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Health Officials Ramp Up COVID-19 Restrictions At Vermont Ski Areas

Bullwheel at the top of Sugarbush Resort against a blue sky
Abagael Giles
/
VPR
On Tuesday, state officials announced, among other new restrictions, that lifts at Vermont ski areas will be allowed to operate only at 50 percent capacity, excluding skiers who arrive together as a party.

Vermont reporters provide a roundup of top news takeaways about the coronavirus, the 2020-2021 ski season and more for Tuesday, Nov. 3.

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1. State health officials announce additional restrictions on ski resort operations

VPR’s Henry Epp spoke with VPR senior reporter John Dillon about the new restrictions. You can listen to their conversation below:

The state has released new rules for ski areas that officials say will limit the risk of skiers spreading the coronavirus in lodges and lift lines.

Deputy commerce secretary Ted Brady said Tues. the new rules require ski areas to gather contact tracing information for every guest. And he said the state has directed ski areas to limit the number of staff from out-of-state. Additionally, ski areas will have to reduce capacity on lifts.

“The new guidance directs ski areas to reduce lift capacity to 50%, except for a parties traveling together,” Brady said. “So let's be clear: If you're a family of four and you're skiing together, you can get on a quad together. But if you are a twosome, or a single, you're not going to be riding that lift with anybody else, likely.”

But perhaps the biggest challenge for ski areas will be overseeing the state's quarantine rules for skiers who come from places with high infection rates.

It's based on the honor system. But Brady said the ski areas can yank a person's pass if they violate the rules.

- John Dillon and Henry Epp

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2. 19 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday

The Vermont Department of Health reported 19 new cases of COVID-19 on Election Day. To date, 2,237 people have tested positive for the disease in Vermont.

Three people are currently hospitalized with the disease; all three are being treated in intensive care units.

The state is monitoring 137 people as close contacts of confirmed cases, and Chittenden County has seen 123 new cases in the last 14 days. Washington County has seen 31 new cases in the same time period.

Of the new cases announced Tuesday, one new case was confirmed each in Addison, Rutland and Washington counties, and two new cases were confirmed in Caledonia and Orange Counties. Chittenden County saw 11 new cases on Tuesday. 

- Abagael Giles

112 cases now linked to central Vermont ice rink outbreak

The number of COVID-19 cases linked to a central Vermont ice rink outbreak has grown to 112.

Health Commissioner Mark Levine said at the administration's news briefing Tuesday that seven public schools were affected by the recent outbreak. But he says the biggest impact was felt at St. Michael's College in Colchester.

“The total count there is now 65, [with] 17 having been reported yesterday after campus-wide testing. Fortunately, the majority of cases on this campus have been asymptomatic,” Levine said.

The St. Michael's campus has moved to distance learning because of the outbreak.

- John Dillon

Union Elementary returns to the classroom

Students and staff at Montpelier's Union Elementary School returned to the classroom Monday, following a precautionary week of remote learning after a series of COVID-19 cases.

The Times Argus reports the pre-K through 4th grade school shifted to remote learning about two weeks ago, after seven members of the school community had tested positive for the disease.

Superintendent Libby Bonesteel then extended the school-wide shift to virtual learning through all of last week.

The school, including a “pod” of six people who had been quarantined since mid-October, transitioned back to in-person learning yesterday.

Students at Roxbury Village School, Main Street Middle School, and hybrid learning at Montpelier High School, were mostly unaffected.

- Matthew Smith

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3. St. Michael's College to go remote for semester's duration

St. Michael's College will finish the semester remotely after weeks of growing COVID-19 cases on campus.

The Colchester college announced the decision yesterday [Monday] after meeting with state health officials.

WCAX reports the college saw 22 new positive cases over the weekend, adding up to 65 cases in the last three weeks.

In-person group activities are also canceled and campus gatherings of any size are prohibited.

The college says students looking to leave campus early must take a COVID-19 test before departing, and must leave within 48 hours of a negative result.

The campus cluster traces back to an outbreak among a Central Vermont hockey and broomball league. That's now been linked to nearly 112 cases, as of Tuesday.

- Matthew Smith

4. State officials say Vt., New England experiencing 'third wave' of COVID-19 cases

Officials with the Scott Administration say Vermont and the region are experiencing the "third peak" of coronavirus infections.

Commissioner of Financial Regulation Michael Pieciak leads the state's COVID-19 modeling work. He said COVID case counts are on the rise in the states surrounding Vermont, which means fewer people can travel here without a quarantine.  

“In past times, we might have a county or two over our threshold, but now it's quite clear that the cases are in the Northeast. You can see it on the map, you can see that they're on our borders and you can see that cases are going up even when comparing within the Vermont borders as well,” Pieciak said Tuesday.

He said that back in June, some 19 million people could visit the state without a required quarantine. He says that number is now down to about 331,000.

- John Dillon

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5. New guidance for winter sports

Winter sports at Vermont's schools will look different this season, under new guidance released Tuesday by the Scott administration.

Natural Resources Secretary Julie Moore is the administration's point-person on school sports programs.

She said indoor sports such as basketball and hockey will be permitted. But others, including wrestling and indoor track, will not be allowed because of the risk of transmitting the coronavirus.

“The guidance represents dozens and dozens of hours of collective work in balancing the health risks associated with COVID against the benefits – the very real benefits, mental and physical – of sporting opportunities for our youth,” Moore said.

The guidance also says spectators will not be allowed during practices and competitions.

- John Dillon

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