This is an excerpt from the Final Reading of Friday, Feb. 28. John Walters is a political columnist for VTDigger.
Twenty-four hours after Gov. Phil Scott could speak only in generalities about the state’s response to a potential coronavirus outbreak, administration officials held a Friday afternoon press conference to provide a more comprehensive picture.
The biggest news to emerge was Scott’s order to create an interagency task force to coordinate the response to coronavirus, which is formally known as COVID-19. Vermont’s Director of Emergency Management Erica Bornemann said the governor issued that order Thursday. Scott did not mention this action at his Thursday afternoon press conference.
“The composition of the task force is still under development,” Bornemann said. She added that the task force will recommend appropriate steps in addition to established state emergency plans.
At his Thursday presser, Scott said his administration is “working every day on this, and have been for the last few weeks.” Otherwise his answers amounted to a public health pamphlet: Be aware of people around you, cough or sneeze into your sleeve or shoulder, stay home if you’re sick, and wash your hands frequently.
“Treat this like the flu,” he said. Experts have said COVID-19 is much more deadly than a typical flu.
Dr. Mark Levine, state health commissioner, told reporters that there were “no cases in Vermont.” The governor’s Twitter feed used the same language. When asked if it would be more accurate to say there are “no known cases in Vermont,” Levine agreed. But he defended his use of the more definitive phrase. “The definition of a ‘case’ includes appropriate travel history,” Levine explained. “The initial wave of travelers has been checked. I feel the systems in place have been quite good, and our precautions reasonably effective.”
There was talk of contingency plans for closing spaces where large numbers of people gather, including schools, rallies, concert halls and sports events. Levine said he and Scott have the authority to close any such places. There’s also a location known to be a great place to get sick: the Statehouse. “We work closely with the Capitol Police and the sergeant-at-arms,” Bornemann said. “There is no current plan to disrupt the session. We’re not at that point yet.”
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Some health experts would say that the time is now — to have plans in place before they become necessary. “That’s why the governor is convening the task force,” Bornemann replied.
The administration’s coronavirus response remains a work in progress. But in the last 24 hours, it seems to have kicked into a higher and more urgent gear.
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- Analysis | The Health 202: Los Angeles is racing to discover the true coronavirus infection rate – The Washington Post
- Some Public Health Officials Not Releasing Coronavirus Hospitalizations : Shots – Health News – NPR
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- Lost Your Health Insurance During the COVID-19 Crisis? Here Are Your Options – The Motley Fool
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