18 Confirmed COVID-19 Cases Connected To Outbreak Among Central Vt. Hockey and Broomball Players

Oct 16, 2020

Vermont reporters provide a roundup of top news takeaways about the coronavirus, trick-or-treating and more for Friday, Oct. 16.

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The latest coronavirus data:

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1. 13 new cases of COVID-19 in Vermont

Gov. Phil Scott says despite a slight uptick in COVID-19 cases, he doesn't think the state will need to return to more stringent measures to restrict the spread of the disease.

Coronavirus infections in Vermont were low for most of the summer; most days the state reported new cases in the single digits. But in recent days, the health department has been reporting 10 or more new cases daily.

Scott says Vermonters might be getting lax in following public health guidelines.

"I believe they can get back into shape, so to speak, and get back to doing the right thing, so we'll avoid what we're seeing across the country," Scott said. "I have a lot of faith in Vermonters."

Coronavirus cases have been increasing in the Northeast and around the country. According to The New York Times, the daily average of new cases in the United States is up about 25% compared to where it was two weeks ago.

On Friday, state health officials reported 13 new cases of COVID-19. Six of those cases were among residents of Chittenden County and three cases were identified in Bennington County. Windham, Windsor, Washington and Orange counties each saw one new case.

The state reported 14 new cases Thursday.

The state has now confirmed 1,915 cases of COVID-19 in Vermont, and 1,687 people have recovered from the disease. More than 175,000 people have been tested for the disease in Vermont.

The state is currently monitoring 61 people as close contacts of confirmed cases.

An employee who works at the hospital in St. Johnsbury and a skilled nursing facility in Caledonia County has tested positive for the Coronavirus. 

The Caledonian Record reports Northeastern Vermont Regional Hospital announced the positive case earlier this week and contact tracing is underway for both health care facilities.

Health department officials say the first round of facility-wide PCR testing is completed, and another round of testing will occur this weekend. 

The healthcare worker was asymptomatic and tested positive as a result of routine screening at the nursing facility.

- Liam Elder-Connors, Abagael Giles and Karen Anderson

2. 18 cases of COVID-19 now associated with Central Vermont hockey, broomball leagues

The Vermont Department of Health is investigating an outbreak of COVID-19 cases among members of youth and adult recreational hockey and Broomball teams in central Vermont.

The outbreak is associated with people who practiced or played at the Central Vermont Memorial Civic Center in Montpelier earlier this month.

To date, the Health Department has identified 18 confirmed cases among players and several close contacts. Most of the cases identified so far are among adults. The Health Department has informed schools if any cases were in attendance while they were infectious.

Health officials said there has been no community spread of the virus beyond close contacts at this time.

State Epidemiologist Patsy Kelso said, "The contact tracing team is continuing their work to identify and reach out to people that may be affected. So please: It's important to answer your phone if you get a call from the health department."

A pop-up test clinic will be held this Saturday, Oct. 17 at the Barre Auditorium from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

"We're recommending anyone with a direct link to the teams, their close contacts and people associated with the civic center be tested," Kelso said. "Testing is not recommended at this time for the broader Montpelier community in response to this situation, but the clinic is open to the public."

New Hampshire halts all indoor skating

Meanwhile, Gov. Sununu says New Hampshire is "pausing" all hockey activities at indoor rinks for two weeks following positive COVID-19 tests for 158 people associated with the sport over the last two months.

New Hampshire state health officials say the cases are from 23 different in-state hockey-related organizations and teams, and there are additional connections with out-of-state ice hockey organizations.

The exposure has potentially reached people in at least 24 different schools, and the suspension is in effect until Oct. 29. It affects ice skating in general.

- Karen Anderson & The Associated Press

3. Recent campaign finance disclosures illuminate spending, fundraising dynamics in statewide races

Gubernatorial race

Lieutenant Governor David Zuckerman outraised and outspent Gov. Phil Scott in the last two weeks, as Zuckerman challenges Scott in the race for Governor. VPR's Henry Epp has more from the latest campaign finance filings.

Zuckerman's campaign took in nearly $63,000 dollars from 765 donors in the first two weeks of October. That outpaced Scott, who's running a slimmed down campaign.

Scott raised nearly $44,000 from 93 contributors; a little over half of those donations were over $100 dollars. By contrast, Zuckerman received small-dollar contributions from nearly 600 donors.

To date, Zuckerman has raised hundreds-of-thousands more than Scott, and spent over twice as much as the incumbent Governor. Still, in a VPR-Vermont PBS poll last month, Scott led Zuckerman by a wide margin.

Gov. Scott said Friday he still hasn't decided if he'll vote for former Vice President Joe Biden in November's presidential election.

Scott, a Republican, says he will not be voting for President Donald Trump.

Maryland's Republican governor, who's been critical of Trump, told The Washington Post that he wrote in Ronald Reagan for president.

Scott said he's not planning to do that.

"I have not made up my mind at this point, but rest assured: if I decide to write in, it will be a living person," he said.

With three weeks to go until the election, early voting has already surpassed records in Vermont. As of Wednesday, 110,000 people had cast their ballots.

Zuckerman, who is the Democratic nominee for governor, has said he will vote for Joe Biden.

More from Vermont Edition: Candidate Conversations: David Zuckerman Runs For Governor

Lieutenant governor's race

Republican Scott Milne spent significantly more than Democrat Molly Gray on the race for Lieutenant Governor in the last two weeks.

According to the latest campaign finance disclosures, Milne spent over $81,000 dollars on the race entirely on media expenses, including TV ad buys, yard signs, and graphic design.

Gray meanwhile spent about $48,000 dollars on expenses including TV ads, online ads, a phone bank and campaign staff salaries.

Milne's campaign took in more money than Gray’s in the first two weeks of October, though the majority of the funds came from his own pocket – nearly $49,000. To date, he's spent nearly $150,000 dollars of his own money on the race. Gray's filing says she's spent a total of $10 dollars of her own funds.

Overall, Gray has outraised and outspent Milne since their campaigns began.

More from Vermont Edition: Candidate Conversations Molly Gray Runs For Lieutenant Governor

- Henry Epp

VPR is seeking interviews with all major party candidates running for lieutenant governor and governor.

4. Winter farmers' markets allowed to open

Winter Farmers’ Markets will be allowed to open during the pandemic.

That’s according to new guidelines issued by the Agency of Agriculture

The winter markets will be treated like any other business, with social distancing, occupancy restrictions and mask-wearing requirements .

The agency is encouraging markets to use a pre-order system and cashless transactions.

Indoor dining will also be allowed, though markets will have to provide a separate dining area.

And even though the state is allowing winter markets, NOFA-Vermont says many markets will not open this winter due to tight indoor market locations that won’t allow for social distancing.

- Howard Weiss-Tisman

5. Community College of Vermont offers free classes to those impacted by COVID-19

Anyone who lost their job or work hours because of the corona virus pandemic is now eligible for free classes this Fall at all four locations in the Vermont State College system.

Judy Joyce is the president of the Community College of Vermont.

She said the state allocated just over $2 million in federal CARES funds to offer these free classes.

Joyce says money for support services such as child care, computers and transportation will also be available.

“Most of the courses are available on line with flexible scheduling offerings and all aligned with high demand careers such as early childhood education, health care, business, and manufacturing,” Joyce said.

Joyce says registration for the free classes will be available for the next few weeks.

For more information visit :  vsc.edu/vermontworkers.

Castleton announces hybrid learning for Spring

Castleton University has announced a hybrid learning plan for the spring semester.

University officials on Friday said the start of the spring semester will be delayed to February 1st and there will be no winter or spring break. 

A mix of in-person and online instruction will be offered. 

Arriving students will again be tested for COVID-19 and be required to follow state travel guidelines for quarantine. 

- Bob Kinzel and Karen Anderson

6. Scott says trick-or-treating can be done safely

Gov. Phil Scott says he believes it will be safe for children to go trick or treating on Halloween as long as they follow strict safety protocols.

Scott is urging young children and their parents to avoid large neighborhood crowds and to practice basic health rules.

“If everyone adheres to the guidelines stay six-feet apart, using their imagination about how to distribute some of the candy and so forth on these visits, everybody will be OK, especially because it is outside, but communities have a responsibility for their constituents as well,” he said.  

Some communities are banning most Halloween activities and Scott said residents of these towns must comply with local restrictions.

- Bob Kinzel

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