Plainfield Outbreak Continues, COVID Picture Gets Muddier

by Doug McClure

MONTPELIER – An August 26 Plainfield wedding, followed by a secondary outbreak at a daycare center, was the epicenter of a COVID outbreak that began with three cases in three towns from central Vermont to Chittenden County.

As of 7 September, the outbreak had spread to 65 people, largely in the Plainfield-Barre-Marshfield area. The Department of Financial Regulation (DFR) map showed a circle of spread from Plainfield north into Hardwick, east into Peacham/Groton, west into Moretown, and south into Williamstown and Washington. A related cluster centered around Eden, Lowell, Hyde Park, and Johnson, with two other smaller clusters around Burlington and its suburbs.

Twinfield Union Principal Mark Mooney said, “We have felt the impact of the community wedding. We had to send home half of our second grade, kindergarten and sixth grade. K, 2 and 6 students returned to campus today.  We have not had any person-to-person spread in school. We have had a few other students who did not start school until this week due to their connection to the wedding. We are hopeful things will calm down at school, but the virus is very present in our community.”

Cases in Local Schools Remain Low

Unrelated to that outbreak, the Orleans Southwest Supervisory Union (OSSU) emailed that it had found two positive cases “in the Craftsbury schools community,” but said: “We’ve identified no close contacts.”

As of the September 12 state report, one new case was reported in the Cabot School system. 

Statewide, Vermont reported 78 new cases in schools in the seven days up to September 12, bringing the total number of school cases reported to 159 in the two weeks since schools opened.

Cases Climb, State Data Subject to Change

With the exception of Plainfield and Marshfield, towns in our coverage area continued to see small increases in the number of cases week-to-week. In the rest of the state, the number of cases is increasing rapidly. 

Since at least the start of September, Vermont has been reporting one case count on the COVID dashboard and then revising it upward a day later, sometimes again even later, in the state’s data portal, which is separate from the widely publicized “COVID-19 dashboard.” 

On September 4, the initial count was 54, which was a day later revised up to 104 and later to 112. The following day’s count increased from 78 to 158.

COVID Cases in Young People Surge, Vaccination Lags

As of September 2, Vermont was first-in-the-nation in the percentage of COVID cases in children. According to the American Association of Pediatrics (AAP), as of September 9, 22.9% of total COVID cases in Vermont — 6,783 to be exact — have been in kids nineteen years of age or younger. In the one week between its September 2 and September 9 report, the period when schools first opened in Vermont, the AAP showed an increase of 258 cases in kids 0-19.

As of September 14, 51% of people ages 12-17 in Orleans County had received at least one dose of the vaccine. In Caledonia County, 60% of kids 12-15 have, and 69% for those 16-17 have.

According to CDC data, just over half of the eligible population in Caledonia and Orleans County is fully vaccinated. Between both counties, nearly 7,000 children under the age of twelve are too young to receive the vaccine, according to Census data.

Mask Recommendation Extended

At last Wednesday’s meeting, Governor Phil Scott’s administration changed course on its original 10-day masking recommendation for students twelve and over. In-school masking is now recommended for all students through October 4. 

Both the Orleans Southwest Supervisory Union (OSSU) and Caledonia Central Supervisory Union (CCSU) had already instituted universal masking from the outset.