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UVM working to contain COVID outbreak

Published: Nov. 5, 2020 at 6:24 PM EST
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Vermont Thursday saw its highest single-day jump in new COVID cases since early June. The Health Department announced 35 new cases. Five of them are currently in the hospital, with four in the ICU. Some of those new cases were students at the University of Vermont, where there have been very few cases and Thanksgiving break is just three weeks away.

“It’s really sad to see because we were doing so well and we were kind of a model to the rest of the country for it,” said Alana Plumb, a UVM senior.

“It’s really easy to become complacent,” added Em Bauer, a UVM junior

“Hopefully this will get everybody back into order and vigilant about keeping the community safe,” said Miles McCallum, a UVM sophomore.

Vigilance -- that was the message University of Vermont students and officials are pushing in light of the seven total COVID cases discovered in the school’s community this week. "For all of us, it’s staying diligent and not letting our guard down, said Annie Stevens, UVM’s vice provost for student affairs. “It really can take just one person to impact quite a few people.”

And Stevens says this recent cluster is proof. On Tuesday, one of the infected students who live on campus, and had permission to attend an out-of-state funeral, came into contact with 30 peers when she returned to her residence hall. Stevens says luckily, the six other off-campus students whose results came in Wednesday only interacted with about four to five people each. All seven who tested positive are in isolation and their contacts are in quarantine. “It can happen so fast and it can happen so easily if we don’t follow every precaution,” Stevens said.

As of Sunday, only 27 on and off-campus students tested positive for COVID-19 since the start of the fall semester. That makes this week’s results account for a quarter of all student cases. Stevens says all seven students contracted coronavirus while traveling in or out of state. “I think students are really trying. I think we’ve seen that in our numbers so far. I think given what’s happening in the community right now and around Vermont, it’s just putting students at risk,” she said.

Now, UVM officials are cracking back down, discouraging travel of any kind until Thanksgiving break, and prohibiting students from visiting each other’s dorm rooms. Still, some students say their peers deserve a pat on the back for keeping COVID on campus under control as much as they have.

“It can be easy to kind of look at these cases at UVM and kind of be quick to blame the students, but I think UVM has been doing a really amazing job with our testing, and everyone here really wants us to succeed. So, whatever we can do to keep that up is really important,” said Aidan May, a UVM junior.

UVM officials say these seven confirmed cases are not at all connected to Halloween weekend. They say they should get those results in the next few days.

Talking to students Thursday who witnessed large gatherings, officials suspect they’ll see some problems.

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