UPDATE: Friday, Sept. 4:
There are now 17 Covid-19 cases associated with the outbreak in Killington, including 11 people who attended the private party Aug. 19 and six from subsequent transmission. Two of the new cases had already been identified as close contacts, and were in quarantine, preventing further spread, according to State Epidemiologist Patsy Kelso who provided an update Friday, Sept. 4.
“We’ve reached 34 of the 49 guests who attended the event. Fifteen of them were out of state residents, and their respective state health departments were notified,” Kelso said.
By Polly Mikula
A private party in Killing-ton has led to an outbreak of Covid-19 locally. As of Tuesday, 14 people have tested positive for the virus, but health officials expect more positive cases in the days and weeks to come.
Many of the positive cases were attendees of a private party at the Summit Lodge in Killington on Wednesday, Aug. 19, however, others have tested positive as well, meaning the virus has spread to some extent within the community.
Addressing the people who live and work in the greater Killington area, Health Commissioner Mark Levine, MD said that while an outbreak can cause anxi-ety, people should know the department is working ag-gressively to contain any further viral spread.
Health officials said the Summit Lodge followed state protocols and has been a coopera-tive partner in the investigation.
The Lodge provided “a list as required from which our contact tracing team has been working,” explained Ben Truman, public health communication officer at the Vermont Dept. of Health.
“I’d like to compliment the lodge in Killington as well,” Gov. Phil Scott said Tuesday, Sept. 1 at a news conference. “They were forthright and helpful in doing what they were supposed to do. This does highlight the need for writing down contacts, I know many have tired of this new protocol, but it’s proved itself to be essential,” he said.
The state’s investigation into the Killington outbreak began last week, Levine said. On Monday, Aug. 31, the state received information from the host of the party, including more specific contact details from the 49 people in attendance.
The state health department has employed its standard outreach protocol: to contact all those likely to have been exposed long enough to contract the virus and to provide guidance for testing and/or isolation or quarantining to prevent further community spread.
Levine said 92% of cases statewide have been interviewed within 24 hours of testing positive. The Health Dept. contact tracing team has been working “around the clock” to reach the party attendees, Levine said Tuesday.
Unfortunately, news of viral spread from the Aug. 19 event was unknown until recently and about a week after the Summit party, on Thursday, Aug. 27, the “1st Annual Till I Die Member Guest Happy Shack Open Invitational Golf Tournament” was held at the Killington Golf Course and then outside Taco X. The event was a charity tournament to benefit Vermont Adaptive hosted by the Killington Golf Club. According to Ryan Orabone, owner of Till I Die, there were 84 registered golfers at the event and about 60 people atttended the award ceremony after — some of those people had also attended the private party. Thus far, one additional positive Covid case has been confirmed from that second gathering.
“As a physician, I want everyone listen-ing now or reading my remarks to truly know there is no shame in being exposed or contracting the virus,” Levine said. “If you made a choice to not wear a mask one day or attended a party where people were not taking precautions, then all I can ask is that you learn from that and make different choices the next time around. And don’t let that keep you from working with us to contain the spread of the virus.”
“We’ve run into a very few people who are uncooperative,” Levine continued.
Re-ferring to the Killington outbreak specifical-ly, Levine said individuals have been more uncooperative than average. “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. 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.”
“When it comes to protecting the public health of Vermonters we all have a respon-sibility to do our part. 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. Nine years ago we were Vermont Strong with neighbors helping neighbors to recover from Tropical Storm Irene. Despite the sense that Covid is the new normal, really it’s not. It’s a long-term but finite health care emergency. One that we can end all the sooner if we all do our part and come together, once again — even when it’s inconvenient,” Levine added.
Those that think they may have been ex-posed to Covid-19 as part of the Killington outbreak should call 802-863-7240.
A pop-up test clinic will be held in Rutland on Wednesday, Sept. 2 at the Asa Bloomer Building, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday at Rutland Regional Medical Center and at Pico Moun-tain on Friday. Register at healthvermont. gov/Covid19-testing.
State Rep. Jim Harrison said these tests are being given prioritization and that results should be available within 24 hours. “Hopefully we’ll know more about exactly how far this has spread by the weekend,” he said. “This could happen anywhere… at this point we just need to all do our part to nip it in the bud.”
Town Manager Chet Hagenbarth said he doesn’t expect the town to take any specific additional action at this point in time, “I don’t think the town or Select Board has the appetite to put in place rules that cannot be enforced,” he said.