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Out-of-compliance camp group to remain at Rutland hotel for now

(WCAX)
Published: Jul. 10, 2020 at 4:32 PM EDT
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An out-of-state orthodox Jewish camp group that state officials have warned is out of compliance with COVID-19 occupancy orders will remain at a Rutland hotel for the time being.

Rutland Town residents say they're comfortable with the campers from New York City and New Jersey enjoying the rest of their stay in Vermont, as long as they follow proper health protocols.

"At this point, they're already here, so there's no point of making them leave," said Domonique Thorne of Rutland Town. "If they're quarantining and trying to stay away from people and wearing masks and all of the above, then it's not as bad."

While the director of BRC Teens Camp, Rabbi Moshe Perlstein, says he's willing to do whatever's necessary to keep his kids and residents safe, he prefers the teens stay housed at the Holiday Inn for the duration of their three-week trip, if possible.

"If it means sending the children home, we'll do that. If it means sending them to another location, we'll do that. If there's a way to work out to keep them here, we'll do that," he said.

Perlstein says he's working with the Vermont Department of Public Safety, the Attorney General's office, and the Holiday Inn to come up with a solution, but worries moving the campers will cause more problems.

Vermont Public Safety Commissioner Michael Schirling Friday would not provide details on the plan or clarify if the 72-hour notice to comply was extended, though he says they hope to have more details Monday.

The Holiday Inn owner says he originally booked the group of 350 to 400 people because he wasn't sure if he had to follow summer camp occupancy guidelines, which allow for 75 percent capacity, or lodging establishment rules, which permit only 50 percent. The hotel can fit 600 guests.

Rutland Town Selectboard Chair Josh Terenzini says the Holiday Inn has a history of not working well with the community. "At the town level, we're very frustrated by the actions of the hotel not to partner with us, especially during a pandemic, on creating such an event," he said.

Terenzini says the town health officer checked the COVID-19 tests for each of the campers Friday morning. Each were taken within five days of arrival in Vermont and all results came back negative. He stresses he wants the campers to feel welcome and for residents to help make that happen. "Hate has no place in Rutland Town," he said.

Perlstein says he's looking forward to exploring the Green Mountain State with his campers in the near future. "I plan on coming back next year and the year after and many years to come," he said.

For now, all the BRC Teens aren't leaving hotel property. Terenzini says he hopes the governor's task force will adjust occupancy orders in the wake of this dilemma. He says while the 50 percent rule may be appropriate for smaller lodgings, a larger location like the Holiday Inn can still house hundreds of out-of-staters, and he worries the town will encounter more issues like this when tourism ramps back up.

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