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Vt. officials release ski resort, school winter sports guidance

Published: Nov. 3, 2020 at 8:14 AM EST
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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - Vermont high schools will have no wrestling and indoor track season this winter, and Vermont ski resorts will have strict new capacity limits according to new guidance released Tuesday.

Much of the Green Mountain State saw a blanket of snow Tuesday, just in time for the state to roll out its guidance on the upcoming ski season.

“We took our learnings from the summer and we’re able to implement them for the winter,” said Mike Solimano, the president of Killington Resort. He says his focus is on staying open, so the resort is reducing operations at the base lodge. “Our focus is really on skiing and riding, so as a result we won’t need to bring in as many staff on a part-time basis that work weekends.”

Ski resorts will be required to comply with six safety measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

  1. Visitors must comply with travel guidelines.
  2. Contact tracing information will be collected.
  3. Ski areas must reduce the number of out-of-state staff.
  4. They must reduce lift capacity to 50-percent unless those visitors are traveling together. Gondolas can only carry one party unless they’re big enough to comply with a six-foot buffer zone.
  5. Day-use lodges must reduce capacity to 50-percent or a maximum of 75 people in that space.
  6. Ski areas must loosen cancelation policies so sick people don’t feel pressured to come here or lose money.

“Outside, in the lift lines, people will be able to make wise choices,” said Kip Roberts with Onion River Outdoors in Montpelier. He says he’s excited about the season and that the new rules may actually make for a better experience. “From a skiing standpoint, that could be a good thing. Kind of like the single chair at Mad River Glen spaces out people on the mountain, more fresh snow, more powder. That could be a good thing -- fewer people on each run.”

The number of out-of-state skiers is expected to take a hit due to state quarantine requirements. “The travel policy is going to lead to less people being able to come here. We expect ski areas to have a decreased customer count,” said Vt. Deputy Commerce Commissioner Ted Brady.

To soften the blow, the state is rolling out more grants for ski areas.

VERMONT SCHOOL WINTER SPORTS GUIDANCE

Vermont officials say in addition to the cancelation of wrestling and indoor track, cheering squads cannot practice vocal routines, and spectators are not allowed for any indoor games or practices. For sports that got the ok, practices can start November 30th and competition can begin on January 11. Delays or cancelations could happen to winter sports if COVID cases continue to spread. The state doesn’t want any team-based social gatherings and the state expanded the mask mandate to referees and coaches.

A detailed list of changes will be released soon by the Vermont Principals' Association.

TRAVEL MAP

Vt. DFR Commissioner Mike Pieciak says there has been a regional increase in COVID cases that’s impacting the state’s safe travel map. Red and yellow counties now surround Vermont, so the state has decreased the number of people allowed to come here without a quarantine by another half a million people to 332,000. That’s the lowest number since the state launched the map. To put this into perspective, 19-million were allowed to come here without a quarantine back in June.

The state saw 132 new cases this week but the state lowered its projections over the next few weeks expecting cases to peak at 40 a day. Four new cases were reported in Essex County. The commissioner says that’s unusual and could be due to some spillover from people traveling to New Hampshire, especially Coos County. Pieciak warned Vermonters to be careful about traveling across state lines.

VIRUS NUMBERS REMAIN WITHIN STATE’S ‘GUARDRAILS’

Vt. Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine said the state is monitoring four metrics when it comes to implementing possible new restrictions -- hospital capacity, syndromic surveillance, virus growth rates, and test positivity rates. He says despite rising case numbers here, those numbers have not changed significantly.

“None of our guardrails are really being approached and the data doesn’t support us being super aggressive as a reaction to the recent increase in cases,” Levine said. He says they are also not as alarmed because most of the recent cases are from specific outbreaks.

There were 14 new cases in K-12th grade. In higher ed, there were 36 new cases -- most of those associated with the outbreak at St. Michael’s College. There have been a total of 65 cases at St. Mikes with just 17 reported Monday. Most students have no symptoms. The campus remains on remote learning. There are 112 COVID cases now linked to the hockey and broomball outbreak in central Vermont.

Vermont still has the lowest fatality rate in the country and the lowest positivity rate in the country. As of Tuesday, Vermont health officials reported 19 new coronavirus cases for a total of 2,237. There have been a total of 58 deaths. The state’s percent positive seven-day average is 0.5%. A total of 190,127 tests have been conducted, 256 travelers are being monitored, 10,474 have completed monitoring, and 1,833 have recovered.

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