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Vermont Health Department: Lab Tests for Coronavirus Come Back Negative

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Laboratory test kit for coronavirus - CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • Laboratory test kit for coronavirus

Updated on March 4, 2020.

The Vermont Department of Health Lab has confirmed that three Vermonters tested for coronavirus on Tuesday do not have the infection — meaning the state had no confirmed cases.

State epidemiologist Patsy Kelso said the state expects to perform more tests in the coming days as Vermonters return from regions known to have coronavirus cases. Tuesday’s tests marked the state’s first, though dozens of Vermonters were being monitored for the virus.

“In case there’s a community transmission in Vermont, we’re following CDC guidance about testing people who are sick enough to be hospitalized,” Kelso said. The state will also test patients who have “a strongly suspicious case, even without a travel history,” she added.

The infectious respiratory illness emerged in Wuhan, China, in December and has since infected nearly 90,000 people around the world. Vermont health officials are coordinating with the New Hampshire Department of Health, which has confirmed two “presumptive positive” cases of the virus, known more specifically as COVID-19.

The first patient there, a Dartmouth-Hitchcock medical center employee, had attended an event at the Engine Room, a music venue in White River Junction, last Friday — in violation of orders from the New Hampshire Health Department to "self-isolate." A second New Hampshire resident who came in close contact with the first patient has also tested positive for coronavirus, state officials there said. In a news release Tuesday evening, Vermont health officials urged anyone who attended the White River Junction event to contact them at 802-863-7240, even though they are at low risk of infection.

Brandon Fox, the owner of the Engine Room, said Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business held a social event last Friday night that drew approximately 200 people. New Hampshire's state epidemiologist, Benjamin Chan, informed Fox early Tuesday about an attendee testing positive. The Vermont Department of Health got in touch shortly after, Fox said.

“Right now, we’re just following all of the recommendations and guidance from Vermont, New Hampshire health departments and the CDC and kind of going forward from there,” he said.

Fox filled in the seven employees who had worked last Friday, and the Vermont Department of Health is also keeping tabs on them for a couple of weeks. “They’ll follow up now and probably two weeks later just to make sure everybody is feeling fine," Fox said.

The Engine Room hosted no other events over the weekend, though some are scheduled this week. Fox said he won’t need to close and that a cleaning crew is giving the venue a thorough scrubbing ahead of the next shows.

That includes cleaning all of the venue’s surfaces, floors, counters, doorknobs and bathrooms — “putting a little extra effort in to make sure everything’s really, really clean,” Fox said.

Fox said the health departments assured him his employees were at “low risk — very low risk.”

On Wednesday, Fox changed his mind and canceled this week's shows.

"Ladies and Gentleman: Due to the recent situation regarding The Engine Room and the Coronavirus, We are canceling our Next Three Events including Tonight's event," he wrote on Facebook. "Sorry for any inconvenience, but we feel this is the best thing to do."

Vermont is currently monitoring 84 people who may have been exposed to coronavirus through travel or by contact with a known infected person. Rice Memorial High School told parents on Monday that Latin students at the South Burlington school who had traveled to Italy would be monitored at home until March 9. Seventeen others have completed monitoring, according to the department's website.

Sasha Goldstein contributed reporting.