Vermont governor declares state of emergency, details coronavirus strategy

Local News

MONTPELIER – Vermont Gov. Phil Scott declared a state of emergency on Friday during a news conference about the coronavirus pandemic. It will be in effect until April 15.

Scott, aided by health experts, detailed the State’s prevention, response and mitigation strategies. A full list of those strategies can be found in the Governor’s executive order.

Visitor access will be restricted at long-term care facilities including nursing homes, assisted living residences and therapeutic community residences. These measures do not apply for visitors of residents receiving end-of-life care.

All hospitals will develop visitation policies that comply with a minimum standard set by the Vermont Agency of Human Services.

“I know this will be very difficult for everyone involved,” Scott said. “But we also know the residents of these facilities and those seeking care at our hospitals are most at risk, and we must take short-term measures to protect them.”

In an effort to protect Vermont’s state employees, non-essential out-of-state travel by State employees is suspended. The Secretary of Administration and Commissioner of Health will develop guidance for employees returning from out-of-state travel. Working from home is encouraged for those who can do so.

Gov. Scott has also implemented a measure that has become common across the nation this week – banning large gatherings. Under the state of emergency, Vermonters may not gather more than 250 people in places such as auditoriums, stadiums, arenas, conference rooms, meeting halls, cafeterias, and theaters.

This does not include regular operations at airports, bus or railway stations. It also doesn’t apply to office environments, retail or grocery stores.

Notably, Gov. Scott’s order does not include the suspension of K-12 schools. He said that measure was not recommended by the Commissioner of Health at this time, but that could change as the situation develops. A contingency plan for any future school closing will be developed.

“We have determined that closing schools at this point is not seen as effective, at least not yet,” Scott said. “We believe that keeping them [students] in schools rather than home alone or with parents or grandparents at risk is the best approach at this time.”

Students will not be penalized for absences resulting from medical advice or their parent or guardians’ concerns about the pandemic.

As mentioned earlier, a full list of Vermont’s prevention, response and mitigation strategies implemented on Friday can be found in Gov. Scott’s executive order.

In the Vermont Department of Health’s daily update on Friday, there were still only two reported coronavirus cases. However, Health Commissioner Mark Levine said over 100 tests were conducted on Friday. In total, Vermont is currently monitoring 208 people, 90 have completed monitoring, and 142 have tested negative.

The Vermont Department of Health provides regular updates on their website along with answers to frequently asked questions, guidance for businesses, communities, first responders, health professionals, long-term care facilities and schools. It is a critical resource with credible information from health professionals.

If you have questions about the coronavirus, you can also dial 2-1-1. If you are sick or concerned about your health, call your health care provider by phone. The Department of Health advises Vermonters to avoid going to the hospital except in a life-threatening situation.

Governor Scott ended his remarks with a word of encouragement.

“Here’s the bottom line, it’s not in our DNA to turn our backs on the most vulnerable,” Scott said. “We’re going to face it, fight it, and win. Just like after [Hurricane] Irene, we’re all going to do our part to help each other in this time of need.”

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