To The Editor:
Vermont has gone from national leader to laggard in the fight against COVID. For so long the state had the lowest COVID rate in the country. When vaccines became available, Vermont soon led the country. Under the state of emergency, sensible requirements for masking, gatherings in indoor space and physical distancing were enacted. Governor Scott and members of the COVID Task Force held very frequent briefings for the press and residents. Vermonters listened, responded and behaved responsibly.
This is not the picture anymore. While over the past week the U.S. experienced a 13% decline in COVID rates, Vermont experienced a 26% increase. Instead of having the lowest rate in the country, we now stand at 18th highest among the 50 states and one of only five with a rising rate. The average of new cases per day over the past seven day is the highest it’s ever been. At 226 it is almost 20% above the previous peak in April. And most tragically, deaths from COVID are rising too. Already in October, 25 Vermonters have died from COVID.
It’s hard to understand why the state did not maintain its leadership position. Why did the Scott administration prematurely drop basically all prevention standards and put all its faith in vaccines? And, why has there not been a full-throated response to the frightening resurgence of the pandemic? The only sector that has any remaining meaningful prevention practices still in place is education. But focusing on one sector makes no sense. Schools don’t exist in isolation. Despite their best efforts, schools just saw 158 student cases, the second highest one-week total since the beginning of the pandemic. It basically shows that schools can effectively prevent transmissions within schools. What they can’t control is what happens in the community and what gets brought into the schools. The virus is showing us what it will do when we drop all precautions and return to our pre-pandemic lives.
Governor Scott, Commissioner Levine, Secretary Smith, please retake the leadership reins and remain steadfast until the pandemic is no more. Do this by reinstating indoor mask mandates and physical distancing requirements. Hold more frequent press conferences. They keep us informed and together; they keep COVID in the news and in our daily conversations; they influence our behavior. And like you’ve done from the day vaccines were approved, keep us number one in vaccination rates. For all of this you will have our support.