Weekly Covid Update: Restrictions added for school winter sports, ski areas

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New restrictive health guidelines for both school winters sports and Vermont ski areas were released this week, as the state of Vermont saw Covid-19 cases rise by double digits every day and the  largest weekly total since April.

Ski areas are coming under new restrictions.
Photo by Elena Todorova from Pexels

New guidelines for school winter sports programs were released on Tuesday, including several restrictive measures such as eliminating any spectators from all sports, and extending mask usage to include players, coaches and referees. Practices cannot begin until Nov. 30 and interscholastic games cannot begin until Jan. 11.

In addition, no team-based social events will be allowed. Wrestling and indoor track are canceled for the season, and cheerleading squads cannot include any vocal routines. According to Julie Moore, secretary of the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources, these restrictions were put into place in an attempt to balance the health risks of Covid and the mental and physical benefits of sporting opportunities for youth. See the full details here. 

Spring sports guidelines will be reviewed starting in January 2021 and will be published by March 1.

Guidelines for Vermont ski areas call for a 50 percent capacity for base lodges and lifts, reducing the reliance on out-of-state staffers, and easing cancellation policies. Visitors must also provide contact tracing information and attest that they are following the state’s travel guidance. Click here for full details.

Travel map shrinks: 332,000 can come freely to Vermont 

The Vermont Department of Health reported another significant jump in weekly new Covid-19 cases with 171 new cases reported, up from 139 reported last week, for a total of 2,326 cases. Each of the last seven days saw double digit numbers with a daily high of 35 reported on Thursday. The total positive case numbers are based on data published on the state Department of Health’s daily dashboard tracking cases reported during the span from Friday, Oct. 30 to Friday, Nov. 6. The number of Covid deaths in Vermont remains at 58, a number that has not increased since late July.

Dr. Mark Levine, Vermont Department of Health Commissioner, reported his department is following 11 outbreaks around the state including the Montpelier ice hockey outbreak that has now reached 116 cases, including 69 resulting cases at St. Michael’s College. He said several new outbreaks include two new worksites and one from a small gathering in Chittenden County, and they are continuing to follow several situations in schools, a few day cares and sporadic cases in senior facilities. The University of Vermont has also reported six cases of Covid-19 this week, which has resulted in 30 to 50 students in quarantine.

The travel map continues to reflect the worsening regional Covid-19 situation with the latest Nov. 3 update now showing Vermont surrounded on all borders with no county to travel to without quarantine restrictions. Only four counties in Maine, one county in upstate New York and one county in Pennsylvania are deemed “safe,” leaving just 332,000 potential travelers free to come into Vermont without restrictions. When the travel map was launched on June 26, there were 19 million eligible travelers at that time. To see the updated travel map, click on this link.

Despite the increase, overall, Vermont’s positivity rate remains the lowest in the country with just 0.6 percent positivity rate reported this week, up slightly from 0.5 percent last week. Gov. Phil Scott said that Vermont’s numbers were not raising any “warning flags” at this point and Levine said that the state’s “guardrails,” which include hospitalization numbers, positivity rates and other metrics, had not been breached.

Both Levine and Scott continued to caution Vermonters about planning and attending holiday gatherings in light of the steadily increasing local and regional Covid-19 case numbers. “I strongly advise that any social gatherings you choose to have be less than ten people and just with trusted households,” Levine said.

New K-12 school cases remain low

In K-12 schools throughout Vermont, there are 11 new cases, with 39 total Covid cases reported as of Tuesday, Nov. 3, on the VDH School Based Covid-19 Transmission document, up from 25 total cases last week. No schools went to full remote learning as a result.

On Friday, state Education Secretary Ed French and Dr. Rebecca Bell from the American Academy of Pediatrics in Vermont both stressed the importance of in-person instruction for students’ academic and emotional well-being.

State-wide testing of unique individuals decreased from last week, with a total of 4,045 new tests given, down from 5,740 tests last week, according to the data dashboard. Overall testing numbers this week were also lower by approximately 10,000, down from 32,000 to about 22,600 according to the state’s weekly update document. This larger number includes second and third tests for some people.

Chittenden County saw the largest increase of 91 positive cases this week for a total of 1,085. Washington County (Montpelier) saw an increase of 17 cases this week, up slightly from 14 last week, now totaling 150. Windsor County added six cases, for a total of 131, down from nine the week before. Windham County gained 5 new cases this week, down from 11 last week, for a total of 156.

There are five hospitalized patients with Covid-19 this week, two of those being in the ICU. Last week that total number stood at six, with the ICU number staying the same. The “hospitalization under investigation” went from zero to one.

Contacts Monitored, which includes close contacts of people who have already tested positive, increased from 134 to 175. Travelers being monitored, which includes those participating in the Sara Alert system, was down this week, going from 377 to 236.

The pop-up COVID-19 testing schedule has listed dates through Nov. 19 with only one available date for Springfield on Tuesday, Nov. 10. There was not a Nov. 17 date published for Springfield as might be expected. The testing location is at the Springfield UU Meetinghouse on Fairground Road. Click on this link to check for further additions. Click this link to sign up to be notified of future testing dates in the area of your choice.

For more state-wide details on COVID-19 information and resources, click here.

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