Governor Phil Scott Announces Pause to the State's Safe Travel Policy, Compliance Checks and Expanded Testing
Montpelier, Vt. - To slow the spread of COVID-19 as cases and hospitalizations rise in Vermont and throughout the nation, Vermont will temporarily require a 14-day quarantine for all non-essential travel, increase compliance checks and expand testing to find the virus earlier and contain it faster.
The latest modeling, presented today by the Scott Administration, showed a 34% increase in cases in the Northeast since last week and cases are averaging 112,500 per day nationally. While Vermont continues to have the lowest positivity rate in the country, cases rose 46% this week. Hospitalizations are also rising in Vermont.
“It’s important for everyone to see this data and recognize we are not in the same place today as we’ve been over the last several months, even while we continue to lead the country in many ways,” said Governor Phil Scott. “Though we’re not seeing the alarming growth many of our neighbors are seeing, we have to take action to ensure we don’t get to that point. I want to be very clear that much of our case growth is tied to two factors: Vermonters traveling out of state and Vermonters gathering in ways where distancing and masking break down. We need to act now to protect the vulnerable and to keep our schools and economy open.”
Commissioner of Health Mark Levine, MD said, “I cannot say this enough: To stop the spread, to protect each other, we need to act now. We are on the threshold the decisions we make today will truly determine our future.”
All Non-Essential Travel Requires Quarantine
As the number of counties eligible for quarantine-free travel has dropped to only two, the cross-state travel map is being temporarily suspended effective immediately. A 14-day quarantine – or 7 days followed by a negative COVID-19 test – is now required following any non-essential out-of-state travel by Vermonters and for all travelers entering Vermont from another state. Essential travel includes travel to attend PreK-12 school and college if commuting daily, or for work, personal safety, medical care, care of others, parental shared custody, or for food, beverage or medicine.
Increasing Compliance Checks
The State will also increase outreach and education to assess and encourage compliance with the public health guidance. The Vermont State Police, Division of Fire Safety and Department of Liquor and Lottery will resume compliance assessments and educational efforts at lodging facilities, bars and restaurants. The Department of Public Safety will also distribute COVID-19 safety cards during traffic stops to help inform drivers of the travel policy and other safety protocols. The Department of Fish and Wildlife is conducting outreach to hunters to ensure they understand the updated travel policy and gathering advisory.
Expanding Testing to Increase Early Warnings & Accelerate Containment
Governor Scott also announced the State is expanding its testing program, entering a contract with CIC Health of Cambridge, Ma. and developing a plan to offer testing every day of the week at locations throughout the state. It will also increase surveillance testing, which tests asymptomatic populations to find the virus in the community more quickly. To establish a baseline, during the week of November 16, the State will offer testing to K-12 teachers and staff. These tests will be voluntary. Following Thanksgiving break, there will be a regular rotating schedule, offering testing to teachers and staff in one-quarter of Vermont schools each week, so every teacher and staff member will be offered testing once per month.
Testing of school personnel is a surveillance strategy as they represent a large group of individuals in an organized setting who reflect their communities. This approach will help identify cases – particularly cases that never develop symptoms – thereby helping to reduce the risk of clusters or outbreaks and supporting efforts to sustain and expand in-person learning for students. The process will use the more reliable PCR tests. School personnel who are waiting for surveillance testing results will not need to quarantine.
State Advisory: Social Gatherings Limited to 10 from Trusted Households
These announcements follow an advisory issued last week strongly recommending social gatherings be limited to 10 or fewer people and with a very limited number of trusted households. Governor Scott and Dr. Levine urged Vermonters to heed the new travel and gathering policies as the Thanksgiving holiday approaches.
“With the success we’ve had over the last few months, I know it is disappointing to hear about new restrictions. But by acting early and doubling down on the work that made us so successful in the first place, I know we can get this under control, hold onto the gains we’ve made, and continue to be in a better position to get through this faster and stronger than any other state,” added Governor Scott.
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