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Emergency Order Extended, COVID Grants Announced For Health Care, Dairy Farms

Gov. Scott at COVID news briefing
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ORCA media
At his Tuesday news briefing, Gov. Phil Scott said Vermont will continue to cautiously re-open, while learning from the experiences of other states.

With COVID-19 cases exploding in the South and West, Gov. Phil Scott says despite the state’s success in containing the disease, Vermonters must remain vigilant and learn hard lessons from states that reopened too soon.

The governor said at his Tuesday news briefing that he will extend an emergency order first imposed in March.

“If you use common sense and [we] take responsibility for ourselves, we can continue to safely and methodically restart our economy without losing ground,” he said.

He added:  “And this second potential wave, or whatever is happening throughout the country right now, we'll learn from this as well, and hopefully not make the same mistakes.”

"This second potential wave, or whatever is happening throughout the country right now, we'll learn from this as well, and hopefully not make the same mistakes." - Gov. Phil Scott

Health Commissioner Mark Levine said Vermont continues to see new cases, including four on Monday. He said the Health Department is tracking a possible COVID-19 outbreak in the Manchester area. But he said preliminary test results need to be confirmed before he can give an accurate count of how many people are infected.

A health clinic in Manchester screened people with an "antigen” test, according to Levine. The commissioner said that type of test can yield false negative results, so the state will conduct additional testing Wednesday in Londonderry.

“There's been reports of over 30 positive antigen tests in that region,” Levine said. “We are encouraging all of them, as well as all of the others who want to be tested, to come to a pop-up tomorrow [Wednesday] in Londonderry at the Flood Brook School.”

More from Vermont Edition: Vermont Deputy Health Commissioner On Staying Safe This Summer

Southwestern Vermont Health Care also plans to hold a COVID-19 testing site Wednesday at Riley Rink in Manchester from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. 

“We anticipate that confirmed positive cases will increase substantially over the next several days,” Dr. Trey Dobson, the center's chief medical officer, said in an email. “We are working hard to ensure the most accurate test is available for patients. We need all of the information we can get and everyone’s cooperation to limit the impact.”

In response to the Manchester situation, Administration officials at the governor's briefing also stressed the need for people to self-quarantine if they travel to Vermont from places with high rates of infection.

Human Services Secretary Mike Smith said he’s worried that people come to Vermont, don’t quarantine, but instead choose to party with others. He said he doesn’t have specifics, but behavior may have contributed to the COVID outbreak in the Manchester area.

"I have seen travel to what I would call hot spots, and then [people] returning to Vermont, and then not quarantining. And that is something that is of concern." - Secretary of Human Services Mike Smith

“It's no specific case; it's just some random cases that I have seen, including some recent ones, where I have seen travel to what I would call hot spots, and then returning to Vermont, and then not quarantining,” he said. “And that is something that is of concern.’

The Scott Administration Tuesday also announced a pair of grant programs designed to help farmers and health care providers.

Agriculture Secretary Anson Tebbetts said Vermont has lost 25 dairy farms since March. He said that COVID-19 made a bad situation for farms worse, as demand for dairy products plummeted when schools and restaurants closed.

More From VPR: 'They Should Include Us': Vermont's Immigrant Farmworkers Push For Coronavirus Aid

“That's in four months, we lost 25,” he said. “And the rolling average before the COVID was 1.4 farms lost per month. So you can see this has been a direct result of what happened when the markets went away for our dairy farms.”

"In four months, we lost 25 [dairy farms]. And the rolling average before the COVID was 1.4 farms lost per month. So you can see this has been a direct result of what happens when the markets went away for our dairy farms." - Agriculture Secretary Anson Tebbetts

The $25 million program is available to dairy farms and processors. The grants are funded with federal COVID relief money.

More from VPR: Farmers Seek Financial Help As COVID-19 Piles New Pressure On An Already Stressed Industry

Human Services Secretary Mike Smith also announced a $275 million grant program for the health care industry. He said the grants will help providers across the health care sector, regardless of size, although he knows the money won’t be enough to cover all their losses.

“It's going out to the whole health care industry... from long term care facilities, to hospitals, to dentists, to all sorts of providers that are out there that are eligible for this,” he said. “That's why I said, 'Please apply,' as we move forward.”

Smith said the grants will not be awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. Instead, he said agency staff will make awards based on need.

More from Vermont Edition: Dumped Milk, Falling Prices, Shrinking Demand: Vermont Dairy And The Coronavirus

Update July 14, 8:10 pm. Story updated to include addional pop-up testing site Wednesday. 

Have questions, comments or tips? Send us a message or get in touch with reporter John Dillon @VPRDillon.

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