Vermont: Evidence says schools should be able to open
Vermont schools should be able to reopen safely this fall with at least part-time, in-person, learning, but school will not be the way it was before the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Phil Scott said Friday.
Speaking at his regular virus briefing, Scott and health experts said Vermont currently has a low rate of infection with the virus that causes COVID-19 and studies across the world show that children in schools have not been major sources of infections.
“We know we cannot completely shut down while we wait for a vaccine,” Scott said. “We’ve had success with a cautious reopening so far and if we are going to do our best we possibly can for kids, it’s vitally important, based on recommendations from health experts and where we are with the virus today to reopen our schools.”
Dr. William Raszka, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at the University of Vermont Medical Center, said at the event that even if children become infected, they are less likely to develop severe disease and less likely to transmit the virus.
He also highlighted studies from across the world that found schools are not significant sources of infection.
Scott said Vermont’s plans could change depending on the progress of the virus.
The current plan for school reopening includes a combination of in-school and continued remote learning. The plans also call for regular health screenings and temperature checks for students and staff entering schools and facial coverings to minimize the risk of transmission of the virus.
POSSIBLE MANCHESTER OUTBREAK
Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine said experts were continuing to monitor a possible outbreak in the Manchester area that followed 59 people who tested positive for the virus after taking a type of test not considered to be as accurate as that used by the Health Department.
The Health Department has completed retesting 17 of the 59 individuals and two of those tests came back as confirmed cases of the virus that causes COVID-19.
After the 59 cases were reported, the Health Department and the Southwestern Vermont Medical Center from Bennington opened pop-up testing sites beginning Wednesday in Londonderry and Manchester for members of the community to try to determine if the virus had spread.
So far the laboratory has reported that all 405 tests that have been completed came back negative, although testing is continuing and positive tests are possible, Levine said.
“This is a good indication that these cases are not spreading within the community,” Levine said. “Remember, we know of two positive cases.”
The Health Department has reached all but 11 of the 59 people who tested positive. No links between the potential cases have been found.
The Vermont Department of Labor says the state’s unemployment rate dropped to 9.4% in June, down from 12.8% in May.
The June unemployment rates for Vermont’s 17 labor market areas ranged from 7.1% in Newbury to 16.6% in Woodstock
“Unemployment insurance claims continue to be elevated and are providing a more-timely picture of the economic hardship that many Vermonters are facing,” Labor Commissioner Michael Harrington said in a statement. “Until these claim numbers come down, the department will continue our expanded efforts to support claimants and job seekers with employers looking to hire.”
On Friday, the Health Department reported nine new positive cases of the virus that causes COVID-19, bringing the total since the pandemic began to more than 1,330.
It was unclear if the new case number included the two new cases confirmed as part of the possible Manchester outbreak.
The number of deaths from COVID-19 in Vermont remained at 56, where it has been for more than a month.