On September 9, 2020

Killington outbreak is not widespread

Just one more Covid cases identified in Killington since private party, total at 18

By Katy Savage

Only one additional Covid-19 case was identified in Killington after three days of testing last week, bringing the number of cases associated with the outbreak in town to 18. Hundreds of tests came back negative, including all those administered at Pico on Friday.

Department of Health officials said the outbreak initiated at a private birthday party at the Summit Lodge on Aug. 19, which was attended by 49 guests. As of Sept. 7, health officials had identified 12 Covid-19 cases from the party. At least one other positive case was identified from a person who attended a charity golf tournament at Killington Golf Course and an after party outside Taco X on Aug. 27. The other five were close contacts.

State Epidemiologist Patsy Kelso said at an update on Friday, Sept. 4, that the health department had reached out to 34 of the 49 guests who attended the party — 15 of whom were out of state.

Summit Lodge owner Emmett O’Dwyer issued a statement explaining that O’Dwyer’s Bar & Restaurant, which started operating in early August, will close and remain closed for the remainder of the summer season in an abundance of caution to protect upcoming events and our winter ski season.” “The Summit Lodge Hotel has been closed for lodging to the public, and remains so, since of March 16.

“No members of the Summit Lodge/O’Dwyer’s Bar & Restaurant staff have any Covid-19 symptoms,” O’Dwyer said in the statement. “The two members of staff who served the event are being tested as a precautionary measure.”

Both events in Kilington appeared to have followed state guidelines. Gov. Phil Scott loosened restrictions on social gatherings in June, allowing outdoor gatherings up to 150 people and indoor gatherings up to 75 people.

Though there were rumors that the state was investigating a Covid-19 outbreak after the birthday party, the health department didn’t confirm Covid was in the area until Aug. 31 — after the golf tournament had taken place.

Ryan Orabone, the founder of Till I Die apparel shop, organized the golf tournament to benefit Vermont Adaptive. He said there were 84 registered golfers in the tournament. About 60 of the participants attended the after party at Taco X, which was held outside under a tent.

Orabone said the majority of people who participated in the golf tournament were local. He said there was a health inspector on site and state protocols were being followed.

“We’re getting rolled into all that negativity,” Orabone said. “It’s just a bummer because all the feedback from everybody [who attended the tournament] has been positive.”

Orabone organizes a number of large events throughout the year. He called the golf tournament a way to get back to some level of normalcy in the pandemic.

“At some point we’re going to need to be able to socialize again and re-engage with one another,” he said. “That’s who we are as people.”

Orabone said this was the first golf tournament of its kind. About $2,200 was raised, which will go to a Covid-19 relief fund for Vermont Adaptive. Earlier this year, Orabone helped raise $7,000 through the #onekillington campaign, to support people in the community and promote positivity when the pandemic hit.

The potential for an outbreak in town has been unsettling for some. Killington Police Chief Whit Montgomery was called to respond to the after party at Taco X after receiving a call that people were gathering in a large group and not wearing masks.

“When I got there it was pretty well dispersed,” Montgomery said. “I’m afraid people are becoming non-complacent. That’s a concern, obviously… People are definitely panicking.”

State Rep. Jim Harrison, R-for Bridgewater, Killington, Chittenden, Mendon, said the outbreak was inevitable. “As long as we’re going to have human interactions, which we are, we’re going to see some of that,” Harrison said. “We have to do what we can to be vigilant.”

The Killington Golf Course has been open since June. Killington Resort Communications Manager Courtney DiFiore said there were no plans to change guidelines at the course, which requires social distancing and advance tee time bookings. The golf course had held at least two golf tournaments before the outbreak.

Health Commissioner Mark Levine said at a press conference that some of the guests who attended the party in Killington have been uncooperative with state officials.

“There have been a few noteworthy instances that were not so positive and have stuck out in our minds from this outbreak, but this is the minority,” Levine said. “Most Vermonters have been very cooperative when contacted by our team… it’s hard, I know. We are generally giving people news they do not want to hear.”

Levine emphasized that there was no shame in getting sick.

“When it comes to protecting the public health of Vermonters we all have a responsibility to do our part,” Levine said. “Even if it’s as simple as picking up the phone when we call. Vermont is about knowing we can count on each other when it matters most.”

Those that think they may have been exposed to Covid-19 should call 802-863-7240.

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