Gov. Scott: Vermonters must endure economic hardships ‘for as long as feasibly possible’ following two deaths

Michael Bielawski/TNR

ECONOMIC WOES EXTENDED?: Gov. Phil Scott indicated at a press conference Friday that the economic hardships facing Vermonters could go on longer than first anticipated due to the coronavirus spread.

MONTPELIER — Gov. Phil Scott on Friday said Vermonters may have to wait a long time for business to return to normal as his administration pursues a COVID-19 response effort restricting citizens’ ability to work, support families and go to school

“We’ll sustain it for as long as feasibly possible,” he said. “We’ll get to the end of this and we’ll do it together.”

“I have tremendous faith in our inner strength here in Vermont and in the businesses that are working so hard to be creative,” he said, adding that the federal government would be providing relief in the form of small business disaster loans.

The Small Business Administration will be offering up to $2 million in assistance per business to help compensate for the temporary loss of revenue expected as businesses come to a near standstill, according to a statement from the governor’s office. The SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loans may be used to pay workers, fixed debts, accounts payable and other bills that can’t be paid due to government restrictions on business.

The interest rate is 3.75% for small businesses and 2.75% for private non-profit organizations.

Asked about the likelihood that restrictions on economic activities will last past April 6, the governor wouldn’t provide a clear answer.

“It’s too early to make that decision at this point, but suffice it to say we’re still increasing in the number of positives that we are seeing, and the exponential threat is still there,” he said. “I would expect we Vermonters need to prepare for a much longer period of time, but at this point, I’m not ready to declare that.”

As of Friday, Vermont is reporting 29 positive cases of coronavirus and two deaths. About 808 total tests have been conducted. Nationwide, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports 15,219 cases of COVID-19 and 201 deaths from the virus.

By comparison, regular seasonal influenza cases total at least 38 million since October and have caused between 23,000 and 59,000 deaths, according to the CDC.

The low number of deaths in Vermont and across the country has led many to question if states have overreacted to fears about the coronavirus.

A much-discussed Wall Street Journal editorial published Thursday evening says the country must lift restrictions on businesses within weeks to avoid an economic catastrophe.

“The costs of this national shutdown are growing by the hour, and we don’t mean federal spending. We mean a tsunami of economic destruction that will cause tens of millions to lose their jobs as commerce and production simply cease,” the WSJ editorial board wrote. “Many large companies can withstand a few weeks without revenue but that isn’t true of millions of small and mid-sized firms.”

The paper’s editors note that businesses operate on thin margins and can run out of reserves within a month, leading to layoffs and business closings. The editorial states that “the layoffs will be measured in millions of people” if restrictions on economic activity continue beyond a month.

As to the funds and business loans states are expecting to receive from the federal government to compensate for lost revenue, the Wall Street Journal editorial board writes, “There is no amount of money that can make up for losses of the magnitude we are facing if this extends for several more weeks. After the first $1 trillion this month, will we have to spend another $1 trillion in April, and another in June.”

As Friday’s press conference, Scott referenced the first deaths in the state from the virus.

“Yesterday when we announced the death of two elderly Vermonters with COVID-19, we had a stark reminder why the mitigation actions and efforts we’re taking are absolutely necessary,” he said.

He added that Vermonters need to realize many of them will get this virus, and that while many won’t see serious symptoms, people nonetheless need to take precautions when it comes to spreading the virus to higher-risk populations such as the elderly.

RELATED: Health Department commissioner says any potential coronavirus deaths justify closed schools, economic hardships

Scott expressed sympathy to the struggling business community.

“I want every Vermonter to know I fully understand the incredible economic and emotional toll Coronavirus is having and will continue to have on each and every one of us,” he said. “The measures we are implementing, while disruptive, are based on the best science we have from our experts.”

Earlier in the week, Vermont Health Commissioner Mark Levine noted that in South Korea, where testing is comprehensive, health officials have gained a solid measure of the coronavirus mortality rate — estimated at 0.6 percent. He explained that the more testing there is, the lower the death rate will be.

Friday’s conference focused the handful of economic measures being taken to ease the financial burden Vermonters are starting to feel.

This includes making unemployment available to all Vermonters who lose jobs during the government imposed shutdown. Scott added there have been staff increases at the Department of Labor and processes are being streamlined to make getting services easier.

He reiterated that there should be daycare services provided to anyone working in health care and emergency services dealing with the virus.

Scott also said he is asking legislators to look into providing support geared towards Vermont’s small businesses, especially those who close for family or medical reasons.

He said both the health care industry and the power utilities are each being asked to alleviate costs on their clients so that essential care and services aren’t cut off. For example, premiums are being waved temporarily for Dr. Dynasaur, the health insurance program for kids and young people.

“We’ve been through multiple challenges in our history,” Scott said. “If you take the 1927 flood here in Vermont, or you take the depression in the ’30s, certainly we’ve seen this in Irene, we got through it and we’ll get through this as well.”

Levine, who also spoke on Friday, offered emotional support to Vermonters struggling with isolation.

“Many Vermonters are feeling understandably anxious, worried, perhaps angry, perhaps scared,” he said. “Social distancing can compound the feeling of isolation. We encourage all Vermonters to use this time of social distancing as an opportunity to reconnect with family, with friends, and your community in responsible ways.”

He added that spending time outdoors, taking time to learn new skills, following up on big projects and volunteering are all productive ways to spend some of the extra time.

Michael Bielawski is a reporter for True North. Send him news tips at and follow him on Twitter @TrueNorthMikeB.

Image courtesy of Michael Bielawski/TNR

19 thoughts on “Gov. Scott: Vermonters must endure economic hardships ‘for as long as feasibly possible’ following two deaths

  1. How can anybody look at the actual tiny numbers of those seriously ill, ………
    …………. and justify the DISASTER that is happening to every businesses, stores, employees, families, children frightened, retirement funds heavily damaged, jobs not coming back if we do not just STOP this
    irrational panic. The regular old viruses and pnuemonia, will keep effecting our most vulnerable elderly no matter what we do. This is the historic, natural, ordinary cycle of life. Just let us Enjoy the time we do have…………..
    Life is FAR BETTER without Panic – and with toilet paper

  2. Seeing the shut down of the capitalist system is a dream come true for the climate Marxists. They are very happy.

    Government social control, reduced prosperity, people looking to government for help, calls for single payer health care and universal income programs. These are all reasons to rejoice.

    However once this mass hysteria ends, capitalism will roar back like it always does.

    They will be less happy when they realise it is only their bit of western capitalism which gets hit.

    Russia and China will come out stronger.

    As the western economy does a nose dive they will find:

    all their liberal programs and benefits disappear
    all worries about being “green” evaporate in the fight for survival.

    I suspect that they are among those the least well equipped for a bit of Darwinian competition.

    Nature doesn’t do “safe spaces”

  3. A question asked on a national radio show two nights ago was where are the people who fight for individual freedoms when the government is forcing businesses to close and mandatory curfews? When the government becomes so powerful that it can take away our rights for ANY REASON then the United States as it was created is over. What is to stop these people from limiting the first amendment in the name of safety to stop anyone from resisting this abuse of power?
    I believe Americans as a whole can make the necessary decisions when a perceived threat is so real that we must change our behavior. Phil Scott and his brethren believe that we are too stupid and ill-equipped to think for ourselves and make the right decision. Whether it’s guns, the environment, or a virus they feel obligated to force their decisions based on their fears on us.

  4. Did someone forget to give Phil Scott the memo that real business left the state MANY years ago. The only viable industry remaining in this state is service related…and even that has been on the decline since the early 2000’s. Thanks to our BLOATED state government, ACT 250, LOW credit rating & faulty education system this state faces total bankruptcy very soon.

  5. We need to protect those that are vulnerable, the elderly, the infirm, those with underling conditions

    We don’t need to crush 80% of Vermonters to protect the elderly and infirm, quite the opposite.

    We need to have real data, comparison of flu seasons, because the corona virus is the flu and has been with us many, many years, this is but a new strain. If we know 80% or more have mild or no symptomatic symptoms why are closing that state? Why?

    We need to make some very quick decisions by next week. Do we willfully crush and put the entire state and nation into a depression, which by the way won’t save our vulnerable, it will only make it worse for them, or do we pull together and help those who need it and restore our state.

    The government can not save us. Just like Irene, it was the average Vermonter that rebuilt our entire state in record time, NOT MONTPELIER!

    We have a willing, respectful population that will do what they can to make things better. Case in point, at Walmart they are washing the machines after every check out. Question, I’ve been going to doctors offices and hospitals for 56 years. I have NEVER seen anyone cleaning any of the common touch services when in either building.

    We don’t need sensational propaganda, we need real facts to know where we stand in comparison to other years. To know when we are winning and losing, we don’t need fear mongering.

    We don’t need a flu epidemic AND a depression.

    • The vulnerable – that is mostly those w/compromised immune systems and the elderly w/underlying conditions *not* all elderly should stay home – no expertise necessary its called common sense.

      Does not make sense to keep everyone else to be shut in – the rules being promoted are a defacto self-quarantine – ‘sheltering in place’ edict is defacto martial law.

      No need to be a medical expert here – If there are symptoms – coughing/sneezing should be tested and/or self quarantine for 2 weeks. We do not need to be medical professionals to care for ourselves – there is much info available from experts that can be accessed from reliable online sources for guidance if necessary.

      Shame on mass hysteria-stoking mainstream media including Fox for unwittingly adopting a bobblehead Big Brother authoritarian mentality. Rpeatedly reciting and continually restating the obvious adnauseum is *not* journalism – it’s just lazy reporting. Each time there’s a shooting or other tragedy news stops as lazy journalists jump on like flies on dogcrap while news comes to a sceeching halt. Could just continue with updates on the hour – a huge distraction displacing the flow of infomation. I actually mute it if it’s on – scrolling news ticker at bottom of the screen works great. Goulish self-aggrandizing showboat Andrew Cuomo is given the floor for up to an hour daily on Fox.

      Despite Trump flanking self with attention-seeking officials he is steering the ship – they are not. Merely talking heads he respectfully allows to have their bureaucratic say-so while proving he can navigate our ship like a boss despite the Trumphating fearmonger who have designed this catastrophe to bring him and our nation down.

      Four more years!

  6. A 100% success rate cure – also proven to act as a preventative – and our Trump Delusional Syndromed leaders are silent – has been out for up to 2 weeks? Look on the face of fear-mongering Faucci illuminating – as well as slamming Trump and the great news – gruffly stating “info is merely “anecdotal”? Wow, just wow:
    …Dr Anthony Fauci rebukes Trump over claims anti-malaria drug chloroquine could be a ‘game-changer’ in fight against coronavirus – amid rumors of tensions between the pair
    Coronavirus: Top health expert appears to do face palm after Trump mentioned ‘deep state’ during press conference
    Chris Riotta
    The Independent•March 21, 2020

  7. This whole virus issue is REAL and the sooner we ALL pitch in and cooperate with our government officials, the sooner we can weather the dislocation of many, many folks. Lead on Gov. Scott!!!

      • Exactly, Mr. Stern. If Scott had requested businesses to close and some events or groups to restrict their gatherings, that would’ve been the correct – and Constitutional – action. But what he and the Legislature are proposing and doing is nothing less than totalitarianism. And those among the citizenry who support it are socialists and collaborators.

  8. There was a report on Fox News last night about an editorial in the Wall St Journal that this shutdown might be worse than the illness it is designed to prevent, “Rethinking the Virus Shutdown” with “No society can safeguard public health for long at the cost of economic health”. Wall St Journal editorial page under “Review and Outlook” Fri. 3/20/20.

    I smugly reminded my wife that I had written the same thoughts last week on TNR and then on my Facebook page, but while contemplating my brilliance and patting myself on the back, it occurred to me that my thoughts were just that-thoughts. I realized how fortunate I am that I do not have to make the real-life decisions about shutting down the economy/or not, letting some businesses (which ones?) open/or not, do things earlier or wait to take steps later, etc.

    There is no way for the President and the decision makers to win in this situation. Emotion will rule the day as they are blamed for every life that is lost and for every business that goes under and every job that is lost. Depending on your own personal circumstance they will have reacted too slowly, overstepped their authority, failed to prepare for this, jumped the gun on shutting everything down…and the list goes on forever. Everyone will judge the actions of the decision makers based on their own personal experience during this pandemic …or should it really be called a pandemic? (I think that it should)

    I saw a very uncomplimentary timeline of President Trump’s words and actions regarding Covid-19. When he said that the US could handle it or that the US had it under control-what was his motivation for those statements? I don’t see any upside to playing down the pandemic because if he was wrong, he will be crucified. Was he trying to keep the public calm or acting as a cheerleader? If he had told us (if he knew?) three weeks ago that we were facing what is happening today he would have been excoriated as a fear monger trying to increase his power by having the government take more control over our lives and the panic buying and hoarding would have started sooner. Were the President and decision makers trying to keep us calm and prevent chaos while they hoped for and worked toward any possible solution that would alleviate the chaos? It will be a long time and many books will be written as each decision is viewed under the microscope of personal experience, before we will really be able to piece this all together and even then there will be countless “what ifs”,

    I still believe that people are going to revolt, peacefully I hope, against the shutdown in the near future because they cannot live without income and no state government or the federal government has the resources to distribute all the money people will need to live. More importantly, I realize that no matter how strongly I believe my own predictions it will not make any difference to anyone but me.

    We should be praying for our leaders to be strong and make the best decisions they can, with the information they have, for all the right reasons.

    • It’s really hard when the press does sensational things and keeps out the truth. On Vermont
      Digger where the head lines told about the two unfortunate people who died of C-19. In Vermont, I think last year according to the CDC, we lost 87 people to the flue, or 1.67 per week if you average things out evenly and we know that’s not how the flu works.

      They did not print the simple statistic, 1.67 people per week died of the flu, to which corona viruses are of the mix every single year.

      My hope is that the death rate is massively over stated, and this is more of a propaganda pandemic than a disease pandemic. There are many tell tale signs about this. We’ll know for sure within the next week. Even a slow rate of doubling once per week would already have shown massive changes. Even a doubling rate of per month, since this started in November would have built up faster.

      Is our flu season more deadly this year than past years. You’ll notice nobody to my knowledge is reporting this. They are using more and more frequently isolated cases to make it more sensational.

      If we were to gamble, base decisions on natural flu or the media coverage, we’d probably be safer hanging with nature. Hopefully this is the case, we’ll know in the next week, these reports are coincidentally at the tail end of our peak flu season….interesting times.

      I think our President is on it, very grateful it’s him in office.

  9. April 06 is your deadline – after that we’ll open bars and restaurants on our own. LE would be wise to keep sitting on their butts attempting to nab speeders.

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