Were you at any of these events? Vermont wants you to get tested for COVID-19

As positive COVID-19 cases continue to spike in Vermont, state officials are urging people who attended several recent events to get tested.

Vermont saw another record high one-day case increase on Thursday, reporting 116 new cases. This was the second day in a row that new case counts had set a record with the highest daily increases since the pandemic started in March. 

On Friday, the state reported another 84 positive cases, bringing the three-day total to 278. As of Friday, 21 people have been hospitalized for the virus.

State officials have said the recent outbreaks are being caused by Vermonters traveling out of state and disregarding quarantine rules upon return or attending small social gatherings such as baby showers, Halloween parties, and deer camp while failing to wear masks or socially distance.

A University of Vermont Health Network critical care team conducts drive-up testing for Covid-19 at the Essex fairgrounds in Essex Junction, Vt., on Monday, March 16, 2020. Patients must be referred by their doctor to undergo testing.

What are the events that state officials have zeroed in on? 

Vermont health officials pointed out several events that may have been the origin of outbreaks recently. They are: 

  • Two Halloween parties on Oct. 31 — one in Marshfield and another in Milton. 
  • Members of bowling leagues who played at Spare Time in Colchester on Nov. 4 and Nov. 5. 

Non-compliance with contact tracing is ‘how an outbreak starts’

Health officials say they’ve been unsuccessful in getting all the information they need about those events as they work to contain the outbreaks and stop community spread. New rules issued by Gov. Phil Scott on Friday require Vermonters to answer or return calls from contact tracers, provide full and truthful information to them, and comply with recommended quarantine or isolation. 

Failure to abide by these rules may result in referral to the Vermont Attorney General’s Office, the order states.

In some cases, particularly with the recent Halloween parties, people who were contact traced failed to answer the phone when the Health Department called or did not provide fully truthful information to the contact tracers, Agency of Human Services Secretary Mike Smith said Friday.

Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine said virus suppression efforts rely heavily on the cooperation of Vermonters who have tested positive and their close contacts.

“When the contact tracing team is not getting the information it needs, then people who may have been exposed to the virus and don’t know it might be unintentionally transmitting it to others,” Levine said. “That’s how an outbreak starts.” 

Unidentified lab specialists test submitted samples for coronavirus at the Vermont Department of Health Laboratory in Colchester on Friday, March 13, 2020.
The lab is separated from other parts of the building by a thick window.

Find a testing site

People who attended any of the events specified by state officials can find a testing site at healthvermont.gov/covid-19.

In the meantime, state officials are reminding people of the guidelines they should follow as the pandemic continues through a rhyming mantra: “masks on faces, 6-foot spaces, uncrowded places.”

Contact Elizabeth Murray at 802-651-4835 or emurray@freepressmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter at @LizMurrayBFP.