- Associated Press - Monday, May 4, 2020

Vermont is allowing some elective health care procedures to resume as the state emerges from its COVID-19 shutdown, Gov. Phil Scott announced Monday.

Outpatient clinics and surgeries may resume if the providers and the patients comply with measures designed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

Elective surgeries that require a hospital stay are not yet allowed, the governor said at his weekly news conference.

The resumption of some medical care and other aspects of the state’s reopening is made possible by Vermont’s expanded program to test for new cases of the virus and try to stop its spread.

“As we find an outbreak, like a brush fire, we are able to put it out before an out-of-control forest fire erupts,” Scott said.



Separately Monday, more Vermont construction and manufacturing workers returned to their jobs after Scott loosened some restrictions.

Crews of as many as 10 people may now be on the job as long as they abide by safety measures. Those businesses may expand to full operation on May 11 if they comply with additional safety requirements, Scott said.

In other developments:

EXPANDED TESTING AND TRACING

Vermont Secretary of Human Services Secretary Michael Smith said the new focus on expanded testing of even people who do not show symptoms of COVID-19 and the tracing of the contacts of new cases has helped change the nature of the public health fight against the coronavirus.

“We are going out and hunting for this virus and using it whenever we find hot spots, through tracing, through testing, to really pounce on trying to contain this virus,” Smith said during the governor’s briefing.

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REGIONAL BUYERS GROUP

Scott said Monday he was surprised to learn about the seven-state group to buy personal protective equipment and other medical equipment that was announced Sunday by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The consortium announced by Cuomo will create a regional supply chain for masks, gowns, ventilators, testing supplies and other equipment vital to fighting the disease.

Last month, after Cuomo proposed an earlier buying consortium, New York did not initially reach out to Vermont, but the next day New York officials reached out to Vermont to apologize, Scott said.

“We said at that point, we’d love to be a part of at least being at the table to understand what they’re doing,” Scott said, because what happens in New York does affect neighboring Vermont.

He said he didn’t have an answer as to why they weren’t included.

“It’s probably an oversight in that they didn’t include us, but at this point we’re trying to work with other states here in our region as well,” Scott said.

A spokesman for Cuomo did not immediately return an email seeking comment.

Separately, Vermont officials have said they have been able to find sufficient stocks of protective equipment and virus testing supplies and Vermont has been working with other states.

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CORRECTIONS

The Vermont Department of Corrections says a second round of testing of 155 inmates and 154 staff at the Northwest State Correctional Facility in St. Albans found seven new positive inmates and one positive staff member.

They were all in a section of the prison that only housed inmates who had been potentially exposed to 38 inmates who had previously tested positive for the virus.

All inmates who tested positive were transferred to the Northeast Correctional Complex in St. Johnsbury, where they could be isolated together.

So far, 45 inmates have tested positive at Northwest State. Of those, 23 have recovered and returned to the St. Albans prison. Four have been released. Eighteen, including the seven new cases, are isolated in St. Johnsbury.

“It is too early to fully understand the data we are receiving on test results, but early indications are that the unprecedented infrastructure built to manage the pandemic is showing success,” interim Corrections Commissioner Jim Baker said in a statement.

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NUMBERS

The Vermont Department of Health on Monday reported five new cases of the virus as the total topped 900. The number of deaths held steady at 52.

For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness.

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