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Washington County at center of statewide COVID spike

Published: Nov. 12, 2020 at 6:19 PM EST
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BARRE, Vt. (WCAX) - Vermont hit a grim milestone Thursday reporting 109 new cases of coronavirus, the largest single-day increase since the pandemic began and the second day in a row the state set a record for daily cases.

Forty-six of those new cases came from Washington County, where health officials say outbreaks have been traced back to activities including out-of-state traveling, social gatherings, and even deer camps.

“I’m very worried,” said Julie Tucker of East Montpelier. She says she’s concerned for her 92-year-old mother who’s staying at Woodridge Nursing Home in Berlin and she feels like she can’t even see her family members who live close by. “We stopped seeing each other in the spring and winter, but now we’re going to have to reevaluate.”

Barre officials are also reevaluating in response to the 46 cases reported in their backyard Thursday. City Manager Steven Mackenzie says he is closing City Hall indefinitely and is shutting down the B.O.R ice rink for at least two weeks until after Thanksgiving. He says he fears this spike is only just the beginning. “You can feel it closing in. I think we can get cavalier about, ‘Well, we’re in Vermont, we’re in pretty good shape.’ But that’s changing. As we said, that bubble has burst,” Mackenzie said.

The Barre Unified Union School District announced Thursday all its schools are going remote through Friday. Superintendent David Wells says he knows of at least three members of the school community who’ve tested positive in the last two days, although he wouldn’t say if they are students and/or staff. Wells says he’s waiting on guidance from the health department to determine the move for Monday. "It’s sort of a moving target. It’s not as simple as “X” number of people have a positive result. It all depends on where they were and when they were there," he said.

Officials at the local branch of the state health department say they’ve seen a significant increase in COVID test requests and are planning to add pop-up clinics at the Barre Auditorium next week. It’s all part of an effort to expand testing opportunities across Vermont.

Residents like Julie Tucker say that now, more than ever, everybody has to be on guard. “I think we thought maybe we were going to keep escaping,” she said.

Health department officials say they’re tracking 79 situations statewide. They describe a situation as investigations into potential connections between cases to figure out if there’s a cluster or outbreak. They also say public school COVID case numbers will be updated on the website Friday.

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