The Vermont Department of Health is investigating an outbreak of COVID-19 cases related to youth and adult recreational hockey and broomball teams in central Vermont, officials said Friday, and the governor directed skating rinks to halt reservations through Oct. 30.
The outbreak is linked to people who practiced or played at the Central Vermont Memorial Civic Center in Montpelier earlier this month, officials said. So far, the Health Department has identified 18 confirmed cases among players and several close contacts and most are in adults.
“So far, there is no indication of community spread of the virus,” said Patsy Kelso, state epidemiologist, at the governor’s bi-weekly virus briefing.
In a Friday night release, Gov. Phil Scott said his order barring Vermont’s ice skating rinks from accepting new reservations for two weeks is meant to prevent a rush of new users from high-risk areas. Scott’s move follows New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu’s announcement Thursday that all hockey activities at indoor rinks would be paused for two weeks following positive COVID-19 tests for 158 people associated with the sport over the last two months.
Dr. Ben Chan, New Hampshire state epidemiologist, said the cases come from 23 different New Hampshire hockey organizations and teams, “and there are additional connections with out-of-state ice hockey organizations.”
Scott said given the outbreaks in both states, the executive order will “reduce the risk to Vermonters, and to help sustain the progress we have made.” Rinks can proceed with already scheduled operations.
A pop-up testing site is being opened on Saturday at the Barre Auditorium from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The Health Department recommends people with direct links the teams or the Civic Center and their close contacts get tested.
“We’re considering a number of steps to strengthen guidance, particularly around off-the-ice activities and inter-state play,” Scott said earlier, during his bi-weekly virus briefly. “We also need all players and families to abide by the strict guidance we already have in place.”
The Health Department’s contact tracing team is continuing to reach out to people who may be affected, Kelso said. The governor urged people not to become complacent.
“If we want to keep businesses and schools open, if we want our kids playing sports, and if we want to get back together with family and friends, all of which is really important to our mental health and social well-being, we have to be smart about how we do it,” he said.
Here are the latest developments regarding the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic throughout New England:
The state is setting aside $45 million in federal coronavirus relief funding to help public schools, Gov. Chris Sununu said Thursday.
Most of the amount — $35 million — will be distributed on a per-pupil basis, or about $200 per child, on items such as computers and technology, Sununu said. That money can be spent through 2021.
The remaining $10 million is going into a reserve fund for coronavirus-related costs, such as testing and personal protection equipment.
Sununu also announced an additional $100 million in a second “Main Street” fund for small businesses who need more relief during the pandemic. The initial fund provided about $340 million to over 5,000 businesses.
Applications will be accepted from Oct. 19 to Oct. 30.
The numbers: As of Friday, a total of 9,514 people had tested positive for the virus in New Hampshire, an increase of 90 from the previous day. Two new deaths were announced, bringing the total to 463.
The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in New Hampshire has risen over the past two weeks from 39 new cases per day on Oct. 1 to 78 new cases per day on Oct. 15.
The Vermont State Colleges is offering more than 100 free college courses and trainings this fall to Vermonters whose jobs have been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, using federal relief funding, officials said.
The idea grew out of a House committee and the Legislature allocated $2.3 million for the effort.
“If you or someone in your household has been laid off, furloughed, had your hours cut, or you’ve been employed in an industry that has been impacted by this pandemic, you are eligible for these free classes and trainings,” said Joyce Judy, president of the Community College of Vermont.
Most of the courses are available online, with flexible scheduling offerings, she said. Funding is only available for classes and trainings this fall and participants need to sign up in the next couple of weeks for the courses, Judy said.
The numbers: Vermont reported 13 new cases of the coronavirus on Friday, for a statewide total to date of 1,915. Six of the new cases were in Chittenden County, three in Bennington County, and one each in Windham, Windsor and Washington counties. The total number of deaths has remained at 58 since late July.