Two Vermonters who tested positive for COVID-19 have died. Gov. Phil Scott and Health Commissioner Mark Levine announced the first coronavirus-related deaths in the state at a hastily arranged press conference Thursday night.
Two elderly residents died on Thursday. One was a Windsor County man who was treated at the Veterans Affairs Hospital in White River Junction, and one was a woman who lived at the Burlington Health and Rehab nursing home.
Both were “very elderly" according to Levine. He also said the cases are not believed to be travel-related.
“There is no doubt this is sad for all of us, but it’s not unexpected news,” Scott said from the Department of Health offices in Burlington.
The state's epidemiology team was conducting exams and tests of staff and other residents at Burlington Health and Rehab on Thursday, Levine said.
The news comes less than two weeks after the first diagnosed case was announced in Vermont. By today, the state had 22 cases after conducting 667 COVID-19 tests.
“I know some are feeling very scared, worried, overwhelmed,” Scott said. “I want you all to know we will get through this. At times like this, Vermonters rise to the occasion, we help our neighbors and we get creative. We will get through this and we will do it together.”
Connecticut is the only other New England state to register a death due to COVID-19. It has recorded three.
“These deaths — and I hope we will experience no more — highlight how extremely important it is for all of us, young and old, to take extra care to protect those most vulnerable to serious illness,” Levine said.
Pressed about whether Vermont has enough hospital beds, ventilators and other equipment to deal with a possible surge in patients in the coming weeks, Levine said, “If there’s a scenario we're planning for, it’s a worst-case scenario.”
Scott said he will hold another press conference Friday to provide more details about the state’s response to the global pandemic.