MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) – The nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, Tuesday congratulated Vermonters for their success in slowing the spread of the coronavirus.
Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases and also a member of President Trump’s White House Coronavirus Task Force, joined Vermont officials via Zoom to talk about Vermont’s response.
“I’m sitting here listening to the numbers and I’m wondering if I could take it and bottle that and bring it with me when I go around talking to other parts of the country,” Fauci said.
He says Vermont should be a model for the rest of the country in how to deal with the virus. The state for months has consistently had the fewest cases, the lowest rate of spread, and the lowest positivity rate. The good numbers mean Vermont has not had to re-institute closures like so many other states and has also allowed a return to school for K-12 students.
But as Vermont continues to trend well and state leaders look to further opening the hospitality sector, Fauci warned Vermonters not to become complacent. “It’s going to be challenging when you get into the fall and the winter, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to have a problem if you keep doing the prudent public health measures you keep on doing,” he said.
Vermonters we spoke with agree that the biggest challenge going into the fall will be changing behavior and habits.
“I’ve been slacking off a little bit and I realize I need to get back to staying strict and staying careful around my own family,” said Cynthia Drinkwine of East Montpelier.
Others still think Vermont is opening too quickly. Governor Scott’s concern for commerce in this state — which is a valid concern — but I’m concerned that will override his sense of our safety, » said Andrew Leckerling of Stowe.
As Vermont gears up for the fall foliage season, thousands more are slated to visit the state. Fauci says now is not the time for Vermonters to let their guard down. “This virus is a formidable foe. You give it an opportunity to re-emerge its ugly head, whether you’re in the beautiful rural areas of Vermont or in the Bronx, the virus is going to take advantage of that,” he said.
Fauci said the pushback from a nationwide mask mandate in some parts of the country would make it counterproductive to put in place as well as difficult to enforce.
He says he expects a safe vaccine in November or December and that it should be available early next year. He gave an update on the process. He said there are multiple layers of checkpoints for safety and efficacy. He said he trusts the FDA will do what the science tells them to do and that when a vaccine gets approved he would not hesitate to get it or have his entire family get it.
He largely avoided a question about whether lives would have been saved if the president hadn’t purposely downplayed the seriousness of the virus in recordings just released by reporter Bob Woodward. He said it’s important to look forward and not back.
Vermont Education Secretary Dan French said schools where positive cases were found this week — Hartford and Duxbury — handled it well and he expects a return to “normal” operations soon.
Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine said his team was ready and worked quickly to find anyone who may need to quarantine. He says there are fewer than six cases at Crossett Brook and Hartford High School.
Levine said they have still not found a link to a small bump in COVID cases in Orleans County last week and that no more cases have turned up there.
Area colleges continue to report success in their testing protocols and Levine says officials are upbeat about how the screenings are going.
As of Monday, Vermont health officials have reported a total of 1,696 coronavirus cases in the state and 58 deaths. A total of 151,478 tests have been conducted, 522 travelers are being monitored, 8,287 have completed monitoring and 1,509 have recovered.
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