After Vermont saw its highest daily number of coronavirus cases to date this week, Gov. Phil Scott announced new restrictions on social gatherings Friday, closing bars and clubs to in-person service and banning multiple-household gatherings, both inside and out.

He also announced a pause of recreational sports leagues, outside of the Vermont Principal’s Association sanctioned sports.

“I want to be clear: We’re in a new phase of this pandemic. The days of very low risk are over,” the Republican governor said.

Many of the state’s clusters and outbreaks are traced to private gatherings such as baby showers, tailgate parties, deer camps and barbecues “where multiple households are getting together and not wearing masks or staying physically separated for long periods of time,” he said.

The recent surge in cases has come 12 days after Halloween, when people gathered for parties. Such activities are still happening even though the state had been warning against them for weeks, Scott said.

“Since Oct. 1, 71 percent of the cases that are associated with an outbreak are associated with an outbreak from a private party or social gathering,” Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine said.

The state now has a total of 19 outbreaks and over 80 situations, which he said usually affect a facility such as a school or long-term care setting, he said. An October outbreak stemming from sports teams at an ice rink in Montpelier has grown to 122 cases but is slowing down, Levine said.

The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Vermont has risen over the past two weeks from 22 on Oct. 29 to 49.71 new cases per day on Thursday.

On Friday, 21 people were hospitalized with COVID-19, with three in intensive care, according to the Health Department.

Getting the virus under control is about making sure hospitals aren’t overwhelmed, saving lives, and keeping kids in school and workers working, Scott said.

Under the new restrictions effective at 10 p.m. Saturday, bars and social clubs will be closed to in-person service but may offer takeout. Restaurants may stay open but must close to in-person service by 10 p.m. each night.

The state is also requiring restaurants, gyms, museums and other establishments to keep a daily log of visitors and will direct Vermonters to comply with requests from the state’s contract tracing team.

Also to keep the virus at bay, returning college students are required to quarantine for 14 days or for seven days if they then get a negative test, and the state is encouraging those students to get tested, he said. The state is also requiring people who can work remotely to do so and is discouraging in-person meetings, he said.

The good news is, the state has proved that following the health guidance is effective, Scott said.

“I want to thank those Vermonters who’ve done their part, who wear their masks, who skipped the Halloween party, canceled travel and kept their social circle small. It’s this type of commitment that will get us through this sooner.”

Scott said he hopes youth sports will be one of the first things to reopen “because our kids are trying so hard,” Scott said.

“And I hope these adults out there who haven’t followed our guidance recognize the responsibility they have,” he said.

HAZARD PAY

The state has extended the deadline for employers of people who came in direct contact with the public during the early months of the pandemic to apply for hazard pay for those workers.

The extension from Friday to next Wednesday by Michael Pieciak, Vermont’s Financial Regulation commissioner who has been overseeing the program, is to give employers more time to apply.

“That grant is a big deal,” state Sen. Chris Pearson said during a Thursday news conference in Burlington. “That is paying off your car, back rent, utilities, etc. That is really important and a small token of our ability to thank tens of thousands of employees.”

An estimated 5,000 workers are eligible for the grant program that provides $1,200 to part-time employees and $2,000 to full-time staff who make less than $25 an hour.

Mychamplainvalley.com reports the state has already provided $58 million to Vermont front line workers.

“We expect that will actually benefit about 2,000 or so Vermont employees,” state Sen. Tim Ashe said during the news conference. “However there remain a number of large multi-state companies who for reasons best explained by them have not stepped up to apply on behalf of their employees.”


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