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Vermont schools will ask students if they celebrated at home

November 24, 2020 GMT

The state of Vermont is again encouraging people to limit Thanksgiving gatherings this week to members of their immediate households as a way to limit the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19.

Next week, when children return to school, their regular daily health checks will include questions about whether they attended gatherings outside their households, Gov. Phil Scott said Tuesday.

Any students who attend events with more than just their immediate household will be required to take online classes for a two-week quarantine period, or to quarantine for a week and then have a negative COVID-19 test, Scott said.

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The governor 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 said at Tuesday’s press briefing. “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.”

Vermont, which still boasts some of the lowest COVID-19 case numbers in the country, is witnessing a spike in cases fueled in by small gatherings, state officials say.

Of the more than 3,760 cases of the virus reported in Vermont since the pandemic began, about 40% have been reported in November, said Michael Pieciak, the Vermont commissioner of the Department of Financial Regulation, who has been monitoring the statistics during the pandemic.

Vermont’s Washington County, which includes the capital of Montpelier, has the 10th highest ranking of active COVID-19 cases in New England and New York, the only county in northern New England in the top 10, statistics show.

The state has been warning for weeks that Thanksgiving gatherings could fuel an even larger spike.

Scott said that people who gather in Washington County could face a risk of between 25% and 50% of becoming positive.

In a worst-case scenario, if Vermonters gather for Thanksgiving, it could lead to between 3,200 and 3,800 new infections and 40 to 50 hospitalizations, Pieciak said.

But officials are hoping 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.

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“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.”

Scott 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.

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HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS.

Scott said the beginning of high school sports are being postponed indefinitely. Practices for winter sports had been scheduled to begin on Nov. 30. Recreational sports had previously been suspended. The delay will be re-evaluated every week, Scott said.

“This is an example of why it is so important to be vigilant and avoid small gatherings,” Scott said. “It is my hope that adults will recognize the need to sacrifice in order to give our kids this important time in their lives and most importantly help keep them in school as much as possible.”

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NUMBERS

On Tuesday the Vermont Health Department reported 49 new cases of the virus that causes COVID-19, bringing the statewide total since the pandemic began to more than 3,760 cases.

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.

Sixty-four people have died from the virus.