Vermont Gov. Phil Scott is cracking down on coronavirus restrictions as health officials continue investigate an outbreak among youth and adult hockey players.
"We're considering a number of steps to strengthen guidance, particularly around off-the-ice activities and interstate play," Gov. Phil Scott said Friday. "We also need all players and families to abide by the strict guidance we already have in place."
At least six more hockey players have tested positive since health officials initially learned of a dozen cases earlier this week, along with an unspecified number of cases in schools.
Updated guidlines will likely be released within the next 24 hours, Scott said Friday, emphasizing that they will be enforced.
"We talk a lot about the importance of staying vigilant. And I know that by talking so much about it. And while we continue to have success here in Vermont containing the virus, I worry that Vermonters are not listening to the message as intently as before," Scott said. "But I hope folks will listen carefully today about the hockey outbreak in particular, because it does tell a story."
The cluster involves at least two youth teams and two adult teams who play at the central Vermont Memorial Civic Center in Montpelier. Contact tracing is ongoing and it "appears" that the cases are limited to players and their close contacts, health officials said.
Some Vermont players traveled out of state, according to officials, but it remains unclear whether or to what degree that contributed to the outbreak. Health officials reminded people that they will likely now need to adhere to quarantine requirements when traveling in or out of Vermont because most communities around its borders have exceeded the qualifying coronavirus metrics.
Most of the cases so far have been identified among adults, and the health department informed schools if any of the children went to school while they were infected, health officials said.
At this time know, health officials have identified people who were at one college, three K-12 schools and five workplaces while they were infected.
People with direct links to the teams, the Civic Center and their close contacts are encouraged to get tested for coronavirus. A pop-up clinic will be open Saturday, Oct. 17, at the Barre Auditorium from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Testing is not recommended for the wider Montpelier community in response to this situation. People can register for the pop-up clinic at healthvermont.gov/covid19-testing.
Meanwhile, officials found evidence of coronavirus spreading within a school for the first time since reopening. Contact tracing is underway for two cases that were found at union Elementary School in Montpelier, which officials said are unrelated to the hockey outbreak. "Several" coronavirus cases associated with four different schools in the state were being tracked and traced earlier this week as well.
Additionally, education officials released new data Friday on the level of in-person and online learning taking place in schools based on responses from nearly all districts - over 90% - throughout the state.
As of the end of September, approximately 62% of schools adopted a hybrid learning model. About 70% to 80% of the districts are operating under hybrid or remote-only models. Education officials anticipate that the data will show a shift to more in-person instruction during the next collection at the end of October.
Officials also issued Halloween guidance with regard to coronavirus safety, including maintaining physical distance, wearing masks and preparing individual goodie bags for trick-or-treaters.
"I hope you take away from this, in addition to how to have a safe Halloween, is that, again, we can have some sense of normalcy," Scott said. "As long as we recognize it's not going to be exactly like last year and we use common sense for spreading the virus."