VT and NH Health Officials Working Together to Trace Contacts of NH COVID-19 Case

News Release

For Immediate Release: March 3, 2020

Media Contact:
Ben Truman │ Vermont Department of Health
802-951-5153 / 802-863-7281
bennett.truman@vermont.gov

VT and NH Health Officials Working Together to Trace Contacts of NH COVID-19 Case

Three Vermonters, unrelated to cases in NH, test negative for COVID-19

BURLINGTON, VT – With the news on March 2 that a New Hampshire resident, who had been directed to self-isolate based on the individual’s travel and symptoms, has now tested positive for the novel coronavirus COVID-19, Vermont Department of Health epidemiologists have been working closely with the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services to trace contacts to identify and monitor any Vermont resident who may have been in close contact with the individual.

In addition to the contact tracing being conducted in collaboration with New Hampshire health officials, Vermont health officials are also calling for people to self-identify to support this work. While under New Hampshire officials’ direction to self-isolate, the individual attended a private, invitation-only function at the Engine Room in White River Junction on the evening of Friday, February 28. Upon learning of this situation, the Vermont Health Department worked with the company to ensure proper cleaning and sanitizing efforts were carried out to prevent spread. 

Vermont health officials are asking any Vermont resident who was at the Engine Room on the evening of February 28 to call the Health Department at 802-863-7240. “People in this situation – with only minimal possible contact with a case – are still considered to be at low risk for infection, but out of an abundance of caution the department is seeking contact from anyone in attendance,” said Health Commissioner Mark Levine, MD.

Vermonters who were in close contact with New Hampshire COVID-19 cases will be monitored by Vermont Health Department. If a person being monitored develops symptoms, they will be further advised to update the Health Department and also reach out to their health care provider to determine if medical evaluation is needed. Vermont health officials are using guidance that is complementary to CDC’s updated Person Under Investigation (PUI) guidance, for greater flexibility to enhance the state’s surveillance for COVID-19. 

WHAT DOES MONITORING MEAN?

Monitoring means having a person check their own temperature daily, watch for symptoms of respiratory illness and, for some people, asking them to limit their movements for a period of up to 14 days. If a person develops respiratory symptoms, they will be guided to medical treatment and tested for COVID-19 by the Health Department Laboratory if their health care provider decides it is appropriate.

Additional guidance can be found at healthvermont.gov/covid19.

CURRENT COVID-19 STATUS IN VERMONT

As of March 3, there are no known cases of people with COVID-19 in Vermont and the risk to residents generally is still low at this time, but health officials expect there will be cases in our state. The Health Department is currently monitoring 84 people who have recently returned from travel in the affected countries of South Korea, Italy, Iran, Japan and China – and will now begin monitoring anyone who has had close contact with the individual in New Hampshire. Seventeen people have completed monitoring so far without any signs of illness.

In addition, three Vermonters who had symptoms that are consistent with COVID-19 have been tested at the Health Department Laboratory. All three tests have been negative for COVID-19.

While this appears to be the first case of COVID-19 that may affect Vermonters locally, more cases are expected. The Health Department, in collaboration with federal, state, and local partners, is working to prepare. At the direction of Governor Phil Scott, Vermont Emergency Management has assembled an interagency task force to support the overall public health response and further prepare for the likelihood of COVID-19 cases in Vermont. 

The Vermont Department of Health routinely coordinates with neighboring state health departments on public health investigations, including situations that cross state borders. The Health Department is in close communication with the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services regarding Vermont residents who may have come in contact with the New Hampshire COVID-19 case. 

PREVENTATIVE MEASURES VERMONTERS SHOULD TAKE

Because COVID-19, and all respiratory illnesses, are most commonly spread through respiratory droplets, the Health Department is urging everyone to take the same precautions as those recommended to prevent the spread of influenza.

“Taking simple everyday actions will help prevent or slow the spread of respiratory illnesses like influenza and COVID-19, at work, at home, and in our communities” said Dr. Levine. “Wash your hands often and well, cover your cough with a tissue or your sleeve, avoid contact with people who are sick, stay home when you are sick, and clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces."

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