Vermont Republican Gov. Phil Scott speaks at the Statehouse in Montpelier, Vermont, in this Feb. 6, 2020, file photo. Credit: Wilson Ring | AP

MONTPELIER, Vermont — It’s only a matter of time before the new coronavirus reaches Vermont, and the state is ready to respond if it spreads, Gov. Phil Scott said Thursday.

The Vermont Department of Health has been monitoring returning travelers who have identified themselves to the state. It’s also working to notify all Vermonters who went to a private party in White River Junction on Friday that was also attended by a New Hampshire man, who tested positive for the virus after traveling to Italy. The physician trainee at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center went to the party while awaiting his test results despite having symptoms and being told to self-quarantine, officials said. The Vermont Health Department is recommending that other party attendees monitor themselves for 14 days.

“Though we have no laboratory confirmed cases in Vermont, we are surrounded by states as well as the province of Quebec that have all reported cases,” Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine told reporters at the governor’s weekly news conference.

Vermont Emergency Management has set up a task force to develop a response plan that was scheduled to meet for the first time Thursday. The Education Agency is drafting guidance on school closures in the event of a severe outbreak, state officials said. The Health Department has also provided guidance to long-term care facilities.

Levine stressed that more than 80 percent of the people who have contracted the virus have had “what would be termed a mild or moderate illness, certainly not one requiring hospitalization.”

Most people infected will have a fever and a dry cough, he said.

Testing in Vermont has been expanded to people who have a fever and cough or shortness of breath, have traveled to an affected area or been in contact with or exposed to someone who is sick but are not ill enough to be hospitalized, Levine said. Before one needed to meet that criteria and be hospitalized.

“I’m confident we will have positive results,” Levine said.

The state has released half of its stockpile of masks to hospitals, Levine said.