Covid 19

Update #54: Responding to George Floyd’s killing + COVID-19 updates

Sunday, June 7, 2020


This moment is one of the toughest that our nation has faced in my lifetime. Right now, we continue to grapple with a pandemic that has killed more than 100,000 Americans. We are facing the greatest economic challenge since the Great Depression. And we also must reckon with the fact that our country continues to be defined by deep and structural racism.

I’m writing to share a few actions that the City took this week to respond to all of these crises at the local level here in Burlington.

Policing in Burlington + Ensuring a Racially Just Recovery from COVID-19

The killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers has again exposed that our country continues to be defined by deep and structural racism. It also has again brought into focus the many real problems that exist in American policing. In Burlington, we have for years been working to chart a different path, and build a police department that reflects the values of our community and embraces the forward-thinking policies and practices of 21st century policing. At the same time, we can and must do better.

On Friday, Chief of Police Jennifer Morrison and I released an updated use of force policy for the Burlington Police Department, and urged the Police Commission to call an emergency meeting next week to swiftly adopt it. The draft policy includes all of the recommendations made by the Special Committee to Review Policing Policies, a diverse 14-person group that met from last August to this February. The new policy is more consistent with the values of the Burlington community, is clearer for officers to follow, and incorporates many of the best practices of American policing – including all eight of the #8CantWait reforms on police use of force that are recommended by Campaign Zero.

Adopting this policy is an immediate and meaningful next step. At the same time, I am committed to additional critical improvements and further steps with the City Council, Police Commission, and public in the months ahead.

Also this week, I announced along with Tyeastia Green, the City’s first Director of Racial Equity, Inclusion, & Belonging, an eight-point plan to protect black, indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) communities and ensure a racially just recovery from the coronavirus. As a result of generations of structural racism, black Americans are dying at nearly two and a half times the rate of whites in this pandemic. Until the pandemic ends, we must do all we can to protect our BIPOC residents from the virus, ensure that our relief and recovery efforts promote racial justice, and work for a future in which black lives no longer face such exceptional risks. This plan gives us a framework to guide our response throughout this emergency.

Learn more about both of these actions at the links above.

Update on our response to the coronavirus

On Friday, the Vermont Department of Health (VDH) confirmed to us that there was a case of the coronavirus in the Old North End that is linked to the outbreak in Winooski. We worked closely with the State to have them immediately set up a mobile testing site at the Old North End Community Center on Allen Street on Saturday, and we expect the site to be open from 9:00 am to 2:00 pm daily for walk-in testing this week through Friday. Work to contain this outbreak has continued through the weekend and I expect there will be more information to share on this very soon.

We are working hard to suppress new virus outbreaks on another front as well. June is a month when many students start returning to Burlington. Students are a critical part of what makes Burlington such a vibrant community, and their return will be important to our city’s recovery. As they come back, though, we also are very focused on maintaining low levels of community transmission of COVID-19.

To address this, the City, State, University of Vermont, and Champlain College have jointly launched a local version of the “Box It In” plan to contain COVID-19 as students return to Burlington. This plan has several key components: Widespread testing (supported by the National Guard on the UVM campus), isolation for those who test positive, contact tracing for any positive tests, required quarantine for a minimum of 7 days and maximum of 14 days, and assistance with quarantine through the City’s supportive quarantine pilot program.

The supportive quarantine pilot program was launched to help ensure that people returning to town have the information and supports that they need to quarantine safely. We have more than 100 people signed up for the program so far, and we’re getting the word out to many more. Learn more about this program on the City website: By focusing on supporting those who are coming back to Burlington, we can help keep the entire community safe.

As a result of our collective work to Stay Home we have faced some of the lowest levels of virus transmission in the country since mid-April. The outbreak that began in Winooski and the return of students from states with more infections are a reminder that this is a dynamic situation where the level of risk will wax and wane. We must continue to work together and be vigilant. I urge all organizations and residents in Burlington to be aware that transmission is likelier to occur in close closed spaces, crowded places, and close contact settings, and to exercise caution and the virus control strategies of masks, hygiene, physical distancing, and daily screenings as much as possible when you are in such situations.

Again, these are challenging times. I am heartened, as always, by the responses that I see and hear from Burlingtonians. Thank you for sharing your ideas and concerns with me. I know that we will continue to navigate our way through all of this together.

Talk to you soon,