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COVID model shows 50% of Vermont can return to work

The state’s COVID-19 projections show that if Vermont can strengthen or maintain measures like contact tracing, testing and mask-wearing, 50% of the workforce can return to their workplace, according to a presentation at a press conference Friday.
Department of Financial Regulation Commissioner Michael Pieciak presented the latest figures and said they continued to show positive signs for slowing the growth of COVID-19 in Vermont.
“Under this scenario, we see that it is possible for us to strategically reopen our economy without seeing concerning trends in hospital demand throughout the summer,” he said.
The projections came as the state announced new reopening measures: Opening childcare centers and summer camps under strict guidelines. But the state still expects many people who work remotely to continue doing so, Pieciak said.
“A great percentage of our workforce can work remote and do their work like we do at our department, and most of the state government is doing,” he said.
He said the state also needs to continue monitoring several metrics that so far have shown positive signs: The growth rate of the virus, the number of people in doctors’ offices with COVID-like symptoms, the test positivity rate and the hospital usage.
The Department of Health reported three new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, giving an average of 6.6 new cases per day so far this month. The case growth rate has continued to mostly decline since mid-April, according to the state data.
As of Friday, five people were hospitalized for COVID-19 and another 10 were hospitalized with symptoms but waiting on test results, according to the Department of Health. Pieciak said the state’s hospitalization numbers were within the capacity of the system to treat patients.
The amount of testing and the test positivity rate have been cited as two important factors for reopening the state. A recent study by the Harvard Global Health Institute found that Vermont has been conducting 56 tests per 100,000 residents per day — below the target it estimates the state needs to hit to reopen.
However, Vermont has promised to step up its testing, and recent days seem to indicate it has. The state reported 557 new tests on Friday and 575 tests the day before — a relatively high number compared to the 350 tests per day Harvard estimated it had been doing. It’s unclear whether that trend will continue.
The state also has a relatively low positive test rate, with less than 2% of recent tests coming back positive. The Harvard study said that Vermont’s positivity rate was within its target to reopen the state.
Pieciak said the hard work of Vermonters complying with social distancing rules was responsible for the signs of a virus slowdown.
“I would like to thank Vermonters for their extraordinary efforts in combating the virus together,” he said. “You have made Vermont a standout, certainly in the Northeast and across the country, because of everyone’s individual efforts and sacrifices.”

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