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Vermont halts hockey rink reservations for 2 weeks as virus outbreak investigated

Associated Press
Published: 10/16/2020 10:12:18 PM
Modified: 10/16/2020 10:12:10 PM

The Vermont Department of Health is investigating an outbreak of COVID-19 cases related to youth and adult recreational hockey and broomball teams in central Vermont, officials said Friday, and the governor directed skating rinks to halt reservations through Oct. 30.

The outbreak is linked to people who practiced or played at the Central Vermont Memorial Civic Center in Montpelier earlier this month, officials said. So far, the Health Department has identified 18 confirmed cases among players and several close contacts and most are in adults.

“So far, there is no indication of community spread of the virus,” said Patsy Kelso, state epidemiologist, at the governor’s bi-weekly virus briefing.

In a Friday night release, Gov. Phil Scott said his order barring Vermont’s ice skating rinks from accepting new reservations for two weeks is meant to prevent a rush of new users from high-risk areas. Scott’s move follows New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu’s announcement Thursday that all hockey activities at indoor rinks would be paused for two weeks following positive COVID-19 tests for 158 people associated with the sport over the last two months.

Dr. Ben Chan, New Hampshire state epidemiologist, said the cases come from 23 different New Hampshire hockey organizations and teams, “and there are additional connections with out-of-state ice hockey organizations.”

Scott said given the outbreaks in both states, the executive order will “reduce the risk to Vermonters, and to help sustain the progress we have made.” Rinks can proceed with already scheduled operations.

A pop-up testing site is being opened on Saturday at the Barre Auditorium from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The Health Department recommends people with direct links the teams or the Civic Center and their close contacts get tested.

“We’re considering a number of steps to strengthen guidance, particularly around off-the-ice activities and inter-state play,” Scott said earlier, during his bi-weekly virus briefing. “We also need all players and families to abide by the strict guidance we already have in place.”

The Health Department’s contact tracing team is continuing to reach out to people who may be affected, Kelso said. The governor urged people not to become complacent.

“If we want to keep businesses and schools open, if we want our kids playing sports, and if we want to get back together with family and friends, all of which is really important to our mental health and social well-being, we have to be smart about how we do it,” he said.

“While small gatherings are OK, they still need to be done using precautions, like wearing masks and keeping 6 feet apart,” Scott said. “But we’ve got to avoid gathering in large crowds, crowds from red counties without quarantining. Even sharing food at these types of events can be risky.”

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