Vermont Gov. Phil Scott said during a press conference on Tuesday that schools in the state will include new questions during daily health checks about whether students and their parents attended gatherings outside of their households following the Thanksgiving holiday.
Scott noted that any students who attend events with more than just their immediate household will be required to either take online classes for a two-week quarantine period or quarantine for a week and then have a negative COVID-19 test.
“We understand how difficult this is, but since we know these types of gatherings have been the cause of so many outbreaks, we’ve got to do all we can to slow this down,” Scott said.
The governor also encouraged businesses to take the same approach with their employees.
“From my standpoint, this is fair warning to those of you who are planning to have gatherings from outside your household for Thanksgiving,” Scott added. “If you don’t want your kids to have to transition to remote learning and quarantine for a seven-day period, maybe you ought to make other plans.”
The latest effort comes as state officials have warned small gatherings are fueling the recent spike in coronavirus cases, and worry Thanksgiving gatherings with people from multiple households could exacerbate the problem.
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Vermont, which still boasts some of the lowest COVID-19 case numbers in the country, reported 49 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, bringing the statewide total since the pandemic began to more than 3,760 cases.
Vermont’s commissioner for the Department of Financial Regulation, Michael Pieciak, says that of those cases, roughly 40% were reported in November alone. He noted that if Vermonters gather for Thanksgiving, it could lead to a worst-case scenario of 3,200 to 3,800 new infections and 40 to 50 hospitalizations.
However, officials are hopeful that by encouraging people to stay home, that worst-case scenario can be avoided.
“I know how done we are with this pandemic,” said Vermont Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine.
People who chose to attend gatherings, and those who travel, including college students returning home, should follow the state’s quarantine procedures.
“Quarantine means staying home and away from other people for 14 days,” Levine said. “Do not go to school, do not go to work, do not go out to do errands or recreation other than perhaps a walk alone in the woods.”
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The governor said that if people listen to the recommendations and the case numbers begin to go down, it will be possible to ease up on the restrictions while the state waits for the arrival of the vaccines that can end the pandemic.
“I know asking you to sacrifice yet again is frustrating,” Scott said in a tweet. “But there is a light at the end of the tunnel and we’ll get there. The sacrifices we make today and in the next few weeks will ensure we get tot he end faster, stronger, and in a better position than any other state.”
The 7-day rolling average of daily new cases in Vermont has risen over the past two weeks from 28 new cases per day on Nov. 9 to 100.86 new cases per day on Nov. 23.
Currently, there are 22 people hospitalized with COVID-19, including five who are hospitalized in the intensive care unit. In addition, 64 people have died from the virus.
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The Associated Press contributed to this report