Gov. Scott: Keep students home after big gatherings

Vermont News

In this Nov. 12, 2020, photo, University of Vermont students walk through a tent leading to a COVID-testing site on campus in Burlington, Vt. As coronavirus cases are surging around the U.S., some colleges and universities are rethinking some of their plans for next semester. (AP Photo/Lisa Rathke)

Gov. Phil Scott said Friday he’s hearing anecdotally that most Vermonters kept their Thanksgiving celebrations among their immediate families and he’s hopeful there won’t be a surge of cases of the virus that causes COVID-19 linked to the holiday.

But he continued his call for children to stay home from school next week and quarantine if they attended multifamily gatherings Thursday in violation of state rules.

He said parents will see an additional question to the regular health questionnaire they fill out online and that will inform schools if children attended these events.

“If you were going to have a gathering with households outside your household, we were asking you to tell us that,” Scott said. “And you don’t even have to get to that point. I would say that if you had one of those gatherings yesterday that you shouldn’t send your kids to school next week.”

Earlier this week, Scott called on people who work around others to do the same.

In both cases, he said people should quarantine for seven days and then get a COVID-19 test. People who are negative can then resume their normal activities.

The call came as officials feared that multiple household gatherings could spread the virus. Vermont officials pointed to spikes in parts of Canada after Canadian Thanksgiving in October.

“Admittedly, there was a lot of reaction to this,” Scott said. “We saw it on social media. We’ve had many, many calls. I think you can chalk that up to either hitting a nerve, it’s either a guilt nerve or just a resistance nerve.”

Scott and others have said it will be one to two weeks before officials can learn if the holiday fueled another spike in cases.

While Vermont’s virus statistics are still among the most favorable in the country, the numbers of people testing positive and being hospitalized have increased, along with fatalities, which have risen to 67. Three of those fatalities occurred in the last two days.

On Friday, the Vermont Health Department reported 99 new cases of the virus that causes COVID-19, bringing the state’s total since the virus began to just over 4,000.

The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Vermont has risen over the past two weeks from 49.71 new cases per day on November 12 to 73.86 new cases per day on November 26.

The state did not report the figures on Thursday because of the holiday, but Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine said 72 new cases were reported on Thursday.

Vermont’s three new COVID-19 fatalities were among people aged 76, 81 and 94.

“I know how hard this pandemic has been, especially as we make our way through the holidays without the ‘normal’ get-togethers and sense of closeness we all want,” Scott said. “So, in celebration of the coming holiday season, I think it’s time to lift our spirits.”

Scott encouraged residents to decorate their homes and businesses as part of a “Vermont Lights the Way” campaign during the coronavirus pandemic. Scott on Friday also encouraged people to share pictures of their displays or their favorites from their communities on social media with the hashtag, #VTLightsTheWay. He asked Vermonters to “get creative.”

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