Gov. Phil Scott said Tuesday that he is "cautiously optimistic" about the state's recent response to the coronavirus pandemic based on changes in behavior health officials have seen among Vermonters in recent weeks.
Residents have been staying at home more and for the most part obeying the restrictions put in place by the governor, which he said is helping keep the case numbers down.
Vermont reported 63 new coronavirus cases and three new deaths on Tuesday.
Still, Scott cautioned that it is too soon to tell if people heeded his warning to keep Thanksgiving dinners small and avoid traveling out of state for the long holiday weekend.
"It's my hope that if the majority of Vermonters followed the guidance, I will be able to ease some of the restrictions in the not-too-distant future," Scott said.
"There is reason to be optimistic and there is reason to see light at the end of the tunnel," he added. "We have tough days and months ahead, and we're not out of the woods yet, but we are at a point where we can see that light more clearly than we have throughout the pandemic."
The tone of Tuesday's press conference wasn't all positive. State officials offered an apology for 224 COVID-19 tests done in Barre that had to be thrown out after they were not delivered in a timely fashion to the Broad Institute in Massachusetts for processing.
Mike Smith, secretary of the Vermont Agency of Human Services, also issued a second apology for an email that was sent to all of those tested on Monday night informing them of the issue. The mass email inadvertently included the private email addresses for all of the patients it was sent to.
When he last spoke on Friday, Scott continued his call for children to stay home from school for two weeks or to quarantine for one week and get a negative test if they attended multifamily gatherings over the Thanksgiving holiday in violation of state rules. He said that students’ daily health checks on Monday would include questions about whether they attended gatherings outside their households.
But some schools said they would not include those questions.
The Champlain Valley School District and the Mount Abraham Unified School District said they would not ask students whether they attended a gathering with other households. They said they expect families to keep students home if they attended such a social gathering over the holiday and did not want to put the burden of investigating compliance on teachers and staff.
“If we learn that your child(ren) did travel or gather with other households, we will call families to come pick them up and keep them home until their quarantine period is complete,” said Elaine Pinckney, superintendent of CVSD.
The Rutland City Public Schools and the Williamstown Middle and High School are remote for the week, with plans to return on Dec. 7. But school leaders said they could then extend remote learning further if necessary.