By MIKE DONOGHUE
Islander Staff Writer
MONTPELIER -- Grand Isle County remains one of two Vermont counties that state officials say does not have a single reported case of the COVID-19 virus.
During a Monday news conference, Health Commissioner Mark Levine said to the best of his knowledge there were still no known cases in the two counties.
The Islander had asked whether the lack of hospitals in both those counties might lead to a false belief of no cases, or that residents with the virus might show up in adjoining Chittenden and Franklin Counties, which have hospitals.
That was later reinforced by Ben Truman, the public health communications officer for the Vermont Health Department.
“I can confirm that as of last night we have zero positive cases identified as GI County residents,” Truman said in an email to The Islander.
He said the Health Department does not know the county of residence for all the cases in Vermont.
“As those are ID’d the map, etc., are updated,” he wrote.
The Vermont Health Department website contains daily updates including statistics. They include a breakdown by counties of the number of confirmed cases. As of Monday, there were 133 in Chittenden County and 11 in Franklin County.
The comments come as Gov. Phil Scott said he was asking out-of-staters arriving in the state and Vermonters returning from winter vacations to self-quarantine for 14 days to help protect the rest of the community.
He said visitors and returning residents should not make any stops along the way, but head to their homes or destinations immediately. Once there they should stay inside for the most part.
Scott is discouraging anybody to come to Vermont from a so-called COVID-19 “hotspot.”
He is especially seeking compliance with the CDC’s Domestic Travel Advisory for New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, which advised residents of those states to refrain from non-essential domestic travel for 14 days.
Levine said as of Monday there were 256 confirmed cases in Vermont, an increase of 21 from the day before.
The number of deaths remained at 12, including seven linked to the Burlington Health and Rehabilitation Center at 330 Pearl Street.
Levine said he is concerned that two deaths have been linked to an Essex Junction apartment complex that serves residents age 55 and older. One was a resident and the other was the significant other of a person that was associated with the complex.
Levine stressed Pinecrest at Essex, which is off Susie Wilson Road, it is not a nursing home, but rather more than 50 apartments designed for older people.
The state said 3,930 tests have been undertaken. There are 219 patients still being monitored. Another 546 have completed monitoring.
State Sen. Dick Mazza, D-Grand Isle/Colchester said last week that construction has been suspended on the new drawbridge between North Hero and Grand Isle on U.S. 2.
Mazza, who chairs the Senate Transportation Committee, said various contractors and the state of Vermont are working together to try to ensure the protection for the work crews. The contractors agreed to halt work, he said.
“They want to stop the virus,” Mazza said.
The senator said some construction sites, including work on a culvert on Interstate 89 near Exit 18 will continue because it is a major safety factor.
Mazza said other road projects will be suspended under Gov. Scott’s “Stay Home, Stay Safe” Executive Order.
Mazza said maintenance work can continue to ensure that roads, and bridges remain safe for drivers.
Transportation Secretary Joe Flynn of South Hero directed the orderly shutdown of all construction projects that are not critical to the public health, safety, or national security.
The shutdown will last until at least April 15 and could be extended by the Governor.