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Vermont planning text messages warning of possible COVID-19 exposures

Vermont plans to send text messages warning close contacts of people who have tested COVID-19 positive of their possible exposure, officials announced on Tuesday.

Vermont Health Commissioner Mark Levine announced the text initiative during a press conference, saying authorities hope it speeds up the contact tracing process.  

“This will help us get information out as quickly as possible, so these close contacts can quarantine right away and access other important information on our website,” Levine said.

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The health commissioner emphasized that the text messages will not replace calls from contact tracers, but instead notify an individual that they will be getting a call shortly and they should quarantine. He said the close contacts’ phone numbers will be provided by the COVID-19 patient. 

“Our contact tracing team will help determine who gets these texts based on the exact situation,” he said.

“If you do get a text, please know it is a legitimate and important message from the department of health,” he added.

The texts will come between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. from the number 86911.

Vermont has seen spikes in new COVID-19 cases in November and December and currently has a seven-day average of 120 new cases per day, according to The New York Times. Throughout the pandemic, Vermont has confirmed 5,180 COVID-19 cases and 85 deaths.