Outbreak at Waterbury camp raises concerns on back-to-school protocols

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Published: Aug. 12, 2021 at 6:28 PM EDT
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RUTLAND, Vt. (WCAX) - There are 28 confirmed positive COVID cases among children at a Waterbury summer camp. With most of the infected campers under the age of 12 and unvaccinated, the situation raises serious concerns about what younger children will encounter as they head back to school in the next two weeks.

“We’re primarily outside and the research had shown it doesn’t spread as much outside. I think that definitely differs right, from an educational institution, where they are inside for 80%, 90% of the day,” said Nick Nadeau the director of Waterbury Parks and Recreation, which ran the camp. Health officials say no severe illnesses have been linked to the outbreak.

The state lifted mask mandates back in June and no longer requires masks for summer camps. But in schools this fall, the Vermont Agency of Education and Department of Health are recommending everyone wear a mask for at least the first 10 days of school. After that, once a school reaches an 80% vaccination rate among eligible students, masks are no longer needed for ages 12 and up.

“New set of rules to learn this year,” said Rutland City Public Schools Superintendent Bill Olsen. He says his district will continue to follow the guidance given by the state and that superintendents meet weekly with state officials for policy updates. “People are just trying to understand how that 80% rule would work and how we would measure it.”

Addison Central School District announced it will follow the state’s recommendations, planning to use the 80% rule. And the Essex Westford School District announced it will begin the school year with everyone wearing masks regardless of vaccination status.

But some districts, like Slate Valley, are still waiting to make a decision. “The board felt that they would like some more time to see what develops over the next two weeks,” said Brooke Olsen--Farrell, the district’s superintendent. She says districts are discussing options with each other and that she anticipates a mixture of decisions. “We need to focus on making the very best decision for kids, and there is going to be controversy no matter what.”

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