By Guy Page
Twice as many people have died in car crashes so far this year compared to 2019. Opioid overdoses are up 50%. In both cases state officials say the pandemic is at least partly to blame. Suicides, however, are down in 2020 compared to the last five years.
So far, there have been 43 deaths as a result of car crashes in the state, Vermont State Police reported at a press conference yesterday (Times Argus report). Anthony Facos, former Montpelier police chief and now DMV head of enforcement, said there were 21 last year at this point. Even though last year was a “low” year, Vermont highway fatalities are on pace to hit a five-year high this year, officials say.
Vermont State Highway Safety Office official Bill Jenkins was quoted as saying: “When you drive around, people seem to be speeding more. They seem to be looking at their phones more. They do not see law enforcement out as much as they used to. I think some people, unfortunately, got the message that they could do things that they shouldn’t be doing.” As the state opened up, there were less police on the roads, Jenkins said.
From January through May, opioid overdose deaths rose 50% from 41 last year to 61 this year, according to a Vermont Health Department report. A more recent report cited by VT Digger shows the same percentage of increase, but with 72 deaths. Officials say that during the pandemic lockdown, substance abusers were more isolated and had less peer support in the event of an overdose. Treatment options also were limited due to the lockdown.
However, fears that the pandemic would lead to more suicides due to depression, isolation, and less access to medical services have not been realized. Through Aug. 28, 68 Vermonters had committed suicide, according to Vermont Department of Health statistics. That compared with a five-year average of 79.
The number of Vermonters dead of Covid-19 is 58, according to Vermont Dept. of Health statistics.
Sen. Patrick Leahy – blind in one eye – was shooter on college rifle team
The Vermont Daily post on Vermont women buying handguns and learning to shoot with the help of Major Ted Tedesco (USMC, Ret.) stirred a memory about Sen. Patrick Leahy from George Putnam of Cambridge. Raised on the local family farm, retired from a career with Yankee Farm Credit, and now serving on the town selectboard, Putnam also writes provocative essays on current affairs in blog, the Switchel Philosopher. He emailed this memory to Vermont Daily:
Senator Leahy was a top shooter on the rifle team at Saint Michael’s College when he was an undergraduate. In 2008 he was being inducted into the Vermont Agricultural Hall of Fame in a luncheon ceremony at the Champlain Valley Expo in Essex. I found myself standing next to him in the buffet line, and we started talking about our common experiences on college rifle teams (some 16 years apart – he graduated in 1961, I graduated in 1977). He remembered that experience fondly, and he told me that he still enjoys shooting on his property in Middlesex. He also told me something that I didn’t know before, that he is legally blind in one eye. He thought that helped him be a better shooter. As we parted, he said: ‘Everyone should learn two things. They should learn how to swim, and they should learn how to shoot a gun.’
Read more of Guy Page’s reports. Vermont Daily is sponsored by True North Media.