Editor’s note: This commentary is by Brian Allen, of Arlington. He is an art historian and the art critic for National Review.
The state’s disastrous, poorly conceived COVID-19 battle plan has crashed Vermont’s economy and tossed 85,000 low-and-middle income people out of full time work and caused incomes of gig workers to plummet. Gov. Phil Scott and his team trashed our tax base, closed the schools and forced everyone indoors, in Vermont, of all places.
They used bad models and vastly overestimated hospitalizations and deaths. People can’t get cancer screenings, surgeries can’t happen and our empty hospitals are bleeding cash. Children can’t get checkups or vaccines.
We’ve experienced 45 deaths, about half nursing home residents and most around Burlington. The average age of the dead is 80.
No one in Montpelier estimated the cost of the state’s reckless policy in tax revenue, deferred medical care or employment. A lockdown of this kind to fight a virus has never been tried, anywhere, ever.
What’s the cost to young people? Nationally, they’ll have $3 trillion more in debt to pay. Couldn’t that money have been better spent?
Unemployment in Vermont is about 25%. This statistic, worse than the Depression, hits those who make the least. That tends to be younger workers. People in their first jobs are hit earliest. That’s the young.
Parents are worried sick about providing for their children. Is an insecure, anxious home good for kids? Increases in alcohol, opioid, child, and spousal abuse caused by lockdowns and unemployment destabilize homes. Doesn’t this hurt vulnerable children?
According to the National Sexual Assault Hotline, calls from children needing help in the face of adult sexual abuse have increased by 22% since the national lockdown. Governor Scott, what’s the increase in Vermont?
With the state’s tax base gutted, what programs will be cut to balance the budget? Education? Dr. Dinosaur? Daycare?
Children have lost three months of schooling. Many parents can’t homeschool their kids. Online learning works best for the affluent. What about special needs kids? Kids from unstable homes? Children from homes with one or no computer, or with no connectivity?
For younger children, these early months of schooling build long-term reading and math skills. The effects of losing them will unfold over years. For high school students, how will closing the schools affect college admissions, standardized test scores and advanced placement prep?
Will the state compel younger kids to repeat a year? What are the financial and quality-of-life issues there, and the cost to the young, whose start on a productive, income-producing life is delayed?
COVID-19 has a zero mortality rate for children. Why close the schools? Why decide to close them for the year, starting March 15, with next to no information on COVID-19’s virulence. It’s just more “follow the crowd” leadership. The schools have never been closed for so long.
What’s the message we’re sending kids? “Be afraid.” “Hide from risk.” “Resilience is bad.”
Governor Scott should reopen the schools. If the Education Department hasn’t used these weeks to develop protocols for hygiene, then heads need to roll. If Burlington and the small cities can’t handle it, keep them closed, but at least open the rural schools.
Young and old have been deceived. Our leaders have made us think COVID-19 will disappear. It won’t. It’s with us. There isn’t a vaccine and might not be one for years. We need to do our best to protect the sick and the elderly but can’t keep closing life and opportunity down.