COVID Takes a Nasty Turn, Classes Meet Remotely

by Doug McClure

HARDWICK – Hazen Union, Hardwick Elementary, and Craftsbury Academy all met remotely to varying degrees Monday due to COVID and staffing shortages.

The Hazen Union Facebook page stated that another case “in the Hazen community” was reported over the weekend, and “because we have several individuals whose test results are pending, and because we are short on personnel, we will be moving Hazen Union School to remote status for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of this week.”

Superintendent Adam Rosenberg said that in the past week-and-a-half there have been six cases in the Hazen Union community and one each at Hardwick Elementary (HES) and Craftsbury Academy (CA). Hazen Union met fully remote at least through Tuesday, as did HES; CA grades 3 to 8 met remotely Monday and Tuesday.

Separately, Sterling College last week announced its “first reported positive case in the spring semester.” And Caledonia Central Supervisory Union suspended busing after its student transportation contractor experienced an outbreak, according to reports.

These latest cases in schools come as state officials said that Friday saw the single worst new case count in Vermont to date, with the majority of new cases reported in young people. That pattern was reflected in Caledonia County, which has seen the five highest days of new reported cases of the entire pandemic in the past two weeks. Even excluding the outbreak at the Northern State Correctional Facility in Newport, Orleans County has also seen four of its worst-ever days in the past two weeks.

As of Monday, Caledonia County’s case count had gone from 581 cases to 687 in one week, an increase of over 100, with a record-breaking 30 new cases reported on Saturday. Most cases in Caledonia are currently among those aged 10-19 and 20-22. Orleans County cases increased from 780 to 865. Most cases in Orleans County involved people between 30 and 39, followed by those 40-49. Most cases in Lamoille County are in those 20-29, with the 10-19 age group in third place.

With the 10-19 age group leading or near the top in new cases, none of the vaccines yet approved for those under 16, and two more contagious variants present in the state, increased transmission is a heightened concern. The Pfizer vaccine can be administered to sixteen-year-olds, but the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are not cleared for anyone under 18. Not enough studies have been done on younger populations to clear the lower end of the age group for vaccination.

While the state says that two of the more contagious variants are in the state — the B.1.1.7 variant originally discovered in the U.K. and the B.1.429 variant originally found in California — Vermont has not yet developed the in-state capability to do the genomic testing necessary to gauge just how prevalent the variants are. 

None of the ten towns covered by the Hardwick Gazette saw a massive week-to-week change in the weekly report last Friday, though Wolcott’s cases increased by 12%.

Hardwick Town Manager Shaun Fielder said that he had just become eligible for vaccination and registered for an appointment. He encouraged others to do so as well and wanted “to remind folks to keep following the recommended standards, and that includes social distancing measures, that includes masking. We’ve got a little ways to go before we’re back to normal.”