Covid 19

Update #70: New City Actions to Suppress COVID-19

Sunday, August 23, 2020


As we begin our sixth month living in this pandemic, Burlington has achieved remarkable success in our response to the coronavirus. However, we are now entering a new phase, and increased risk, as we attempt to reopen our public schools and local colleges with in-person learning. If we can achieve these high-value reopenings, our children, our parents, our teachers, our students, our mental health, our physical health, and our economy will all benefit greatly. Further, in contrast to much of the rest of the country, our success in suppressing the virus has earned us the opportunity to do this safely.

To succeed, we will need to continue our focus on the three inter-related efforts that have made us successful to this point: strong and evolving public health orders, good coordination between government agencies and key institutions, and outstanding vigilance and compliance with public health orders by the people of Burlington and Vermont.

To that end, I want to share two important sets of steps that the City took this week.

Preemptive public health orders: This week, I proposed and the City Council approved new preemptive health orders intended to help suppress the spread of the coronavirus. These new local rules limit gatherings to 25 people outside and 10 people inside, and establish 11:00 pm as the hour of last call for serving alcohol in Burlington bars and restaurants. You can read the regulations in full on the City Council agenda.

Importantly, we need your help to make these measures work. If you are concerned about large gatherings, please call dispatch or 911. Our Burlington Police Department is prepared to respond to calls about group size violations and will take an education-first approach, though will also write civil tickets if groups do not disperse. Further, UVM has agreed to supplement our enforcement effort by providing funding for officers conducting supplemental Covid Educational Circuits on foot. I also have requested that the Department of Liquor and Lottery increase enforcement of public health orders at downtown bars during this at-risk period, and understand that the DLL will be doing so.

In taking these steps, we are seeking to stop new outbreaks before they start. We know that bars and student parties have contributed substantially to the spread of the virus in other cities and are attempting to avoid that here during this critical transition period with many individuals returning to Burlington and new activities starting. It is my hope that these regulatory measures will be short-lived. If virus transmission levels in Burlington remain very low after both public schools and the colleges have been operating under their new Covid-safe protocols for several weeks, we will re-evaluate the necessity of these regulations and consider lifting or altering them.

Conversations with UVM: I am pleased to report that after a meeting between myself and UVM President Garimella, UVM has agreed to a number of clarifications and changes that address significant City priorities. These include:

  • Testing transparency: The results of the more than 10,000 tests a week conducted by UVM will be shared on a daily basis with the Vermont Department of Health and included in the department’s aggregate daily reporting.
  • Consequences of missed tests: UVM has made it clear that in addition to other consequences of the first two missed tests, students who miss three tests will be suspended.

And several others. You can see more in my briefing from this week. The City stands ready to assist UVM, Champlain College, and the State in their reopening efforts in any way we can, and we will be monitoring the situation closely as we move through this critical period.

These measures are far from the only steps we are taking. They complement our efforts to support Burlington’s senior centers and BIPOC communities, help connect Burlingtonians with resources and assistance through our Covid-19 Resource & Recovery Center, produce and distribute thousands of free face coverings to essential workers and all residents, open our rights-of-way to create safer outdoor business opportunities, collaborate with the Burlington School District to support their reopening, provide Burlingtonians the supports they need to successfully quarantine when needed, advocate for Burlington households and businesses at the State and federal levels, and many other actions to continue to keep our community safe.

Talk to you soon,


PS - Even during this time, we’re also working to advance other important City priorities. We reached a breakthrough in one of these this week, and after more than 30 years of efforts and ideas, broke ground on the “Frame” concept to transform the Moran Plant. Learn more on the City website.