coronavirus pandemic

In High Heat, Vermonters Urged to Continue Physical Distancing

Gov. Phil Scott wants people to keep their distance on beaches and in other busy summer spots, to reduce the risk of new transmissions of coronavirus

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Record-breaking heat across much of Vermont Wednesday came on the same day the state announced it had no patients in the hospital because of COVID-19.

That was the first time that has been true since early March, according to data published Wednesday by the Vermont Department of Health.

With the hot weather sending Vermonters to beaches and other spots to cool off, state officials renewed their plea for people to maintain physical distancing—to prevent a new spike in coronavirus infections.

The virus is still quite active in other parts of New England, and can be spread person-to-person before a patient shows symptoms, health officials have reminded Vermonters.

"It is a very hot day," observed Adega Bulle of Burlington, who took her two kids for ice cream from the well-known summer spot Beansie's, a school bus converted to a quick-serve eatery located alongside Battery Park.

The ice cream was just what Bulle wanted when the temperatures in Burlington reached 94, breaking a record for both Wednesday's date and for the month of May.

"It's an early summer," the mother said, sitting in the shade of a tree enjoying her ice cream with her children.

Beansie's has instituted new physical distancing measures. It now has standing menus keeping customers spaced apart, so they're not crowding the ordering or pick-up windows.

"It's worth it for safety," Chris Corron of Beansie's said.

The additions are the kind of adjustments Vermont's governor and health commissioner like seeing as temperatures climb.

The Scott administration is looking to communicate a new balance between the message to stay vigilant—to keep up with hygiene and distancing to continue driving down the spread of COVID-19—with the reality masks can get uncomfortable in the heat.

"On these days where it's very hot, we have to keep in mind if you can physically distance yourself from others, you don't have to wear a mask if you're outside—if you can physically separate yourself," said Gov. Phil Scott, R-Vermont. "So it's not as though you always have to wear the mask. You just have to make sure you're not in the vicinity of someone else."

People entering stores or likely to encounter others are still asked to wear face coverings, and they are mandated in some communities and establishments.

At Burlington's North Beach, NECN and NBC10 Boston spotted folks cooling off in Lake Champlain while remembering the recommendations to not get too close to other groups.

"You have to adjust to the new normal and adapt to what's going on now," said beach-goer Macy Ryea.

"We tend to keep to ourselves regardless of where we go, so keeping a distance from people is what we were aiming for," added Alivia Bergeron, who came to North Beach with Ryea.

Just as COVID-19 taught us to be mindful of our vulnerable neighbors, Vermont's health commissioner, Dr. Mark Levine, said he wants the same to be true on hot days like this.

Levine urged Vermonters to check on their elderly friends and relatives, to make sure they're comfortable in the record-breaking heat.

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