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Vermont boosts staff for contract tracing amid rise in cases

September 15, 2021 GMT

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — Vermont is boosting staff for contract tracing amid a recent rise in COVID-19 cases, state officials said.

The state had hired a contractor in the spring to allow some state workers who had been doing contract tracing to return to their jobs, said Human Services Secretary Mike Smith during the governor’s weekly virus briefing on Tuesday.

“The contract calls for them to increase their workforce as COVID-positive case counts rise. Recently, they failed to do that sufficiently leaving the state to fill the gap,” he said.

In response, as of Tuesday, the state has increased its staffing to 104 full-time equivalent employees doing contract tracing and other related duties, including reaching out to close contacts and to businesses and schools, Smith said.

“We will continue to add state workers, our National Guard service members and additional contracted employees as needed,” he said.

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In other pandemic-related news:

Vermonters who want to be tested for COVID-19 are urged to again make appointments rather than walk into a test site, as the state investigates reports of delays in receiving results amid a recent surge in cases, officials said.

“Now we are transitioning back to appointments because just showing up in a higher demand environment causes people to wait,” said Human Services Secretary Mike Smith Tuesday during the governor’s weekly coronavirus briefing.

Testing reservations can be made on the Health Department and pharmacy websites.

The state is also working to expand weekly surveillance testing in schools, Smith said.

“Many school districts expressed an interest in participating in this new program,” he said. By the end of September more than 101 schools, representing more than 37% of school districts, will have testing programs and 50 more schools are expected to start operating testing programs by mid-October, he said.

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THE NUMBERS

Vermont reported 139 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, for a statewide total since the pandemic began of over 30,580.

One death was reported, bringing the total to 291. Three deaths were reported on Tuesday.

A total of 39 people were hospitalized with COVID-19, including ten who were in intensive care, the Vermont Health Department reported Wednesday.

The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Vermont has risen over the past two weeks from 137.57 on Aug. 30 to 150.14 on Sept. 13.

The Associated Press is using data collected by Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering to measure outbreak caseloads and deaths across the U.S.