Health Commissioner Mark Levine at SATEC, 10-10-2019

Vermont Health Commissioner Mark Levine speaks during a press conference at the St. Albans Town Educational Center in October.

BURLINGTON – The Vermont Dept. of Health has announced Wednesday a second presumptive positive case of COVID-19 in Vermont, identifying the individual as an older male from Chittenden County.

According to the health department, the patient is now receiving treatment for COVID-19 at the University of Vermont (UVM) Medical Center in coordination with the health department and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Health officials said in a Thursday press conference the man was in “critical condition,” according to statewide media.

“Our highest priority is to provide high-quality care to patients while maintaining a safe workspace for staff. Response protocols have been developed across the UVM Health Network based upon the organization’s significant experience with similar health care scenarios,” the medical center said in a written statement.

In a Wednesday press release, the health department said health officials were investigating the person’s exposure history and are looking to identify anyone who may have been in close contact with him.

Those individuals, according to the health department, will be assessed for their exposure risk and provided health guidance and recommendations for self-isolation or other restrictions.

“We are, first and foremost hopeful for this gentleman’s recovery,” Vermont Health Commissioner Mark Levine said in a statement. “The seriousness of this virus and the rate it is spreading in the U.S. and around the world reinforces the importance of everyone staying informed and following CDC guidance about avoiding crowds, non-essential travel, and other recommended steps for protecting your health and preventing germs from spreading.”

COVID-19 is the disease caused by a novel strain of coronavirus first observed late last year in China.

Symptoms of COVID-19 range from mild flu-like symptoms like fever or coughs to severe and potentially life-threatening symptoms, with health officials saying most cases of COVID-19 will be either mild or moderate.

Wednesday’s announcement comes less than a week after health officials announced the first presumptive positive case of COVID-19 in Vermont.

This weekend, the health department announced an older male from Bennington County had been diagnosed with COVID-19 and was now receiving treatment in an airborne infection isolation room at the Southwestern Vermont Medical Center in Bennington.

As of Thursday afternoon, a popularly-cited dashboard created by the John Hopkins Whiting School of Engineering reported almost 128,000 cases worldwide of COVID-19 since its initial diagnosis in late 2019.

More than half of those diagnosed – 68,000 – have recovered, according to John Hopkins’s dashboard, and more than 4,700 deaths have been attributed to COVID-19.

In light of the virus’s global reach and the amount of confirmed cases, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic Wednesday.

With the diagnosis of a second case of COVID-19 in Vermont, local organizations, including the St. Albans Recreation Department, are cancelling or postponing events to limit the virus’s spread. People planning on attending public events in the area may want to confirm whether those events had been cancelled.

According to a Thursday update from the Vermont health department, the state was monitoring 212 Vermonters for possible COVID-19 exposure.

Of those tested for COVID-19 in Vermont, 97 have tested negative for the virus.

According to health officials, COVID-19 is contagious and can spread through droplets in the air by coughing or sneezing. The virus is also believed to be able to contaminate surfaces as well.

The incubation period for COVID-19 – the period in which symptoms can appear – is thought to be 14 days.

While coronavirus is front and center in the news, we are still in the peak of flu season.

Health officials are advising several steps individuals can take to help limit the spread of COVID-19 and seasonal flu:

  • If you are sick, stay home;
  • Clean your hands frequently – wash your hands and use portable alcohol hand sanitizer before you eat;
  • Cough and sneeze into your arm, not your hands;
  • Don’t touch your face;
  • Avoid crowded spaces; and
  • Avoid traveling to countries the CDC has highlighted as having widespread, sustained transmission.

The Vermont health department is asking those returning to Vermont from areas heavily impacted by an outbreak of COVID-19 – namely China, Iran, Italy, Japan and South Korea – to call the health department at (802) 863-7240.

Earlier this week, Gov. Phil Scott announced the State Emergency Operations Center in Waterbury would be activated to coordinate Vermont’s prevention efforts and response to a potential outbreak of COVID-19.

More information on COVID-19 and Vermont, and additional guidance from the state and CDC, is available online at healthvermont.gov/covid19.

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