By MIKE DONOGHUE
Islander Staff Writer
MONTPELIER -- Vermont has 78 cases of out-of-staters, including 49 people from New York State, testing positive for the deadly COVID-19 virus, according to the Vermont Health Department.
The out-of-state numbers were provided to The Islander in response to multiple requests after several questions were raised about conflicting statistics for town and county figures being provided to Vermonters.
The Health Department did acknowledge that the positive out-of-staters were assigned to Vermont counties – apparently where the person was tested.
The Coronavirus disease 2019, abbreviated as COVID-19, is the name for the pandemic that first started to affect people in Wuhan, China in December 2019. The mild to severe respiratory illness was first reported in Vermont in March.
There have been 929 positive cases with 53 deaths in Vermont. The state has recorded 21,676 tests with five people still hospitalized and 12 more under investigation at a hospital, the health department said Wednesday.
There have been eight positive cases in Vermont from people from New Hampshire and Massachusetts, the Health Department said.
Also there have been six positives tests from people that the Health Department said had unknown residences.
As of Tuesday evening 849 of the 927 cases reported in Vermont were residents, the state Health Department said.
The 927 cases also include Vermonters that are temporarily living out of state and have tested positive. These could include winter snowbirds, temporary workers and students.
Racial incident complaint
The issue of out-of-staters was front-and-center as Gov. Phil Scott started his news conference on Wednesday. The Governor reported Vermont State Police are investigating a complaint of possible racial bias for a comments made to a New York family that moved to Windsor County a few months ago.
Gov. Scott said he called the father to offer an apology for the incident reported near the victim’s residence in Hartford on Friday.
The Governor said the victim reported he was told that he did not belong in Vermont and that the Governor did not want the family there.
“This is not OK,” Gov. Scott said.
State police said the victim was driving near his residence in Hartford in his vehicle, which has New York registration plates, when two unknown vehicles, possibly pickup trucks, approached him and flagged him down.
The victim, thinking someone needed assistance, stopped and spoke with a white man. The victim, who is black, was advised he was not wanted in Vermont and told to leave. There were significant racial undertones to the interaction, police said.
The victim, whose 11-year-old son was with him in the vehicle at the time, said he was in fear for their physical safety, police said.
He was able to verbally deescalate the situation and drive home. No physical altercation occurred, police said.
“We can be neighborly and compassionate and still stay safe,” Gov. Scott said. He noted while Vermont tourism is limited now, those with family here or who must travel, are welcome.
“This virus cannot be used as an excuse for bigotry or hatred,” he said. “The common enemy is the virus, not each other.”
Out-of-staters are asked to quarantine for 14 days, but the Vermont borders are not closed. Traffic is free to move in and out.
The state police is investigating with help from Hartford Police and Chief Phillip Kasten.
The name of the victim and family are being withheld for the time being due to safety concerns, police said.
Capt. Garry Scott, the state police director of fair & impartial policing and community affairs, has been in contact with the victim and his family for several days.