Vt. New Year's Celebrations Balance Fun and Safety Amid New COVID-19 Surge

The outdoors, mask-wearing inside, and online programming were features of this year’s pandemic-adjusted celebrations

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New Year's Eve celebrations in Vermont's largest city looked different than many people hoped they would because of a new surge in COVID-19 cases across the state and region.

On the Burlington waterfront, where kid-friendly music kicked off the city's New Year's Eve celebration known as Highlight, parents were grateful for an outdoor program.

"I don't think we would have come if it was inside," said Andrea Parikh, a mother of two.

We all know by now that chances of COVID-19 infections drop in fresh air.

Many kids at the waterfront concert venue were under 5 — not yet eligible to be vaccinated against COVID.

"We weren't about to go inside anywhere, so this was perfect for what we wanted to celebrate, and feel like we were doing a little something without taking those risks," said Lindsay Williams, the mom of a child under 5.

As NECN reported earlier this week, Burlington City Arts switched all planned indoor Highlight events to the outdoors — with only about a week to adjust.

There were also online viewing options to the hybrid event, organizers noted.

"It feels good to know that we can get people together safely and that even with COVID really being a problem, we are able to celebrate safely," said Zach Williamson of Burlington City Arts.

Vermont has recently recorded several record-high single-day COVID case numbers, including Thursday's tally of 1,352 new cases.

The vast majority of the cases are among unvaccinated people, according to the administration of Gov. Phil Scott, R-Vermont, which has been pleading with Vermonters to get vaccinated and boosted to protect the state's hospitals from becoming overrun with patients suffering from the most serious outcomes from COVID-19.

Click here for more information on getting vaccinated in Vermont.

Three other Burlington-area arts groups collaborated on an indoor event to take place Friday night.

"We're really looking forward to having a safe and healthy New Year's Eve," said Erin Evarts, the executive director of Lyric Theatre Company.

For Lyric and the Vermont Symphony Orchestra's "Burlington Does Broadway" event at The Flynn downtown, the nonprofits took several significant disease prevention steps.

Cast members and musicians had to be fully vaccinated, Evarts said, and chorus members agreed to wear masks for the big performance — as they did during all rehearsals. Lyric also held its auditions virtually, Evarts added.

"You need a safe environment to rehearse something," said Broadway performer Kerstin Anderson, a Vermont native who was appearing in the gala celebration when visiting her home state for the holidays. "You need to feel relaxed, like you're able to take in new things or make mistakes. This new element of COVID — you need to feel like your health is safe, as well, and people have been excellent about it, I feel."

The in-person audience also needed masks and proof of vaccines or negative tests, according to policies for live performances posted on the Flynn website.

Back at Highlight, the Burlington Parks, Recreation & Waterfront Department said it expects many New Year's Eve revelers will keep the outdoors a major part of their lifestyles in 2022.

"The parks are so important, and in the midst of a pandemic, they're even more important," insisted Cindi Wight, the director of Burlington Parks, Recreation & Waterfront.

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