Covid 19

Update #11: Social distancing saves lives

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Posted at 1:18 p.m.

Dear Neighbors,

I know it is challenging to awake to headlines from around the world and around the state that the COVID-19 crisis is deepening. My expectation is that it is going to be this way for a while. At the same time, Burlingtonians should be reassured that huge efforts are under way to care for the sick and slow the spread of the virus, and the country’s plan is taking shape for short-term relief and then economic recovery when the storm has passed.

I want to share with everyone what I and the rest of the City emergency team are working on now:

Governor's Order Closing Additional Businesses

Yesterday the Governor took another step toward enforcing social distancing by announcing that "close contact" businesses, including gyms, fitness centers, hair salons and barbers, nail salons, and tattoo parlors, must close by 8 pm tomorrow (Monday). I advocated for and welcomed this step and think it is already time to go further. You should anticipate that our daily life will become even more constrained soon. I have been in touch with the Governor’s team about this through the weekend and will be communicating further with them today about additional actions.

Burlington Health and Rehab

I have been deeply concerned about the situation at Burlington Health and Rehab since hearing of the first positive case there Monday, and throughout the week I have been urging the state and facility to take urgent and robust action to stop its spread. My heart goes out to all of the residents and their families.

I received another briefing from Health Commissioner Mark Levine yesterday, and Burlingtonians should know that the Vermont Department of Health reports doing all that can be done in this moment to ensure that the situation at Burlington Health and Rehab is stabilized. Specifically:

1. The facility is being resourced with supplies and supplemental staff and operated in a manner intended to protect those that have not yet contracted the virus from getting it;

2. Rehab patients, none of whom had yet tested positive for the virus, are on a different floor from the outbreak and are being carefully removed from the center for their protection; and

3. Steps are being taken to ensure that the virus does not spread from the Burlington Health and Rehab Center to other vulnerable facilities. I have asked for regular updates on the situation at Burlington Health and Rehab and the City will continue to be closely engaged on this.

The City will continue to monitor and advocate for the residents of the facility in the challenging days ahead.

Burlington Resource and Recovery Center

The City Council and Board of Finance will be meeting tomorrow and focusing their business on the City’s response to COVID-19. We will be releasing an emergency resolution that will establish a new Burlington Resource and Recovery Center managed by the Community and Economic Development Office (CEDO). The Center will do everything from helping laid off workers collect their unemployment checks, to making that people experiencing homelessness have a safe place to sleep, to helping small businesses access FEMA aid, to new tasks we have not even anticipated yet. The Center will be nimble and flexible, evolving to respond to changing needs over time. More information will be posted soon to the City’s COVID-19 page about how to contact the center and available services.

The emergency resolution will also include our first steps to do what we can with local resources to support organizations that have been shut down by the virus, and to protect the City’s financial health so we can continue to provide essential services and more throughout the emergency and beyond.

Social Distancing Saves Lives

I am writing to you from home and I hope you are spending your time at home and practicing extensive social distancing techniques as well, even though this is not yet mandated by order. It is okay to go outside and into city parks, but it is imperative that you observe the new directions posted in them to avoid playground equipment and any activities in which the virus could be passed. It also is important that you avoid touching hard surfaces and maintain a distance of six feet from people not in your household while out. I found the graphic shared below to be a helpful summary of how to think about social distancing in our new reality.

This reality will pass and we will come back. The focus now needs to be keeping our health and keeping everyone we can alive. We will figure out the relief and recovery as we go, with steps like tomorrow’s emergency resolution, and the much bigger governmental actions to come. Burlingtonians are already coming together to support and thank our healthcare workers, grocery store workers, and first responders. In recent days I find myself reassured by the thoughts of communities that have experienced massive floods and tornadoes and successfully recovered. This storm will last longer, but unlike a flood or tornado, when we emerge our buildings will still be standing and our infrastructure will be intact, and we will come back strong.

Stay safe everyone.