What Did Vermont Get Right in Coronavirus Fight? Fauci Hails State With Lowest Cases in Continental US

Dr. Anthony Fauci has praised Vermont for its response to the COVID-19 pandemic, describing it as a model for other parts of the country.

Fauci, a member of the White House coronavirus task force and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), appeared at a COVID-19 briefing held by Governor Phil Scott on Tuesday.

Scott said Vermont continues to have the lowest positivity rate in the country, at around 0.2 percent, and the lowest number of cases per capita. Growth rates have remained at around one percent for months.

The state has reported a total of 58 deaths, 1,702 cases and 1,524 recoveries, with two people currently in hospital, the Vermont Department of Health's COVID-19 dashboard updated on Tuesday showed. Vermont has the lowest number of cases in the continental U.S., and is among the states with the lowest death rate.

Scott said case numbers have so far been kept low as large numbers of Vermonters have gone back to work, without having to "backtrack and close down sectors." Following the advice of health professionals, he said schools were re-opened last week, with about 70 percent of schools remote for three or more days per week.

Following Scott's remarks, Fauci said he had been trying "very hard" over the past few months to communicate to the nation how to restart the economy, get children back to school, and adults to work "in a safe, measured, prudent way."

Fauci said: "Listening to the numbers that you said, I wonder if I could bottle that and take it with me when I go around talking to other parts of the country," adding: "This should be the model for the country, how you've done it."

The NIAID director stressed the importance of reopening the economy from a low baseline of new cases. "When you have a test positivity of 0.2 you are starting the game on your side."

Fauci hailed Vermont for its response to school children getting infected "so it isn't an all-or-nothing phenomenon where when you get a minor setback you don't have to turn the clock back."

Vermont has also rolled out contact tracing, where a public health worker calls those who have tested positive for COVID-19 to identify their close contacts. Masks are required in public when it is not possible to stay 6 feet from others, and those visiting the state must quarantine for 14 days after arrival. They are given the option of having a test on or after day seven of quarantine. The quarantine can be ended early with a negative result.

If other states adopted Vermont's approach, "we can [get through fall and winter and] come out on the other end better off than we went in," Fauci said.

Fauci said there are fundamental principles that should be followed regardless of the location, including the universal wearing of masks, keeping physical distance of 6 feet, avoiding crowds, doing things outdoors as much as possible, and washing hands frequently.

The top immunologist also said the low infection rate in Vermont can't be attributed to low density, as reflected in the low test positivity rate.

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Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks during a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing on June 30, 2020 in Washington, DC. Fauci has praised Vermont's response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Al Drago - Pool/Getty Images