Health Care

Can I go to New Hampshire? And other coronavirus questions

Only a few pedestrians walk the Church Street Marketplace in Burlington mid-morning on Wednesday, March 18, 2020. Photo by Glenn Russell/VTDigger

VTDigger is posting regular updates on the coronavirus in Vermont on this page. You can also subscribe here for regular email updates on the coronavirus. If you have any questions, thoughts or updates on how Vermont is responding to COVID-19, contact us at [email protected]

Americans have radically changed their daily routines in the past few weeks in the face of the global coronavirus pandemic.

VTDigger is taking questions from readers about the virus, the policies put in place by state and federal governments, and more.

We are regularly checking in with health experts and public officials about readers’ questions. In this post, find answers about testing for the disease in Vermont and restrictions on movement.

Answers to frequently asked coronavirus questions are here, and responses to reader questions about social distancing and other practices to avoid getting sick are here. Also check out Politifact on coronavirus transmission, seasonality and immunity.

Have a question about the coronavirus or the response here in Vermont? Let us know at [email protected]

Why isn’t VTDigger reporting the locations of the cases identified in Vermont?

VTDigger reports as much as we can about the location of cases in regular updates when the Department of Health announces new cases. We are now tracking cases by county on a map, which will be updated.

State health officials are releasing the county — but not the town — of residence of the people who test positive for the virus. They also identify either the hospital where an individual is being treated or indicate they are in self-quarantine at home. Secretary of Human Services Mike Smith said Friday that the state is trying to balance the personal privacy of people who test positive with the need to be transparent with the public.

Early last week, the health department did not release any location data about some positive tests, in what Smith called a “glitch.” That data has since been released. 

I am coming back from traveling in a high-risk country or state. Can I make an appointment to get tested? What should I do?

If you are coming from an area where COVID-19 is widespread, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advise that you stay home for 14 days, monitor your health, and avoid contact with others. That means not going to work or taking public transportation, and limiting your activities in public.

If you develop symptoms, you should contact your health care provider, Stephanie Brackin of the Vermont Department of Health said. You should also reach out to your doctor if you have symptoms and have been in contact with someone who is known to have COVID-19, or have recently traveled on a cruise.

The Health Department website asks people who are returning from Europe, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Malaysia, China Iran or South Korea to call VDH Epidemiology at (802) 863-7240.

What do I do if I believe I have symptoms but I don’t have a regular health care provider, or my regular health care provider is in a different state?

Call 211. If you don’t have a regular health care provider, 211 can help connect you with a community clinic or hospital-connected clinic. Staff will also ask you about your health insurance and help you understand your options, Brackin said. You can also contact your insurance provider for a referral to private health care providers. 

Are all of our hospitals in Vermont supplied with testing kits?

All hospitals in Vermont can request test kits and other supplies from the Department of Health, according to Brackin.

But, Brackin emphasized, the first step for people who believe they need to be tested is to reach out to their doctor. 

“Whether you need to be tested is determined by your health care provider,” Brackin said. “Not everyone needs to be tested.”

Testing resources are limited. Currently, the Health Department is prioritizing the people who are most vulnerable and health care workers for testing.

Can Vermonters travel to New Hampshire and vice versa right now? Are there restrictions or recommendations about crossing state lines?

There is no prohibition against traveling between Vermont and New Hampshire or any other state.

While the State Department has issued a “Level 4: Do Not Travel” warning against travel outside of the country, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that it “does not generally issue advisories or restrictions for travel within the United States.”

However, the federal agency does have advice for people who are considering travel within the country. Consider things like whether COVID-19 is spreading in the area where you are traveling, and if you will be in close contact with other people while you are there. You should also think about whether you live with someone older or with underlying medical conditions that could make them more vulnerable to COVID-19; if you return from traveling with the virus, they would be at higher risk of picking it up. View the CDC’s full guidance here.

Mark Bosma, of Vermont Emergency Management, notes that people should be aware of restrictions in place in other states — including things like limits on crowd sizes and restrictions on eating in restaurants. In New York, residents will be under a “stay home” order beginning Sunday night. 

Are gyms closed?

Gyms, fitness centers and other exercise facilities must close by 8 p.m. Monday, March 23, under an order Gov. Phil Scott issued Saturday morning.

Many exercise facilities are offering remote alternatives to help people work out from home during the pandemic.

The national YMCA is offering free online exercise classes. Local yoga studios are livestreaming classes on Instagram. Check out your gym or fitness studio’s social media to see whether they’re offering anything online.

Also, enjoy Vermont’s early spring temperatures outside. Running or walking outside is fine — and can be good for mental health, one expert told NPR. Just keep in mind the CDC guidance to keep at least 6 feet from others. That means things like basketball in the park and playgrounds for kids are not advised.

Can homeowners still rent out their properties on Airbnb?

Under Scott’s “stay home” order issued in late March, lodging facilities, including hotels, motels, bed and breakfasts, Airbnbs, as well as private camping facilities and RV parks, are closed except for certain exceptions. 

Those exceptions include providing housing to someone who is quarantined, and housing homeless people or other vulnerable populations. Lodging companies can also provide housing for essential health care or public safety workers. Read more about lodging during the coronavirus emergency here. [Updated April 3]

I’m a green card holder and I’m out of the country right now. Can I come back to the United States?

Permanent residents, or green card holders, are permitted to return to the United States under the travel restrictions put in place.

Under the travel restrictions the Trump administration enacted earlier this month, which bar travelers from China, Iran, and European countries, U.S. citizens, permanent residents, and immediate family members can return to the country. According to the Department of Homeland Security, anybody returning from those countries must fly through one of 13 designated airports for screening, and after they return are directed to self-quarantine at home for 14 days.

The U.S. and Canada have also barred “non-essential” travel along the border, which will restrict people from crossing for recreation or tourism.  Trade and business-related travel will be allowed to continue. The restrictions, reached by mutual agreement, allow citizens and permanent residents to return to their home countries.

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Elizabeth Hewitt

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