Health Department Reports Five New Coronavirus Cases | Off Message

Health Department Reports Five New Coronavirus Cases


Workers at the Vermont Health Department lab - OLIVER PARINI
  • Oliver Parini
  • Workers at the Vermont Health Department lab
The Vermont Department of Health on Tuesday evening announced five new cases of COVID-19, the largest jump in diagnoses since the state's first case on March 7. The state now has 17 cases.

Two of the new patients are Vermont residents. One is a man "over the age of 80" who resides in a long-term care facility and is being treated at the University of Vermont Medical Center. The second is a Windsor County woman in her 70s who is hospitalized at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center in New Hampshire, according to health department spokesperson Ben Truman.

The remaining three cases are not Vermont residents, he said.

The health department didn't include these patients when it posted updated numbers Tuesday afternoon. At that point, the department had adopted a new protocol to only post cases among Vermonters; data on nonresidents would be collected but not reported publicly, Truman said then.

Vermont Department of Health data on Tuesday afternoon - SCREENSHOT
  • Screenshot
  • Vermont Department of Health data on Tuesday afternoon
But the department reversed course within hours. The department's COVID-19 site now labels these patients as "additional cases testing positive in Vermont."

"A lot of this has to do with the evolving nature of the spread of COVID-19 in the state," Truman said Tuesday evening, explaining the decision to post more data. "And as we can see how everything has been going simply in the last 24 hours, this is a vastly changing situation."
Data on Tuesday evening - SCREENSHOT
  • screenshot
  • Data on Tuesday evening
Truman initially told Seven Days that the reporting protocol aligned with that of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which he said reports cases based on a person's state of residence, not their location.

"Someone from out of state could be here, they get sick, they get tested, they go home," Truman said, adding that publishing the data could cause Vermonters to unfairly and inaccurately blame out-of-staters for the infection's spread.

On Sunday, nonresidents comprised half of Vermont's total eight cases. Seven Days and other outlets reported that ski towns were bustling with out-of-staters despite resorts being closed for business.
Truman said the health department is still determining the best way to present data so that Vermonters are informed of the virus' spread.

"The effort is to be as transparent as possible, respecting people's personal health information and providing the information that Vermonters need to have," he said.

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