by Meghan Wayland
NEWPORT CITY — The Walgreens in Newport’s Waterfront Plaza closed last Wednesday, June 17, for deep cleaning when a staff member was suspected of having COVID-19. According to company officials, the staff member later tested negative and the store reopened the following day.
Company spokesman Erin Loverher wrote in an email Friday that when Walgreens became aware a staff person was being “evaluated for COVID 19,” the company policy was to follow established protocols, the recommendations of the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and act “out of an abundance of caution.
“We temporarily closed the store for cleaning in order to disinfect the premises,” she said.
Ms. Loverher said “when notified of a confirmed or presumed positive COVID-19 case,” Walgreens, headquartered in Deerfield, Illinois, takes actions “meeting or exceeding recommendations” from the CDC, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and state and federal public health officials.
Anyone who came in contact with the presumed infected employee was contacted, according to Ms. Loverher, “in order to self-quarantine or self-monitor their health.”
At Monday’s press conference, state officials urged Vermonters to continue to work together to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“The sun is shining, the weather is hot, and it’s summer vacation season,” said Health Commissioner Mark Levine, “but the novel coronavirus has failed to take notice of that. It is here and doesn’t seem to be going anywhere.”
The only thing that has changed, he said, is an overall breakdown in the willingness of the public to follow guidance such as avoiding mass gatherings and wearing face coverings.
“We must continue to follow four rules of thumb: Stay home if you’re sick, wash your hands like crazy, physically distance from others and wear face coverings if you can.”
Vermonters should continue to protect the most vulnerable and prevent community spread, Dr. Levine said.
Governor Phil Scott agreed the state will continue to see new cases and outbreaks — it’s the nature of the virus, he said, and a second wave of infections has been predicted since early in the pandemic.
Dr. Levine also provided an update on the ongoing outbreak that first emerged in Winooski. There are now 110 cases associated with the outbreak, 65 percent of them adults. The Health Department has identified 126 contacts, 19 of which have gone on to become cases.
“We are also involved in small investigations in Rutland and Windham counties and are setting up a small pop-up test site to meet local needs,” he said Monday.
The number of new cases of the novel coronavirus in Vermont rose by 20 since Friday. The Department of Health reported four new cases Saturday, 12 on Sunday, and four Monday. The new statewide total of confirmed cases since the beginning of the outbreak is 1,163.
There are now 14 cases in Orleans County, up one from last week. Based on the way the state reports data, it is unclear where in the county the new case is located. The following towns are reported as having between one and five past or current COVID-19 cases: Barton, Craftsbury, Derby, Greensboro, Irasburg, Lowell, Newport City, and Newport Town.
No new deaths associated with the illness were reported this week. Since mid-March, 56 people have died with the virus.
The state reported that 58,607 people have been tested for the virus as of Sunday, an increase of 2,720 since Friday and an average of over 900 people each day.