By Ethan Weinstein
After a week of falling case counts, Vermont’s Covid tallies rose to near highs in the last seven days. Amidst the surge, Gov. Scott at his weekly press conference did not announce any changes to mitigation policies.
Rutland County reported 24 new cases on Tuesday, bringing the 14-day case total to 357. Meanwhile, Windsor County reported 15 new cases on Oct. 12, with 257 cases in the last 14 days. The statewide, seven-day rolling case average is 217 as of Tuesday.
Some questioned whether the cases could have been caused by the influx of out-of-staters due to peak foliage and the three-day weekend. “We’ve seen historic numbers of visitors in some places — I think it was in Killington, they thought they had the biggest weekend they’ve had ever,” Scott said. Despite the increased number of tourists, Scott said that he believed only a maximum of 10% of cases could be blamed on visitors.
Scott continued to rebuff calls for a statewide indoor masking mandate. “I don’t think we would get the compliance,” Scott said of a hypothetical mandate. “It would just create one more controversy.”
Last week, the governor and Secretary of Education Dan French said that school staff — already overworked from contact tracing and other pandemic responsibilities — would need to step up to help run schools’ test-to-stay programs. Those comments drew ire from critics who believed it unfair to place further burdens on overextended school employees.
“I don’t have any easy solutions” to school staffing shortages, said French on Tuesday. He expressed hope that reducing contact tracing would both allow more energy to go toward testing and reduce parent frustration with contact tracing and quarantines.
“Schools are not designed to work in conflict with their parents and communities,” French said. He believes that test-to-stay “will lead to less conflict in our communities” by keeping more students in school.
In contrast to last week, Scott began the press conference by thanking school staff and parents. The state has 80,000 students in school five days a week. “It wouldn’t be possible without the school staff, nurses, and Covid coordinators working long hours,” he said.
Scott’s focus on schools was warranted, as the 0-9 age group is currently experiencing by far the highest rate of Covid infection, followed distantly by 30-39 and 10-19.
Keeping focus on schools but pivoting away from Covid, Scott addressed the recent instances of verbal abuse — often racist or sexist in nature — during school sporting events, which has led to forfeits. (Mountain Times reported one one such event in Rutland, “Price of Racism?” Oct. 6).
“We can’t tolerate this,” Scott said, adding that when teams have walked out mid-game in weeks past, that has been the right thing to do.
“We should stop it in its tracks when it happens.”