By Guy Page
His administration’s plan to quiz students on where they spent Thanksgiving struck a “guilt nerve” and a “resistance nerve” as shown by vehement community pushback, Gov. Phil Scott said at his press conference Friday.
Social media and the phone lines to his office have been laden with criticism since the plan was announced Tuesday. He and a WCAX reporter said some school districts are refusing to comply.
The governor defended the policy by explaining parents are now used to being asked questions about travel; parents would be asked first online, and their children would be asked only if parents didn’t respond; parents concerned about either them or their children responding could just keep students home for a week, then have them tested for Covid-19.
The governor also said he is encouraged that Vermonters willing to observe Thanksgiving within a single household exceed the national average. He also said he’s aware some school districts have refused to ask children how they spent Thanksgiving.
The uproar began after Scott on Tuesday announced at his twice-weekly press conference these two measures:
- The Monday after Thanksgiving, Vermont school staff under direction from the Agency of Education will be ask returning students and parents if they traveled to other households for Thanksgiving dinner. If they answer yes, the students will be required to attend school via remote learning for at least seven days.
- Gov. Scott said businesses will be urged to ask employees the same question. Again, if the answer is yes, they will be asked to quarantine.
At last week’s press conference, Calvin Cutler of WCAX asked if it’s realistic to expect that enough people will tell the truth. “I’m just hopeful they will, for the good of everyone,” Scott said. “In the anticipation of that question, maybe you [listening Vermonters] ought to cancel some of the plans you have made.”
Doesn’t that put kids in the position of tattling on their parents, Wilson Ring of the Associated Press asked. Scott stood firm: “This is fair warning. If you’re planning on having gatherings outside your households, if you don’t want to have your kids in remote learning and quarantine for a seven day period, maybe you should make other plans. I’m not sure it’s ‘tattling’ on anyone.”
Levine: “No talk of mandatory vaccine”
With release of a Covid-19 vaccine expected within two weeks, Health Commissioner Mark Levine said “there’s no talk of mandatory vaccination” in national advisory councils overseeing vaccination release.
At an August press conference, Levine said opinion of mandatory vaccination would depend in part on whether the vaccine would be both safe and effective. Now, vaccines appear “so far” to promise both: a rate of effectiveness of as high as 95%, and minimal side effects, limited to one-day low-grade fevers and discomfort at the injection site, he said at today’s press conference.
The initial release in December will bring about 25,000 doses to Vermont, to be distributed among high-priority recipients, including senior care facilities and health care providers.
Serious discussion of mandatory vaccination are more likely to occur next year, if vaccines have been given to willing participants but the total number of immune Vermonters still hasn’t risen to the 70% required for “herd immunity” to take effect, In Vermont, relatively low numbers of herd immunity would need to be compensated with higher rates of vaccination, Levine said.
According to a recent survey, 50-60% of health care workers would voluntarily receive vaccination, Levine revealed. Acknowledging that figure is below 70%, “I think it will grow” as people become more trusting of specific vaccines, he said.
A Nov. 17 Gallup poll claims 58% of Americans would be willing to get the vaccine, with highest numbers among seniors and Democrats. A previous poll set the number at 50%.
Read more of Guy Page’s reports. Vermont Daily is sponsored by True North Media.