MONTPELIER — High school and youth sports will be able to take to the ice and the court for competition beginning Feb. 12
During a press conference Friday, Gov. Phil Scott and other state officials announced low-contact indoor sports — ice hockey, basketball, indoor soccer, broom ball and volleyball — will be able to begin competition Feb. 12.
Though this announcement has been long awaited, Scott said, the current COVID-19 data now supports this decision.
“Admittedly, our approach to sports has been among the most cautious in the nation,” Scott said. “We now feel comfortable allowing competition with some safety measures.”
Vermont’s seven-day new case average continues to trend downward, Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine said. Fifty-five people with the virus are currently hospitalized and 17 are in intensive care units.
Indoor sports are not fueling outbreaks or disrupting in-person learning, Levine said. Over the last several weeks, the state has seen no evidence of virus transmission during sports practices.
Though competition is allowed, some restrictions are still in place. No team will be allowed to play more than two games in a seven-day period. Those two games must be at least three days apart.
Additionally, no spectators will be allowed. Secretary Julie Moore of the Agency of Natural Resources recommended teams designate one volunteer to live-stream games for friends and family to watch at home.
“Minimizing the number of people present is essential to managing the risk,” she said.
Scott spoke directly to parents and adults during the conference, urging them, as the Super Bowl approaches, to wear masks, social distance and avoid large gatherings. Community spread could easily shut down high school sports.
“Don’t ruin this for your kids,” he said.
Here are three more key takeaways from the conference.
1. Scott and Levine urged Vermonters not to gather this weekend for Super Bowl watch parties.“Honestly, what worries me way more than youth sports, is a certain American tradition coming up this Sunday,” Levine said.
He reminded Vermonters that multi-household gatherings are still forbidden and that hosting watch parties could damage the recent progress Vermont has made.
“I am looking forward to watching the game myself on Sunday,” said Scott, who shared he will be rooting for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. “But this is not a typical year, nor should it be.”
Levine referred to the Centers for Disease Control’s recent Super Bowl guidelines for ways to celebrate safely. Vermonters could host a virtual watch party or start a text group with other fans for game-day commentary. Levine also suggested supporting local restaurants by ordering take out.
2. Home-bound residents in Franklin County who are under the care of the Franklin County Home Health Agency will be vaccinated this week.Secretary Mike Smith of the Agency of Human Services said Vermont recently received vaccine doses for home-bound Vermonters who are age 75 and over. Home health agencies and EMS personnel will administer these shots.
“I want to express my, and our, thanks to EMS and home health workers for helping to vaccinate homebound Vermonters,” Smith said.
Doses for Franklin County home-bound residents were among those delivered to the state Friday. Smith said the vaccines would be administered immediately.
Home-bound Vermonters who are not in the care of a home health agency will be vaccinated after the 2,000 who are in home health care.
3. Health care workers who were left without with the vaccine before the state moved on to Phase 2 could receive a dose in the coming days. The Messenger previously reported that some health care workers at Northwestern Medical Center who were eligible in Phase 1A, did not receive their first shot.
“At this point, NMC does not have access to enough vaccines for additional first doses in Phase 1A,” Kate Laddison, NMC’s public information officer for incident command, stated in a Jan. 25 email.
That is changing this week, as the state is allocating 880 doses to Vermont hospitals to continue vaccinating its eligible staff. This first allotment will begin to chip away at the estimated 2,500 unvaccinated health care workers across the state.