Barre saw the number of new COVID-19 cases in the city jump by 163 between Nov. 4 and Nov. 18, from 39 cumulative cases to 202 cases – a 418 percent increase – according to figures released by the Vermont Department of Health.
Another Washington County town with a particularly large increase was Northfield, where cases rose from 4 on Nov. 10 to 49 on Nov. 18, a 390 percent increase. In the Orange County town of Williamstown, just over the county border from Washington County, cumulative cases jumped from 8 on Nov. 4 to 53 on Nov. 18, a 563 percent increase.
Montpelier added 18 cases over the same time period, a 66 percent increase, from a cumulative total of 27 to 45. The city added three cases from Nov. 4 to Nov. 11, then another 15 from Nov. 12 through Nov. 18.
Barre Town now has had 24 cases over the course of the pandemic; two weeks earlier the specific number for Barre Town was not reported because it had five or fewer cases at that point. Waterbury had 31 cumulative cases as of Nov. 18, up from 19 two weeks earlier.
Other cumulative case counts in the area as of Nov. 18: Plainfield (14), Berlin (12), Middlesex (11), East Montpelier (10), and Calais, (10).
Town-by-town figures are released by the state every Friday for a one-week period ending the prior Wednesday. The Bridge calculated the two-week changes above by comparing the data as of Nov. 4 with the data as of Nov. 18.
As in the rest of the nation, coronavirus cases have been increasing rapidly in Vermont in recent weeks. The Health Department reported 148 new statewide cases on Nov. 19, a record. Today, Nov. 20, the state reported 146 new cases. Last summer, there were days when as few as two or four new cases a day would be reported.
The recent coronavirus outbreak in Washington County has been the worst in the state. Washington County now has the highest percentage of cumulative cases per 10,000 people of any county in the state, according to the state Health Department.
Over the course of November to date, the number of cumulative cases in Washington County rose from 154 on Nov. 1 to 501 on Nov. 19, a 225 percent increase over the period. The state reported 50 new cases in the county on Thursday, Nov. 19, and 32 new cases on Friday, Nov. 20.
Washington County was the location of a major virus outbreak stemming from a social gathering in early October of people who play hockey and broomball at the Central Vermont Memorial Civic Center in Montpelier. The event eventually led to over 150 cases statewide, the state has reported in the past. Today, Vermont Commissioner of Health Dr. Mark Levine said that the spread of cases from that particular event has started to “decay,” which he said was good news.
The coronavirus outbreak is having significant local impacts. Many schools in Washington County have been forced to switch to remote learning at various times. At least four restaurants in Montpelier have reportedly closed temporarily in recent days. And at least one Washington County facility serving seniors has been hit with the virus, Levine indicated.
The worsening coronavirus situation in Vermont led Gov. Phil Scott last week to prohibit multi-household social gatherings, both indoors and outdoors, disrupting many families’ Thanksgiving plans.
Today, Scott modified the restriction to allow outdoor walks and recreation such as bicycling with no more than two people from different households, as long as the participants remain distanced and wear masks.
As we head into the holiday season, social or recreational interactions among more than two members of different households remain forbidden. The one exception is that a family member who lives alone and has no symptoms or exposure to the virus, can visit with family members of another household. In that situation, the advice to maintain masking and physical distancing still stands, according to the Vermont Health Department guidelines.
“Multiple Household Social Gatherings Suspended. Attendance at all public and private social, recreational and entertainment gatherings, indoor and outdoor, including large social gatherings incidental to ceremonies, holiday gatherings, parties and celebrations, shall be limited to participation with only members of a single household. For the sake of clarity, nothing in this Order prohibits the gathering of members living in the same residence. Individuals who live alone may gather with members of their immediate family residing in a different household.”
The current guidelines will remain in force through December 15, 2020. The Extended Emergency Order can be reviewed here.