Montpelier High School officials reported a bump in Covid-19 cases that the school superintendent attributed to the state high school basketball championships last weekend.

Fourteen students at Montpelier High tested positive for Covid-19 this week, according to Montpelier Roxbury Public Schools superintendent Libby Bonesteel.

“Most of the positive cases had been to the basketball game,” Bonesteel said. “I don’t think it was all of them, but most of them had been.”

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The small outbreak comes as Vermont and other states lift Covid-19 safety restrictions. On March 3, state officials announced they would no longer recommend mask mandates in schools as of March 14. Following that announcement, districts and supervisory unions across the state lifted their mask mandates; some had done so even earlier.

The relaxation of safety measures came just as Vermont boys’ high school basketball teams were gearing up for the finals.

The Division II championships, which pitted the Montpelier Solons against the Mount St. Joseph Academy Green Wave, took place at the city-run Barre Municipal Auditorium on March 12.

Although Barre had lifted a mask mandate in municipal buildings on March 7, Steven Mackenzie, Barre’s city manager, said that people renting the auditorium could decide whether or not to mandate masks for their events.

But Jay Nichols, executive director of the Vermont Principals’ Association, which oversees Vermont’s school sports, said the organization defers to local rules.

“We’ve said right from Day One — we’re going to go with whatever rule the place has,” he said.

At the Division II championship game, in which Montpelier bested Mount St. Joseph 66-39, masks were optional for athletes and spectators.

Nichols estimated that 99% of the “pretty good crowd” attending the game were unmasked.

“I only saw a few people wear masks,” he said.

Asked via email if Mount St. Joseph Academy had seen an uptick in Covid-19 cases following the game, Principal Michael Alexander replied, “Nope.”

Faced with the bump in cases, Montpelier High organized a testing event for students and staff. School officials administered antigen tests to about 120 people, according to the superintendent.

The Montpelier district lifted its mandate on March 14, over the protests of roughly a dozen students. Most Montpelier High students are still masking in the building, Bonesteel said.

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