- Associated Press - Tuesday, November 17, 2020

A clearly frustrated Vermont Gov. Phil Scott on Tuesday again urged people across the state not to hold small social gatherings that have been shown to be the largest source of new virus cases in the state.

Speaking at his regular news conference while the state is trying to knock down the largest surge in cases since the pandemic began, Scott said that while the hours for indoor dining have been restricted, restaurants have not been shown to be a source of the new cases, nor have gymnasiums, schools or out-of-state visitors to Vermont.

But between Oct. 1 and last Friday when a series of new restrictions were announced, including the closure of bars, 71% of the new virus outbreaks had been linked to parties and social gatherings, at homes and in bars and clubs. The rules designed to minimize the spread of the virus in restaurants and other locations have been working.

He said he understood why people would become frustrated with the rules and many had become complacent after months when Vermont had some of the lowest rates of virus infection in the country.

“In the environment we’re, in we’ve got to prioritize need over want. In my view in-person education, protecting our healthcare system and keeping people working as long as we can do it safely, are things we need,” Scott said. “Parties and cookouts, hanging out with people you don’t know just to socialize may be fun, but they are wants, not needs, and they put a lot of people at risk.”



Scott also aimed his frustration at people who resist calls for mask wearing, social distancing and other measures designed to minimize the risk of spreading the virus, by claiming they are standing up for what they see as their rights and the patriotic thing to do.

“Patriots also stand up and fight when our nation’s health and security is threatened,” Scott said. “And right now are country and way of life is being attacked by this virus, not the protections we’ve put in place.”

Despite his frustration and the rapid spread of the virus, Scott said he remained reluctant to impose penalties for people who don’t follow the rules.

“It’s always an option,” Scott said. “I still believe in Vermonters willingness to put this behind us and so that we can get to whatever the normal was over the last three or four months as we await a vaccine.”

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NUMBERS

On Tuesday, the Vermont Health Department reported just under 100 new cases of the virus, bringing the statewide total since the pandemic began to just over 3,100.

The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Vermont has risen over the past two weeks from 19.43 new cases per day on Nov. 2 to 84.71 new cases per day on Nov. 16.

The number of deaths remains at 59.

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BUSINESSS ASSISTANCE

The state of Vermont is allocating $75 million to help businesses and lodging establishments hurt by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Legislature’s Joint Fiscal Committee also has approved nearly $6.5 million to help Vermonters who need help paying their rent.

The grants will provide relief to food and accommodations businesses that lost revenues between March and September, with a cap of up to $300,000.

The Joint Fiscal Committee, made up of leaders from the House and Senate’s finance panels, has the authority to approve or reject proposals from Scott’s administration for allocating money from federal COVID-19 relief funds that must be spent by the end of the year.

“We don’t have enough money to make everyone whole,” said state Sen. Ann Cummings, a Democrat. “So we’re trying the best we can to find a way to keep everybody afloat.”’

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