On Thursday, Vermont Speaker of the House Jill Krowinski, D-Burlington, issued the following statement following record COVID-19 case numbers in the state:
The first thing that came to mind when I saw today’s case count of 591 was, ‘Why? Why is more action not being taken to protect Vermonters and keep our communities safe? Why don’t we implement the strategies we know work, like a mask mandate, to mitigate the spread of COVID-19?’ The Governor has stated that he has the tools available to support our communities, but has yet to utilize those tools and has not articulated when the appropriate time is to roll out the mitigation strategies we know work. That time is now. That time was yesterday. That time was a month ago.
Parents, students, business owners, health care providers, educators, and local officials are exhausted and looking for the Governor and his administration to take steps to support them in their day to day lives. Early on in the pandemic, Vermont was heralded as a leader in our response to the pandemic and the tremendous effort that went into collaborating and finding collaborative solutions to support our families, friends, and neighbors. Our communities are still making sacrifices to support each other, but they need the Governor and his team to take state action to give them some relief. We are not talking about shutting down businesses or implementing travel restrictions. A statewide masking policy, reminding Vermonters of the effective ways that we can protect ourselves and others – like staying home when you are sick, and increasing the availability of testing are all ways we can bend the curve like we did in the beginning. The data presented at the most recent press conference shows that we are on track to have this level of community spread for the next four weeks, and it is unfathomable to me that nothing is being done to address this unprecedented spread of the virus in every county in the state.
Vermonters are absolutely burned out and cannot understand why more is not being done to mitigate the spread in our communities. The Governor has the power and authority to take immediate action, he has before, and I know he can do it again. This is not a political decision; this is a decision that should be made based on following the data and the science. Governor Scott, please take action today to implement a statewide masking policy and utilize other strategies we know will make a difference in protecting Vermonters.
Also on Thursday, Senate President Pro Tem Becca Balint, D-Windham, released this statement urging a change in the administration’s coronavirus policy:
Earlier today I requested a meeting with Governor Phil Scott to discuss the COVID-19 infection numbers that were released today. I conveyed to his staff that it’s long past time for his administration to pivot in their approach to the pandemic. Four weeks ago I made the same request. Today, 591 new cases were reported, the highest number to date, we have 53 Vermonters hospitalized, and 14 of those are in intensive care units. These numbers speak for themselves–this is unacceptable and we cannot continue this way. Although the governor was not able to accommodate my request today, I sincerely hope we are able to meet tomorrow and together begin to map out a better path forward for Vermonters. We cannot afford to wait another day. The administration’s plan is not working.
As far back as August, when the Speaker of the House and I reached out with concerns about the Delta variant we were told by the administration that the covid infection rates would plateau in a few weeks time. This didn’t happen–not in September or October. We continued to press for a shift in strategy and asked the tough questions about why that was not being done. Now we are seeing our highest numbers yet and our greatest community spread, and his team is still not using all the tools at our disposal. This is taking a terrible toll on families.They do not have the support they need to ride out this crisis.
I am one of many parents across Vermont whose child is home from school and is quarantining this week because she was potentially exposed to a positive case in her school. My spouse and I are juggling childcare while also doing our jobs. We are far from the only ones, but we are fortunate to have resources that other families don’t. Neither of us have to sacrifice a shift, or a paycheck, or a job to stay home with our children. Many Vermont families are at a breaking point; this surge in infections is crushing them. Staying the course on a failing strategy doesn’t make sense. We must be using every tool we have to help reduce the community spread of the disease.
It isn’t too late to change course. We can re-institute a masking mandate, and it can be tied to rates of infection in hot spots. Other states have already done this. We can still reduce the number of infections, the number of hospitalizations, and the number of Vermonters who will die from this highly contagious virus.
When things aren’t working, strong leaders do not stick their heads in the sand. They re-evaluate, pivot, and commit to a new path. This virus is unpredictable. We all hoped infection rates would drop as more Vermonters got vaccinated, but clearly that hasn’t happened, and we are overdue for a reassessment of strategy and a course correction. It has to happen now. I look forward to talking with the administration about how to get this done.