State officials on Friday advised Vermonters not to travel during Thanksgiving and to limit social gatherings in general and to no more than 10 people with a rise in coronavirus outbreaks in Vermont and a surge in cases regionally and nationally.
“The data and the trends of the past few weeks are sending a clear message that we need to up our game in order to protect ourselves and our communities and prevent large-spread infections,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine during the governor’s bi-weekly virus briefing.
Even small gatherings can have a big impact, he said. In Vermont, events such as birth parties, dinner parties, sleepovers, baby showers and barbecues have resulted in the spread of COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus, he said.
“I am strongly urging people to lay low this season and forego nonessential travel,” Levine said. He also “strongly” advises that any social gatherings be with 10 or fewer people and with a very limited number of trusted households.
“We cannot know for sure each others infection status. And that’s how the virus spreads,” he said. “Even though we call people trusted households and they mean no ill to us or us to them, it is very challenging in an environment where there is more virus around for people to understand what their potential infection status is at any given point in time even if they’ve had a test recently.”
In Vermont’s largest city, Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger on Friday urged Chittenden County residents to double down after the county’s seven-day average rose to 12.9 new cases per day.
“We are facing an elevated risk of virus infections in the community right now and this weekend is the time when we can bring it back down, back under control,” he said. “I’m calling on everyone to exercise extra caution this weekend and until the number of new cases per day drops again.”
That means keeping gatherings very small, staying outdoors, wearing facial coverings and keeping 6-feet apart from people. He also urged people who have traveled to follow the state’s quarantine rules and those who have attended Halloween parties or other large gatherings recently to consider quarantining and getting tested, while asking employers to return to remote working if possible.
Levine said the Health Department is following roughly 11 outbreaks and 42 “situations,” which he described as individual or small numbers of cases.
An outbreak stemming from sports teams at an ice arena in Montpelier has grown to 115 cases but is quieting down, he said. Those cases include 69 at St. Michael’s College in Colchester. There are new outbreaks at two work sites and in a Chittenden County community across several households from a social gathering, Levine said.
“For a long time we’ve been reporting a steady rate of just a few new cases each day. And as you’ve seen the numbers have increased to double digits on most days,” he said.
Vermont reported 24 new cases of the virus on Friday, for a statewide total to date of 2,326 cases since the pandemic began. Three people were hospitalized on Friday with two people in intensive care. The total number of deaths has remained at 58 since late July.