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

Michael Bielawski/TNR

SHUTTING DOWN THE ECONOMY: Despite widespread concern that coronavirus fears may be overblown, the state of Vermont, led by Gov. Phil Scott, has closed all schools and canceled large public gatherings.

MONTPELIER — Speaking at a news conference Monday, Vermont’s top health official said that any mortality rate for coronavirus — even a very low rate — justifies taking extreme social distancing measures, including closing schools and restricting public gatherings.

As Gov. Phil Scott ordered a ban on gatherings of more than 50 people and occupancy of any facility above 50 percent of its capacity, the head of the Vermont Department of Health said such actions were necessary — even if the virus’ mortality in the U.S. turns out to be comparable to other common illnesses.

“A half of a percent is still five times the rate that people die from the flu, so it’s still significant,” Health Commissioner Mark Levine said. “I don’t think that I would cheer about success at any point in time in the next two months because it’s really everyone doing all of the strategies that we’ve outlined that’s going to help us succeed.”

In South Korea, where over 140,000 residents have been tested for COVID-19, the mortality rate of the virus has been determined to be 0.6 percent. In a recent Coronavirus Disease Situation Report, the World Health Organization notes that the “true mortality of COVID-19 will take some time to fully understand,” and “mortality is to a large extent determined by access to and quality of health care.”

state of Vermont

Vermont Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine

Levine said Vermont’s extreme response strategies will continue despite the economic hardships they will induce, and that mitigating coronavirus spread is the goal.

“These mitigation strategies do take weeks to months,” he said. “That’s why when we talked earlier about school closure, when it’s done too early, for two weeks, it’s not been shown to be effective very widely. When it starts a little later and goes a little longer, it’s been shown to be an effective strategy.”

Levine pointed to a chart illustrating that there’s a threshold for the state’s health care system capacity. The key goal is to keep the rise in infections from getting beyond that point.

“We’re trying not to let the curve fall in the red, and we’re trying to implement all of these things sufficiently early so that they have time to kick in and allow us to flatten [the curve],” he said.

According to latest state data, Vermont has tested 415 people and confirmed 12 cases of coronavirus. Nationwide, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports 3,487 cases of COVID-19 and 68 deaths from the virus.

By comparison, regular seasonal influenza cases total at least 36 million since October and have caused between 22,000 and 55,000 deaths, according to the CDC.

The governor expressed sympathy toward Vermonters who may be concerned that the state’s extreme response to the virus might cause an economic collapse.

“I’m concerned as well about the economy,” Scott said. “Certainly, if it goes on for a long period of time it will be devastating. But at the same time, if we do this right and we have this period of time over the next month or two and we can get some control over this, I believe there’s a path forward.”

He continued that state officials are working with the federal government on strategies to alleviate the economic impacts the shutdowns are expected to have.

“I’ve been in contact with Congressman Welch, Senator Leahy — I had calls with them over the weekend and they are going to do everything they can on some stimulus to help us with the economy,” the governor said.

Among those facing economic hardships due to social distancing mandates are health care workers. These professionals, who need to be at work to deliver care to patients, must now find ways to care for their school-aged children at home for three weeks while schools are closed.

“There’s a great concern for that very issue — it’s something that we did contemplate in closing the schools,” Scott said. ” … We’re putting a plan into place so that we can provide for child care for those first-responders and those in the health care field that are going to be needed.”

The governor added that a program would be announced in the next few days to help remedy this scenario.

In addition to Vermont, more than 20 states are closing their public schools. Massachusetts, Washington, Illinois, Ohio and New York City have announced they are closing all restaurants and bars in response to the virus.

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

Images courtesy of Michael Bielawski/TNR and state of Vermont

20 thoughts on “Health Department commissioner says any potential coronavirus deaths justify closed schools, economic hardships


    But if we take a month+ of productive and happy living from 600,000 people,

    and you have 50,000 wasted fear laden years of LOST happy and productive living.

  2. I’m reminded of those infamous words of Chicago’s resident Mossad agent gift of the Obama era: “Never let a good crisis go to waste.”

    Consider that the proposed creation (borrowing from the Fed) of a half Trillion $ new money would add to the national debt while simultaneously creating inflation by diluting existing currency purchasing power.

    Simultaneously our national productivity and commerce stumble to a halt while in Vermont, which has had precious little of either, the trickle of outside money dries, thanks to that viral scourge which will not be properly named: the Chinese Wuhan COVID-19 coronavirus.

    With so many who live paycheck to paycheck, we could well be on the verge of large scale repossessions of real estate, vehicles and other properties. Prospects of civil unrest should concern us all, as it will surely ensue..

    Any rumblings of restriction of constitutional rights, i.e. 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th Amendments will further indicate the direction this is going.

  3. “No Place to Run to – No Place to Hide !”

    Governor Scott, having ordered the closing (or substantial done so by restricting operations) of most retail businesses, has obligated the state to compensate the business owners for their losses.

    The Governor’s order is the equivalent of the taking of private property for public use contemplated by the Vermont Constitution.

    Chapter I, Article 2. [Private property subject to public use; owner to be paid]

    “That private property ought to be subservient to public uses when necessity requires it, nevertheless, whenever any person’s property is taken for the use of the public, the owner ought to receive an equivalent in money.”

    The owners, having done nothing that violated the laws and statutes of the state, must be made whole for their losses and reasonable profits they would have earned if the state had not interfered.

    The Governor certainly had the authority to order the closings, but at the same time took on the responsibility to “make the owners whole” for what can reasonably be viewed as a “public taking” under the authority of Eminent Domain – although it appears that such a taking violates 12 V.S.A. § 1040.

    The combination of the destruction of Vermont’s Recreational, Entertainment, Hospitality Restaurant and Lodging “industries” combined with the financial responsibility the Governor has assumed on behalf of the state will most probably bankrupt the state.

    The loss of revenue associated with the state sales tax, the room and meals tax, business income taxes, personal (employee) income taxes will – in short order – make any chance of meeting current daily operation expenses, let alone covering this new obligation.

    The citizens have not been made fully aware that the state’s current obligations exceed its total assets by over $2 Billion – Phil Scott and the Vermont Legislature have “no place to run to and no place to hide !”

    • And we begin to finally see the folly of:

      *No natural gas pipeline
      *No Quebec Hydro
      *No new powerplant construction
      *Subsidized electric vehicle purchases
      *Submitting to the Green mentality
      *Futile attempts at becoming the poster child for Climate Change

      Will we be any the wiser IF or WHEN this insanity has ended?

  4. There is no ‘I’ in herd much…the ‘official’ a perfect example that fools can be educated. Who appointed this guy?
    The closet Communists are conning us. As the authoritarian control-freaks extraordinaire they are – ever riding herd over those they believe to be beneath them just for drill. And they are usually wrong about everything and seem to enjoy leading everyone over a cliff.

    Egomaniacs live in a world of self-delusion and utter folly. If no one dies as a result of their reckless irresponsiblity – they congratulate themselves and each other as ‘solving the problem’. If ppl die they declare ‘there would have been more deaths’ – always the star of the show and legend in their own minds.

    A perfect example of why we need to think for ourselves and not be controlled by ego-mad dictators and the madding crowd:
    The controversial Ethiopian politician and Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, claimed in a press conference in early March that the fatality rate for the coronavirus was many multiples that of the fatality rate of the common flu[…]
    This egregiously false premise has led to the greatest panic in world history.

    As the panic-stricken unwittingly serve as sockpuppets for the whipcrackers and aquiesce to so-called ‘experts’ the WHO ‘leader’ is in fact just another politician. Figures don’t lie but liars can figure.

    • Criticism and scandal
      In May 2017, just prior to the WHO election, stories surfaced about an alleged cover-up of three possible cholera epidemics in Ethiopia in 2006, 2009 and 2011. The outbreaks were allegedly wrongly labelled as “acute watery diarrhea” (AWD)—a symptom of cholera—in the absence of laboratory confirmation of Vibrio cholerae in an attempt to play down the significance of the epidemics.[19][20] UN officials said more aid and vaccines could have been delivered to Ethiopia if the outbreaks had been confirmed as cholera.

      The allegations were made by Larry Gostin, an American law professor, who was acting as an adviser to rival candidate David Nabarro from the UK.[20] The African Union delegation to the UN dismissed the report, published in The New York Times, as “an unfounded and unverified defamation campaign, conveniently coming out only days before the election.”[21]

      Tedros Adhanom denied the allegation of a cover-up and said he was “not surprised at all but quite disappointed” by what he called a “last-minute smear campaign.”[20] Tedros Adhanom has also been criticised for exaggerated achievements and curriculum vitae, which is in contradiction with a statement by WHO about the health status of Ethiopia:
      “The health status of Ethiopia is poor, even when related to other low-income countries including those in sub-Saharan Africa. The population suffers from a huge burden of potentially preventable diseases such as HIV, malaria, tuberculosis, intestinal parasites, acute respiratory infections and diarrhoea diseases.

  5. If you look at the states that have taken extreme measures to shut everything down they are mostly run by Libs / progressives I.e. “snowflakes”. As time has proven the progressives / Libs tend to push everything thru without looking at the downside.. as they have tried with many, many senseless bills…

    So, this fragile economy of Vermont with its insane taxes & income disparity is being pushed off the cliff by a bunch of over educated clueless Libs that if you look at their pedigrees, have never had to make payroll, collect receivables, fight the workmen’s comp increases, struggle to pay for a dysfunctional healthcare monopoly (like I did for 17 employees)
    Or try to pay your floor plan..

    The Libs under the dome who have zero understanding of the day to day
    Struggle of the businesses that make this state run have pretty much signed the death sentence for small biz in VT.

    If the stock market crashes maybe that’ll wipe the smug look off the TF know it alls like Ashe, Zuck, Polinna & the rest of the progs..

  6. He’s lying through his teeth. It’s an authoritarian move to destroy the economy and make everyone dependent on government for everything.

  7. This absurdly damaging over-reaction will certainly go down in the “Progressive Hall of Shame!”

  8. “He continued that state officials are working with the federal government on strategies to alleviate the economic impacts the shutdowns are expected to have.”

    Best thing for Vermonters would be to quickly pass the Transportation Climate Initiative and hurry up and pass rules requiring 100% renewable energy by 2025. Of most importance, you want to make sure that individuals can sue the government for failure to comply with the mandates too. Sure glad we can smoke pot legally. That’s real helpful legislation which is SUPER productive in hard times too.

    Idiots! Not even close to being smart enough to be ashamed of the foolishness they constantly heap on us!

  9. I do believe we should be limiting our self from large crowds, just as we would with any other
    flu or virus or germ infestation, stay away if you feel like you have something !!

    What amaze’s me is what is shutting down schools for two weeks, why not four weeks or until
    this is under control within the state, all feel good policy ” look what we’ve done ” all this will do
    is delay, In three weeks schools we be back in session and we’ll see a spike in cases because
    we did not play this out ………

    Governments job is to protect, people need to stay home and Government needs to step up with
    some financial support for those in need…… feel good policies isn’t going to cut it !!

    Lets see if our leaders know how to lead ??

  10. We’ll just have to deal with whatever comes and Gov. Scott is right on!!!! As has been said many times “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”.

  11. Quoting: “I’ve been in contact with Congressman Welch, Senator Leahy — I had calls with them over the weekend and they are going to do everything they can on some stimulus to help us with the economy,”

    Now isn’t that encouraging. Try to start another EB 5 program. Who did that benefit, not the state.

  12. While I understand the reasoning for “flattening the curve” (there will lots of sick people and there are only 45,000 ICU beds in the US, about 85% of which are normally in use) I am beginning to wonder how this is going to work. In Vermont most of the ski areas are closed and now most restaurants will be closing. I saw a person I respect talking about how the restaurants will probably survive because they can offer take out service. This person lives in a dense urban area where take out is normal. The restaurants and bars in northern Vermont cannot survive on takeout. With the early and abrupt end to the ski season many of those service employees (and businesses) did not have adequate time or amount of work to save for the off season.

    What people have saved will not be adequate for the extended off season. With all the closings there will be little opportunity to find other work. The lack of customers with disposable or even any income will ripple then flood through the economy because retail businesses depend on people with disposable income. We will soon be seeing stories about how food shelves are out of food and since this is going to affect the entire country there will not be the financial resources to pay for what people will need. Regardless of what Bernie or any other politicians tell you the millionaires and billionaires and the state and federal governments do not have the money to give out to keep you fed, housed, warm and healthy without a functioning economy. Even if they did have the money there is no system in place to distribute the money people need to live-just to get by.

    I predict that people will start to revolt within 2-3 weeks. Not necessarily a guns and government take over revolt, but a revolt in the sense that they tell the authorities to go to hell and start reopening businesses. It will take a long time to get back to any kind of normalcy if the emergency measures now in effect last longer than 3-4 weeks. What I really fear is what will happen when people start to get hungry AND start losing homes AND start losing cars and other possessions. Remember the words from a song “when you ain’t got nothin’ you got nothin’ to lose”. Parents will not stand by and watch their children suffer without adequate food, desperate times will cause desperate acts. As a country we have never been through anything like this and I am afraid that the precautions being forced on us MIGHT be worse than the sickness we are trying to prevent. I sincerely hope that I am wrong but I believe that we must consider ALL the consequences of the disruption to our society.

    • Wow! you sure got this one right. A simple revolt against these absurd rules.
      Citizens will just do what they need every day.

      This absurd over-reaction will go down in the Progressive Hall of Shame

    • Is it even legal? Hoping they break out of the tyranny sooner rather than later…great comment.

    • I’m reminded of those infamous words of Chicago’s resident Mossad agent gift of the Obama era: “Never let a good crisis go to waste.”

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