"Over the past eight months, our community has come together, made sacrifices, followed public health guidance and assessed risk, and it's worked," the mayor said. "We now need to double down on those successes. We know that this virus is opportunistic. It will seize any gap that we give it, and it will grow very rapidly if we let it."
Cases in Vermont are on the rise in recent weeks after a summer of dwindling numbers. The state has counted more than 100 new cases since November 1; many of the new cases can be traced to private gatherings, Gov. Phil Scott said at a press conference Friday, shortly before Weinberger's announcement.
State officials are also recommending — but not mandating — that residents limit social gatherings to 10 people or fewer. Health Commissioner Mark Levine asked Vermonters to not travel for the holidays and if they do, to consider getting a coronavirus test before and after their trips.
“We strongly advise Vermonters to limit gatherings in general, and if you host them, be smart and take precautions,” Scott said. “I know this is difficult news, especially around the holidays. But by being smart about gatherings and travel now, we can keep schools and our economy open, and we will get through this pandemic faster and on better footing than just about any other state.”
Weinberger said that the city's gathering limits helped prevent major outbreaks when college students returned to the city earlier this fall. The order originally limited alcohol service times for bars and restaurants, but the council repealed those provisions after data showed new cases were not linked to the establishments.
The mayor's latest proposal is based on a report from city staff that documents cases growing nationwide and in Canada due to travel and holiday events. The report includes a list of other cities — including Montréal, Boulder, Colo., and Bloomington, Ind. — that have similar gathering limits.
"We're trying to be as surgical and focused on what we believe the problem to be as possible," Weinberger said.
The mayor urged Burlingtonians to take advantage of the upcoming weekend's weather forecast and to get outside if possible. He asked residents to follow social distancing and masking protocols and to consider self-quarantining if they participated in any recent larger gatherings.
Weinberger said he would consider stricter rules if hospitals begin to run out of capacity to treat patients but would look to state health officials for guidance.
"At this point, the goal is to be able to avoid that by boxing in the virus ... to bring the virus levels under control," he said. "Although we have these elevated levels, they remain relative to many parts of the country. They remain within the realm that we can can track and hope to contain."