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While cases of COVID-19 continue to rise in Vermont, the state's health commissioner said he doesn't see the increase as an indication that the state is "way behind" in its response.

Dr. Mark Levine said he expects to see more positive cases in Vermont, as the state has upped its testing.

There is a "distinct trend going in an upward direction" in the percentage of COVID-19 tests in Vermont that are positive, Levine said during a press conference Wednesday in Montpelier.

Now, it's in the 10-12 percent range, but early on, it was less than 5 percent, he said.

As of early Wednesday afternoon, the Vermont Department of Health reported 321 positive test results of the 4,495 conducted, with 16 deaths. Eighteen cases have been reported in Bennington County, and 16 in neighboring Windham County.

Levine reported that the state has received truckloads of personal protective equipment, and Vermonters are abiding by social distancing requirements set forth by Gov. Phil Scott.

"There are good things happening," he said.

But the state's cases of COVID-19 are increasing, and the country as a whole is in the acceleration phase of a pandemic of COVID-19.

The state opened two additional COVID-19 testing sites, in Essex and Grand Isle counties, to provide more Vermonters with access to testing, according to the Health Department's daily update on Wednesday. The sites are located at the Island Pond Health Center in Island Pond and at the Champlain Islands Health Center in South Hero.

As with other testing sites, people must must have a referral from their health care provider to be tested, and patients who aren't experiencing symptoms won't be tested.

Levine said he is now satisfied that the state has sufficient testing resources, including testing people who are symptomatic, but not severely ill.

"That's the group we really want to capture here," he said. "That will really help us as we begin to understand where we are in the trajectory."

It is possible, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to transmit COVID-19 when one doesn't have symptoms yet, Levine said.

"There's about a 48-hour period before symptoms might appear that someone might be capable of transmitting the disease," he said. "The more important message is that social distancing is really now more important than ever."

Patricia LeBoeuf can be reached at, at @BAN_pleboeuf on Twitter and 802-447-7567, ext. 118.


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