COVID cases surge at UVM; UK variant found on campus

Published: Mar. 22, 2021 at 6:00 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - COVID-19 cases are surging at the University of Vermont. UVM just released its new coronavirus numbers and the administration says they are “not encouraging.”

UVM Vice President Gary Derr says the most significant jump in cases happened off-campus, with 69 new cases. There are an additional 21 new cases on campus and two among staff.

School officials say the most concerning part is the results show the U.K. variant is now on campus.

“I think we’ve all known for some time that it has been in the Burlington area, but now we know for sure that it’s on our campus and amongst our students,” Derr said.

The U.K. variant of COVID-19 has made its way to UVM. Derr says the Vermont Department of Health recently confirmed that four of five random samples from UVM tested positive for the variant. Health officials say this variant spreads faster and presents symptoms sooner.

Derr says while this is concerning, the university does not plan to make any changes to safety protocol or enforcement.

UVM already has stiff testing requirements and strict penalties for students who violate safety protocols. But with the new variant spreading, UVM officials are urging students to recommit to mask-wearing, physical distancing and avoiding gatherings.

“Now more than ever, we need to make that personal commitment to maintaining those safe protocols that we know are so effective,” Derr said.

Students we talked with had mixed reactions to the news.

“I’m not surprised,” student Moriah Papo said. “It is more contagious and people are traveling.”

“Given how infectious this disease is, it was bound to happen eventually,” student Harrison Hsiang said. “It’s totally a miracle that it’s taken this long but UVM’s done a really good job at ensuring that the students stay safe.”

“I think it’s a little bit scary just because it spreads so much faster but I think we’re doing a really good job at wearing our masks and keeping our circle small,” student Acadia Zabriskie said.

Derr says he doesn’t anticipate the university lifting the rules any time this semester. He says that likely won’t happen until a majority of the student body is vaccinated. College-aged students will be eligible to schedule their shot by mid-April.

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