Vermont relaxes Covid-19 masking and isolation guide
Vermont relaxes Covid-19 masking and isolation guide

Vermont relaxes Covid-19 masking and isolation guide

Lieutenant Andrew Provost of the Vermont Air National Guard fires a shot at a Covid-19 vaccination clinic hosted by the Vermont Health Equity Initiative focusing on BIPOC households in Burlington on Saturday, February 12, 2022. Photo by Glenn Russell / VTDigger

The Covid-19 guidelines are changing – but like the virus, they have not completely disappeared.

From Monday d. recommendations from the Vermont Department of Health have relaxed. Masks are no longer widely recommended, according to the state, and guidelines on isolation and quarantine have been minimized. The National Board of Health now recommends that people who test positive isolate themselves for five days without further testing or masking recommendations.

“The Covid-19 virus will be with us for a long time,” says the new guide. “Mounters have the necessary tools to protect themselves and others from getting or spreading the virus.”

The changes follow updates in late February from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Federal guidance is now dependent on a new set of measurements, called “levels of society”Which takes into account hospital capacity as well as case rates.

Under the heading that has drawn mixed reactions from some public health experts, specific Covid precautions are not currently recommended in most of the country.

As the Omicron rise continues to slow, both state and federal health authorities are signaling that it is safe to return to most pre-pandemic behaviors. But there are key nuances and certain exceptions to the latest guidance. Below are answers to frequently asked questions about the changing recommendations.

When should I wear a mask?

Masks are optional for Vermonters in almost every setting, according to the health department.

“As the level of serious illness is low in our society, each person can decide whether to take precautions based on their own level of personal risk,” says the new guide.

A person can be considered higher risk if they are elderly or immunocompromised, if they have certain health conditions, or if they spend time with high-risk or unvaccinated people. (Children under 5 years of age are still not eligible for the Covid vaccine.)

Local mesh mandates remain in force in certain Vermont municipalities, including Williston, Richmond and Norwich. However, most cities appear to be ready to abandon these measures soon, and any remaining local mandates will automatically expire at the end of April under state law.

Companies are still allowed to demand masks if they choose.

Masks are also required in public transportation, at airports and in other transit hubs to at least April 18thaccording to the CDC and the Federal Transportation Security Agency.

The CDC also recommends this people in health care – including home health, hospitals, nursing homes and long-term care facilities – continue to take precautions, including wearing masks.

What does the CDC recommend?

Under the new CDC heading, masks and other protective measures will still be recommended when the societal level of Covid-19 in a given county is assessed as “high”.

But Vermont officials have said they do not intend to issue guidelines that apply to some counties and not others. Instead, the new guidelines apply nationwide – meaning the state does not currently recommend masking, even in counties that show “high” levels of Covid on the CDC map.

As of March 10, Rutland County still reported “high” CDC community levels of Covid-19, while the rest of the state was “medium.”

The agency also recognizes that some people may choose to continue masking.

“At all levels, people can wear a mask based on personal preferences, informed about personal risk level. People with symptoms, a positive test, or exposure to someone with COVID-19 should wear a mask,” the CDC says.

Should my child wear a mask at school or childcare?

That decision is up to parents, students and local school districts.

The state no longer recommends that school districts maintain masking rules from March 14 and more districts dropped their restrictions before that date.

Officials in these districts have stressed that masking will be optional, recognizing that many students and their families may choose to continue wearing masks.

All other Covid guidelines for schools have been repealed, according to one March 3 note from the Vermont Agency of Education. Instead, the same guidelines for the Public Health Agency apply to people in schools.

Is it safe to gather indoors with other households?

There are currently no recommendations regarding indoor gatherings. These fall under the state’s guidance on general Covid precautions – you can choose to wear a mask or avoid large gatherings if you are at higher risk.

When should I be tested?

The National Board of Health recommends being tested if you have covid-19 symptoms, or if you are not up to date on vaccinations and become a close contact to someone who has tested positive.

Free trial is still available at government clinics, pharmacies and some healthcare providers. Quick tests at home can be bought at pharmacies, and all households can order two packages with four lightning tests for free from the US Postal Service.

What should I do if I test positive?

Stay home and isolate yourself for five days, according to the new guide. You can safely leave your home after day five if your symptoms improve and you do not have a fever.

If you are at higher risk and show symptoms – specifically if you are over 65 or have a high-risk illness – contact your doctor to discuss treatment options. Call 211 if you do not have a health nurse.

What has not changed?

The recommendation that all Vermonters keep up to date with their Covid vaccinations. Health experts and officials agree that vaccines continue to provide the strongest protection against serious illness and death from Covid-19.

Booster shots are available to anyone over the age of 12 who received their second dose of Pfizer or Moderna vaccines at least five months ago or received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine at least two months ago.

Vaccines are available free of charge at clinics, pharmacies and healthcare providers across the state.

Will these recommendations change again?

Maybe. Health authorities have left the door open to change recommendations based on the circumstances.

“If we’ve learned anything about COVID-19 over the last two years, it’s that the virus is good for developing,” Health Commissioner Mark Levine said Monday in a press release announcing the new guidelines.

“With many increases and new variants, almost all of us have been affected in some way, and too many have suffered serious illness and tragic losses,” Levine said. “I hope we are finally nearing the end of the pandemic, but that will only be the case if people are concerned about their safety and activities – and keep up to date with vaccinations.”


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