The Word in the House 3/12/2020 - Vermont Prepares for COVID-19

Note: This article did not appear in the March 12, 2020 issue of The Citizen as planned It will be replaced for publication on March 20th by an updated version written on March 13th as the Legislature adopted COVID-19 economic relief provisions before taking a 1-week recess to reduce exposure of members to the virus.

As Town Meeting discussion turned to the Advisory motions last Tuesday, the question of what Vermont is doing in the face of the novel Corona virus (COVID-19) was asked.  The Vermont Department of Health is monitoring the situation and is actively planning for any outbreak of the virus in the state, but at this time there is no appropriation in the budget to address the virus specifically. After speaking with a member of the Appropriations Committee, I have been advised that the appropriations for the Department of Health has funding for such emergency situations. As the budget makes its way through the House in the next two weeks and through the Senate after that, any funds allocated by the federal government to address the situation will be included.  In the meantime, Vermonters can keep abreast of the Health Department's evolving COVID-19 response at

The Health Department website states that it is closely monitoring the developments in the outbreak of respiratory illness caused by a novel (new) coronavirus and is prepared to respond to protect and support Vermonters. More than 200 people are being monitored by the Health Department throughout Vermont.
On March 8th one known case of coronavirus was confirmed in the Bennington area, and the patient is being treated at the Southwestern Medical Center Hospital in Bennington.

Governor Phil Scott in a press conference on Friday, March 6th, announced that the State will ensure that anyone who meets the medical requirements for testing for COVID-19 can be tested at no cost. Vermont health insurers are directed to waive any out-of-pocket costs for COVID-19 testing, and those insured by Medicare and Medicaid will also be covered.  Also, the cost of testing for the 3% of Vermonters who do not have health care coverage will also be absorbed by state government. For more information, contact Stephanie Brackin, Department of Financial Regulation, at 802-828-4872.

Health Commissioner Mark Levine, MD, reminds us that the most important thing for Vermonters to do is to take action to help prevent the spread of respiratory illness:
  • Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water aren’t available.
  • Cough or sneeze into your sleeve or a tissue, not your hands.
  • Stay home when you’re sick, especially with a fever, except to get medical care.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Routinely clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
  • And get your flu shot – flu is still widespread in Vermont.
Also, prepare yourselves and your families for the possibility that you might need to stay home for a few weeks. The situation is fluid, so use the local news media and the Health Department website to stay informed.

I welcome your emails (, phone calls (802-233-5238), or in-person contacts.