Vermont’s governor, top health official quarantining

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Vermont Gov. Phil Scott stands on the steps of the Vermont Statehouse during a ceremony where he took the Oath of Office on Thursday, Jan. 7, 2021 Montpelier, Vt. Scott, a Republican, is beginning his third two-year term. (AP Photo/Wilson Ring)

Vermont Gov. Phil Scott and the state’s top health official are among those quarantining after possible exposure to the coronavirus, the governor’s office announced late Tuesday.

Scott, Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine and other administration officials were told that a contractor who provided services for coronavirus briefings on Jan. 15 and Tuesday had tested positive for COVID-19, news outlets reported, citing a statement from the governor’s office.

The briefings are conducted with safety protocols, but officials decided to take caution and quarantine as they had spent extended periods of time speaking at the lectern, the statement said. The officials will be tested based on guidance from the Vermont Department of Health, and the Republican governor will execute his duties remotely.

The governor’s office has reached out to those in attendance at the two briefings, and the health department will also contact attendees. The statement didn’t say whether Scott, 62, or any of the other officials had exhibited symptoms.

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.

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