As COVID-19 Cases Rise, Vt. Tightens Rules on Visiting

Anyone traveling to Vermont for leisure, including residents returning from time away, are now expected to quarantine.

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While Vermont maintains the lowest COVID-19 positivity rate in the nation, according to the administration of Gov. Phil Scott, state numbers released Tuesday show new coronavirus infections are up more than 40% this week and hospitalizations are rising.

That had Scott, a Republican, announcing he’s getting stricter on travel by requiring universal quarantines for any non-essential trips into Vermont or returns from residents who had been away.

Non-essential trips include anything outside of travel required for work, medical care, school, obtaining food or medicine, or caring for others—including cases of shared custody of children.

Gov. Scott strongly urged people to think hard about their “wants” versus their “needs” as the pandemic rages on.

“If it’s just a ‘want,’ let’s hold off on that for a while,” the governor said at a COVID-19 briefing. “Because what we ‘need’ to do is keep our kids in school for in-person learning. And keep our businesses open and workers working.”

The governor said for now, any nonessential travel into Vermont requires a quarantine for 14 days, or for seven days followed by a negative COVID-19 test.

That’s what Jennifer McCormack and her daughters did before traveling to Vermont from Connecticut.

“To protect other people,” McCormack said of why her family followed quarantine guidelines. “I would hope everyone else would—but you never know.”

As coronavirus infections tick up nationwide and here in Vermont, the Vermont Department of Health is strongly urging folks to dramatically scale back all get-togethers, keep any socializing limited to very few trusted households, stay vigilant with steps like masking, and consider canceling Thanksgiving trips.

“Our entire region is in danger from a surge of COVID cases happening right now,” warned Dr. Mark Levine, Vermont’s health commissioner. “And it’s very clear that things will not improve anytime soon.”

Killington Resort said it knows the new travel guidance will surely affect operations when opening day comes. The resort’s opening was expected for this weekend, but snowmaking ground to a halt due to the unusually high temperatures this week.

Killington spokeswoman Courtney DiFiore told NECN and NBC10 Boston the destination is ready with plans in place to limit the number of skiers and riders on the mountain through a free parking reservation system, and through using safety measures like outdoor contactless ticketing.

Amid the coronavirus outbreak, Killington Resort in Vermont is stepping up to the plate and giving away food as a way to help employees out.

The resort said it expects guests to follow state guidelines, and directs them on its website to where it can find a list of rules.

“We did foresee changes like this happening,” DiFiore said of Tuesday’s announcement about travel guidance. “We want to get open and stay open—that’s the main thing. So we will do what we need to do to make that happen.”

DiFiore noted the resort gained new skills in operational flexibility this summer by launching COVID-19 prevention measures and balancing those with offering opportunities to enjoy outdoor fun.

Commissioner Mike Schirling of the Vermont Department of Public Safety said plain-clothed representatives of the Vermont State Police, the Division of Fire Safety, and the Department of Liquor and Lottery will be ramping up compliance checks of spots where people gather—including in bars and restaurants.

Schirling said the focus of the checks will be on education and respect for public health measures. However, if inspectors find businesses just aren’t taking those guidelines seriously, they could be reported to the attorney general, Schirling said.

Visit this Vermont Department of Health website for more information on the state’s quarantine expectations and how they can help keep others safe from COVID-19.

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