The Vermont Department of Health is asking Vermonters to follow new travel guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The department is requesting that people who return from certain countries affected by the new coronavirus stay home for 14 days to help limit spread of the disease.
The CDC guidance affects travelers returning from countries with a Level 3 Travel Health Notice: currently Italy, Iran, South Korea and China. It only applies to travelers whose last day in those countries was March 4, 2020 or afterward.
Travelers from Level 2 countries – currently Japan – should monitor their health for 14 days after returning to the United States. They are not asked to self-isolate at this time.
Anyone who develops symptoms should contact their health care provider right away. Symptoms may include shortness of breath, cough or fever.
There are no cases of COVID-19 in Vermont at this time, but health officials say that is likely to change.
“For these new returning travelers, we understand and appreciate that staying at home may be difficult, both mentally and logistically,” said Health Commissioner Mark Levine. “But I can’t emphasize enough how important this is for helping prevent the spread of the new coronavirus.”
Vermont officials had been monitoring travelers from affected countries, asking them to check their temperature daily, watch for symptoms, and for some, asking them to stay home. As of March 5, there are 170 people being monitored by the Health Department.
Anyone who has traveled from the affected countries should still call the Health Department at 802-863-7240 as soon as possible, and monitor themselves for symptoms.
“This new guidance may mean additional absences from daily activities, and we appreciate the support of schools and employers to ensure these travelers can remain at home to protect fellow Vermonters,” Dr. Levine said.
Tests for COVID-19 no longer have to be sent to the CDC. Testing is now performed in-state at the public health laboratory. The first results were released Tuesday. So far five people have tested negative for the new coronavirus.
There are now also fewer restrictions on who should be tested. Health care providers will arrange for testing.
In Vermont, the following people can be tested:
Anyone who has symptoms consistent with COVID-19 and is hospitalized
Anyone – whether hospitalized or in an outpatient setting -– who has symptoms consistent with COVID-19 and has travel history to an affected area -or- has had close contact with another person who has tested positive for COVID-19.
Health officials continue to urge Vermonters to stay informed and to take preventive measures to stop the spread of germs, including frequent handwashing, covering coughs and staying home when they are sick.