Burlington residents may see new restrictions on house parties and alcohol sales as soon as Thursday, Mayor Miro Weinberger said, as the city girds for the return of college students.
The mayor on Tuesday proposed limiting outdoor residential gatherings to 25 people, indoor ones to 10, and to end all alcohol sales at 10 p.m. The indoor gathering limit would be 15 if at least five of the attendees are household members.
He's requested an emergency city council meeting for Thursday to approve the new rules.
Weinberger said the "preemptive" changes may help prevent a spike in COVID-19 outbreaks due to the return of K-12 and university classes.
"We want to avoid the backsliding and failed reopenings that we've seen other states and cities experience in this pandemic," he said during a press conference.
The announcement seizes on new municipal authority that Gov. Phil Scott granted to cities and towns last week.
Many of the 12,000 expected University of Vermont students have begun returning to Burlington in recent days, ahead of an August 31 semester start.
Weinberger recently joined mounting criticism of UVM's plan by penning an open letter to president Suresh Garimella that outlined his numerous concerns. On Tuesday, he said further conversation with university leaders had brought clarity and reassuring concessions.
For one, UVM agreed to help pay for more police patrols in neighborhoods where most students live, Weinberger said. The program revives a previous partnership that UVM canceled in June, the Vermont Cynic student newspaper reported, as students joined other residents in calls to defund the police.
The patrols will focus on education, rather than enforcement, Weinberger said, but could result in civil tickets to those who disregard the gathering limits. The patrols could cost about $15,000 per month, he said.
The mayor said the city didn't have a workable alternative to armed officers, but he said the previous version of the program did not result in any problems with police conduct.
The mayor had specifically asked UVM to conduct more frequent COVID-19 testing of students, but on Tuesday, he said that Garimella had assuaged his concerns.
The university president projected confidence during a separate press conference on Tuesday.
"UVM students will be among the most tested and closely monitored of any resident in the state of Vermont," he said.