MONTPELIER — Public Safety Commissioner Michael Schirling said up to nine members of the Vermont State Police barracks in Rutland were recently put on the sidelines due to a potential COVID-19 scare.
Schirling made the disclosure Friday when pressed during the twice-weekly news briefing held by Gov. Phil Scott’s administration primarily to discuss issues surrounding the deadly pandemic.
The commissioner first called it “an event” and said people were placed in “preventive isolation.”
When pressed further for details, Schirling said eight or nine state troopers were impacted.
“That is the entire night shift for that barracks as I understand it,” Schirling said.
The barracks provides coverage for 21 towns in Rutland County and one in Windsor County. Troopers also provide back-up to municipal police in a handful of towns in Rutland County.
And much like the outbreak that the Vermont Health Department never told the public about at the Bennington Police Department just before Christmas, the state opted again to never tell residents about the state troopers being put into quarantine.
Bennington Police Chief Paul Doucette and Deputy Chief Camillo Grande have said they are among six department members that tested positive for COVID about Christmastime dispute regular use of facial masks, hand washing, social distancing and other precautions.
The Rutland County incident began Dec. 29, State Police spokesman Adam Silverman said after the news briefing. He confirmed it involved nine troopers.
Silverman told the Bennington Banner there were concerns that one state trooper was exposed to the virus and whether that possible exposure had placed other department members from the barracks at risk.
None of the nine state police members has tested positive for COVID, but some tests results are unknown, Silverman said.
Most troopers have returned to work, but a few tests are pending, he said.
Silverman said he was told that the state police were able to provide full coverage during all the impacted shifts, but did not have specific details on how that was accomplished.
State police often times during staff shortages, reassigns troopers from other nearby barracks, such as Shaftsbury.
During another COVID scare recently at the St. Albans barracks, which covers Franklin and Grand Isle Counties, state police leaders brought in troopers from other offices to help conduct patrols while up to 15 employees were checked.
The incident comes as Gov. Phil Scott gave the green light this week for police and firefighters in Vermont to be moved back into line to get the COVID-19 vaccine shots.
Police and firefighters were initially on the list, but were bumped out in favor of older Vermonters.
Once Scott learned they were not being classified as emergency health care personnel, he promised he would take a look at the issue and ask for review of the definition. Police are often first on the scene for serious motor vehicle crashes, drug overdoses, suicide attempts, heart attacks and other medical issues where seconds or minutes can count.
Firefighters also are among the first to emergencies and often are asked to help carry patients or even drive an ambulance if rescue personnel have to be in the back with a patient.
While rescue personnel, including emergency medical technicians, have received their vaccine shots, some other groups, including the ski patrols at some Vermont resorts, have been able to move to the head of the line.