Current Response Work

Vermont Business Magazine At the direction of Governor Phil Scott, Vermont Emergency Management has assembled an interagency task force to support the overall public health response being led by the Vermont Department of Health and further prepare for the likelihood of COVID-19 cases in Vermont.

The task force is charged with ensuring a coordinated statewide response to COVID-19, including for communicating potential community mitigation measures to slow or minimize the spread of the virus if cases occur and accelerate in the state. The group will also work to ensure communications and continuity planning occurs in a coordinated fashion across state government.

“We have plans in place for all hazards in the state of Vermont, including infectious disease. These are plans we update and exercise regularly, but each individual incident requires coordination of plans, resources and responsible agencies,” VEM Director Erica Bornemann said. “This group will be able to develop a COVID-19 specific long-term response plan to support the execution of potential community mitigation measures in the case of an outbreak in Vermont.”

As of March 2, 2020, there were no reported cases of Coronavirus in Vermont. For additional guidance and the latest information from the CDC and Vermont Department of Health, visit healthvermont.gov/covid19 or dial 2-1-1. 

The COVID-19 task force includes representatives from Vermont Emergency Management, Vermont Departments of Public Safety, Health, Human Resources, Buildings and General Services, Agencies of Education and Human Services, Vermont National Guard, Vermont Healthcare Emergency Preparedness Coalition, E-911 Board, Governor’s Emergency Preparedness Advisory Council Chair, and Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“I want to thank our public health and emergency response teams for the work they’ve done to monitor and respond to this quickly evolving situation over the last several weeks,” said Governor Phil Scott. “As this virus continues to spread globally, ensuring we stay ahead of it with a long-term mitigation plan is an important step in our response process, and I appreciate the expertise and leadership of this interagency group.”

Public Guidance from the Vermont Department of Health

Person-to-person spread of the virus is thought to occur mainly via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Much is still unknown about how the virus spreads. Take these everyday preventive actions to help stop the spread of germs:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

If you have recently traveled to countries where there is transmission (China, Iran, South Korea, Italy or Japan), please contact the Vermont Department of Health (800-464-4343), which will provide guidance on what to look for, and what to do if you develop symptoms that could be from Coronavirus.

February 28, 2020 Update –
Vermont continues preparation efforts as COVID-19 spreads globally

As the novel coronavirus called COVID-19 spreads to a growing number of countries around the world, Health Commissioner Mark Levine, MD said Friday that Vermont must prepare in the event that the virus reaches our state. At the direction of Governor Scott, Vermont Emergency Management plans to assemble an interagency task force to develop a comprehensive response plan.

There have been no known cases of people in Vermont with COVID-19 as of Feb. 28, 2020.

Because the highest risk for transmission has been China so far, public health nurses and epidemiologists have been monitoring people who have returned from travel in China and a few from other affected countries. Monitoring means checking their temperature every day, watching for symptoms, and for some people, asking them to stay home.

But Dr. Levine said the virus’ global spread will soon make it impossible to get a handle on everyone who may have been exposed.

“That’s why we’re asking people to be aware, watch out for symptoms if you’ve traveled – and stay home when you’re sick,” he said.

The Health Department is asking anyone who has traveled to countries where there is transmission to call 802-863-7240. Health officials will let you know what to look for and guide you on what to do if you develop symptoms that could be from coronavirus. They will also offer to touch base a few times a week.

As of February 28, 27 people are being monitored, and 15 people have completed their monitoring.

The Health Department Lab now has the test for the virus from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and could begin testing soon, should it be needed.

As the state continues its monitoring to identify cases, Vermont is also preparing for further person-to-person spread in the U.S., including planning for community-wide strategies to slow disease transmission.

These strategies could include “social distancing,” to limit where and when people come together – such as teleworking, restricting mass gatherings, closing public facilities and the like.

“There is no need to exercise any of these options at this time – but now is the time for all of us to prepare mentally and logistically for possible disruptions to our daily lives,” Dr. Levine said.

The Health Department continues its preparation and response work through its Health Operations Center, opened in early February. It has been alerting health care providers, and

providing guidance and updates on our website, via our Health Alert Network, and the news media. Vermont Emergency Management has been a part of the HOC team.

With the task force assembled by Vermont Emergency Management, the Health Department will begin working to ensure state agencies and communities, schools, businesses around the state are prepared to minimize potential disruptions.

Right now, the most important thing for Vermonters to do is to take action to help prevent the spread of respiratory illness:

· Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water aren’t available.

· Cover your cough or sneeze with your sleeve or a tissue, not your hands.

· Stay home when you’re sick, especially with a fever, except to get medical care.

· Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

· Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.

· Routinely clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

· And get your flu shot – flu is still widespread in Vermont.

“As always, prepare yourselves and your families for the possibility that you’d need to stay home for a few weeks,” Dr. Levine said.

Get the most current information at healthvermont.gov/covid19, which includes Vermont- specific updates and resources, in addition to content from the CDC.

For more details on the state’s response, visit https://www.healthvermont.gov/sites/default/files/documents/pdf/HS-COVID-19-Feb-28-2020-update.pdf.

Source: Montpelier, Vt. – Governor 3.2.2020