20200423_bta_free vt rally 2

A small group of Vermonters gathered to protest the coronavirus response during a Free VT Rally in Montpelier on Wednesday.

MONTPELIER — The state remains in good shape from the novel coronavirus pandemic, but Gov. Phil Scott remains cautious about opening businesses back up too quickly.

The Vermont Department of Health announced Wednesday five more people have tested positive for the virus that causes COVID-19. The total now stands at 823 cases in the state. There were no new deaths to report, that number remains 40.

Dr. Mark Levine, commissioner of the department, said the state had some data about 29 of those deaths. Health experts have said older residents are most at risk from the respiratory disease. Levine said that’s what’s happening in Vermont. He said of the 29, all but two were older than 65. Typically those who are dying from the virus have some other disease or health issue which contributed to their death. Levine said all of the 29 had a co-morbidity such as heart disease or obesity.

He said 13 were patients in long-term care facilities with ages ranging from 70 to 95 years old. The other 16 had age ranges of 39 to 93. Levine said 60% of the deaths were men, which is in keeping with what’s being reported nationally.

The governor has put in place a “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order which has shut down most nonessential businesses and told people to stay away from each other in an effort to stop the spread of the virus. The order has been in place for over a month and Scott has just recently decided to slightly relax those restrictions. Starting Monday, those working some outdoor jobs with crews of two or less and “low-contact” jobs, such as attorneys and Realtors, were allowed to go back to work.

For some, the governor’s actions have gone too far. A group of about 15 people protested in Montpelier Wednesday the economic shutdown saying what Scott did was “government overreach.”

The governor said no one is more frustrated, or wants to get the economy going again, than him. “But I’m going to continue to make decisions based on the science and what I think is best for Vermont as a whole and the health of Vermonters,” he said.

The governor noted Georgia has decided to open back up despite the pandemic.

“We’ll see how they benefit over the next three or four weeks, or not,” he said.

He said frustration and pressure to start the economy back up can’t be a reason “to do the wrong thing … regardless of the political ramifications.”

eric.blaisdell

@timesargus.com

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