Covid 19

Update #86: New testing resources, latest local numbers, and safely supporting our locally owned businesses

December 5, 2020


This is a challenging time. We are all fatigued from living in the Covid-19 pandemic for almost nine months, and yet our vigilance is needed more than ever as cases are surging to record levels throughout the country. Right here in our community, we are grappling with another tragic outbreak at a long-term care facility in the New North End, and the economic pain that accompanies this crisis is again worsening.

There are three important things I want to share with you today: 1) This is a critical time for us to come together and bring our case growth back under control , 2) There are many new testing resources in our community that I encourage people to consider using (and more we are trying to help bring online soon), and 3) Though the weeks ahead may be tough ones, the vaccine coming means that there’s a light at the end of this tunnel – and we are going to get through this and be stronger on the other side.

First, I want to share all of our current information about how critical this moment is. We’re now a little more than one week out from the Thanksgiving holiday, and we know that this is a time of high risk for our community. One imperfect, but important, metric that we have for the prevalence of the virus in Burlington is our program that monitors our three wastewater treatments plants for markers of the virus. We got our first readings from this program since Thanksgiving back this week, and they show a major increase – which indicates significantly higher prevalence of the virus in Burlington.

So what are we going to do about it? We know a lot more about this virus than we did in the spring, and the information that we have from the State’s contact tracers tells us that the virus is spreading through private social gatherings and long-term care facilities across the State. That means that the critical way to slow the spread of the virus is for everyone – all of us – to change our typical behaviors and stop gathering with friends and family outside of our household. These casual social settings, where people are close together for extended periods of time and without face coverings, are one of the reasons the virus spread rapidly in Vermont in November. It is clear that the great majority of the community has heard and responded to the call to stop these gatherings – this is not easy, and I am so grateful to all those who are making sacrifices to keep our community safe.

The other thing that we can do about it is to expand testing availability and utilization so that we can identify, trace, and contain positive cases of the virus. Please consider getting tested if you have gathered with others outside of your household over the last week. There are now multiple ways to get tested:

  • 405 Pine Street: Free tests every day from noon-8:00 pm through December. More than 250 tests per day. Register on the Department of Health website.
  • 294 N Winooski: Free pop-up testing on Friday, Dec. 11 and Friday, Dec. 18. Register on Department of Health website in coming days.
  • UVM students and staff: UVM will be continuing to offer free weekly testing to all UVM students, faculty, and staff who remain in Burlington during their winter break. See more.
  • Other: Other testing is available at Garnet Health at the Airport, at many pharmacies, and at other State testing locations in surrounding communities. Please note that some of these additional locations may have a charge and insurance reimbursement may vary. See details on Department of Health website. The City also is supporting efforts to bring even more testing options online in our area in the coming weeks.

Even as the public health crisis of this pandemic remains my top priority, I also am gravely concerned about the economic crisis that has disrupted the lives and livelihoods of so many. I will continue to call for the new round of federal aid that is critically necessary, and the City is deploying all of the resources that we can – and particularly to BIPOC-owned businesses to ensure that our recovery is equitable and racially just. I also want to encourage Burlingtonians to meaningfully contribute to our local recovery by seeking out local businesses for safe shopping and dining options. Burlington businesses have used the last nine months to transform their offerings and expand alternatives to in-person shopping, and many of them now offer takeout, curbside pickup, and home delivery. Learn more about local offerings at the new website built by the City and local business:

Lastly, I want to share some hope. Though the weeks ahead may be tough ones, we also have a lot going for us right now. First, thanks to our collective efforts to date, we are entering this surge with lower case numbers than almost any other community of our size in the country. Second, unlike many medical centers around the country, our hospital has capacity and is still in a strong position (hear more about this from Dr. Stephen Leffler on my briefing this week). And third, we know that the vaccine is coming. This pandemic won’t last forever – but we need to come together for a final push to protect ourselves, our loved ones, and our neighbors.




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