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COVID-19: Winooski cluster grows bigger; Vt. restaurants and bars reopen

  • Holly Ellis, administrative assistant for the Windham County Sheriff's Office, in Newfane, Vt., scans the figure of Morgan Stevens, from Athens, Vt., as the office resumed all civilian fingerprinting services on Monday,  June 8, 2020. This was the first time people were allowed access to this service since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Kristopher Radder/The Brattleboro Reformer via AP) Kristopher Radder

Associated Press
Published: 6/8/2020 8:35:52 PM
Modified: 6/8/2020 8:41:29 PM

The outbreak of COVID-19 that began in the city of Winooski on Memorial Day has grown to 62 cases, including 24 children, and spread to other communities, Vermont officials said on Monday.

Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine said that in addition to the people infected in Winooski, nine are from the adjoining city of Burlington and five are from other communities.

Officials said the outbreak is confined to “one social network of families,” but they have been reluctant to provide more details, citing confidentiality concerns.

The individuals range in age from 1 to 64 and only one in five showed any symptoms, Levine said. There have been no reports of hospitalizations or deaths related to the Winooski outbreak, he said.

“It’s become apparent that many did not know they had been infected,” Levine said.

Speaking at a separate briefing on Monday, Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger said he was concerned that at least some of the infected individuals come from what are being described as “multi-generational households” and the risk posed by COVID-19 increases dramatically for older people.

“My biggest concern is, and I’ve asked the state this directly and I’m eager to get an answer on this, are there any medically sensitive individuals living in these households?” Weinberger said.

He said he felt the right thing to do in a situation like that would be to offer them alternative places to stay until the danger has passed. The state has such locations available.

Contact tracers have identified shared activities that could have led to the outbreak and officials believe there has been spread within households as well, said state Epidemiologist Patsy Kelso.

“We think this is a pretty well contained situation or outbreak and while the case numbers may go up because there may have been exposures in the recent days even, we don’t think this is something that we will see pop up all over the state,” Kelso said.

Restaurants, bars reopen — but call ahead

Vermont’s bars and restaurants opened again to inside diners Monday as the state continues its gradual reopening from the coronavirus-related shutdowns.

The bar and restaurant reopenings that began Monday come with restrictions that include only opening to 25% capacity and parties must remain at least 6 feet apart and have reservations before dining.

Vermont is also now allowing people from outside the state to visit without quarantining for two weeks if they are from one of 55 counties that have low rates of infection.

New plans for sports

On Monday, Gov. Phil Scott announced plans to resume low-contact sports, like soccer, softball, baseball and lacrosse. While the 25-person limit size on gatherings will remain, as of June 15, teams will be able to scrimmage among themselves and if all goes well, on July 1 games between teams will be able to resume.

The state is not ready for high-contact sports like wrestling, football and basketball, but those teams can begin conditioning and other low-contact, skill building drills, Scott said.

Social distancing will be encouraged and there will be hygiene and equipment cleaning requirements.

“Like everything else this will obviously look a little bit different from normal, but we must find new ways of doing things so we can get back to something more familiar while keeping people safe and healthy,” Scott said.

Case numbers

Vermont reported 12 new cases of the virus that causes COVID-19 on Monday, bringing the statewide total to 1,075. The number of fatalities has remained steady at 55 since late May.

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