Covid 19

Update #88: City updates: Our virus response since Thanksgiving, Bike Path open through the South End, + more

December 13, 2020

Our response to Covid-19 since Thanksgiving

Graph: New cases by day for Chittenden County.We're now two weeks out from the Thanksgiving holiday. Even though we're continuing to see the highest levels of Covid-19 cases yet in this pandemic, fortunately, it appears that we're not yet seeing a consistent exponential climb in confirmed cases of Covid-19. Thank you to the many Burlingtonians who continue to do the right thing and not participate in any social gatherings.

There are some other cautiously promising updates in our response to the pandemic, too:

  • Hospital capacity: One of our major goals from the very beginning of this pandemic was to keep the hospital system from being overwhelmed. Even as we are now seeing terrible scenes in hospitals around the country, and one-third of Americans are living in areas that are running critically short of intensive care beds, here in Burlington, it's a different story. The UVM Medical Center has had very few people in the ICU with Covid-19 recently, had fewer people hospitalized this week than last week, and even at the recent peak, was using only about 20 percent of its capacity to treat Covid-19 patients. President and COO Dr. Stephen Leffler shared this information and more in my Covid-19 briefing this week. (You can also read reporting about this briefing).
  • Vaccines: Around the world this week, we got to see hopeful scenes as the first doses of a clinically approved vaccine started rolling out. Here in Vermont, the Department of Health expects to start vaccinating our highest-risk populations -- residents and staff at long-term care facilities, and health care workers -- very soon.
  • Long-term care facilities: Keeping long-term care facilities (LTCFs) safe has been one of our greatest challenges throughout this pandemic. There are many ways for the virus to get into these facilities, and once it does the effects can be devastating. We have 10 LTCFs here in Burlington. The City communicates with their leaders every week, making sure they have the latest resources and information to respond to the virus. In addition, I have had numerous conversations with Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine and Dr. Leffler in recent weeks to ensure that our LTCF residents are prioritized to receive vaccinations as soon as possible. As I write to you, these vaccines are starting to be shipped and these life-saving vaccinations should begin very soon. We will continue to closely monitor this effort and do everything we can to advocate for these Burlington residents.
  • Contact tracing: We've been working with the State to help provide support for the State's contact tracing efforts, and this week, signed an agreement for 15 City employees to join the State's contact tracing team. They'll start this coming week and continue three days per week for six weeks. Contact tracing is an essential part of our response to this virus, and I'm grateful to these City employees for answering our call and joining this effort. I know their work will be of tremendous value.
  • Testing: The State and the City have worked to dramatically expand testing availability as case numbers have grown in recent weeks. There is now a stable and predictable supply of free testing available in and around Burlington for you and your household to plan around and use. Learn more about testing options on the City website.
  • Wastewater surveillance program: The latest results from our wastewater monitoring program continue to show higher levels of Covid-19 RNA in the wastewater (i.e., sewage before it is treated) than all of the readings we have from pre-Thanksgiving. In aggregate, these readings continue to indicate a greater but stable virus prevalence in our community than prior to the Thanksgiving holiday.

Re-opening the Bike Path through the South End

Photo: Bike Path.The southern section of the Bike Path is reopened! We've finished work on the Bike Path all the way from Oakledge Park, across the Barge Canal, and to Perkins Pier, reconnecting the South End to the downtown -- and the new section is dramatically improved. This reopening means that we've now completed the rehabilitation of seven of the eight miles of the Bike Path, and are on track to finish the entire restoration next fall.

Before our work on this section, it was one of the most problematic areas of the Bike Path. Along the Barge Canal the Path was exposed to waves and wind, frequently deteriorated, and was often crowded. To address these problems, we've widened the Path throughout this segment from a mere eight feet to the standard 15 feet of the other new sections of the Path, built a "revetment" wall alongside the Path designed to absorb wave action and prevent icing and wear, and made other changes to increase safety and quality. We've also now finished work on the Path through the northern part of Oakledge Park, widening this often-crowded part of the Path to the standard 15 feet and adding new, accessible seating areas with views across Lake Champlain.

Even as the City is focused on our response to the Covid-19 pandemic, we also continue to advance projects like this one that ensure we will be a stronger community on the other side of this. The Bike Path is a treasured part of our city -- and we're continuing our work to restore, upgrade, and steward it for all Burlingtonians to enjoy.

Learn more about the new improvements and what's ahead for the Bike Path on the City website. Thank you to the Burlington Parks, Recreation & Waterfront team for managing this project and to the City's many partners. (Aerial photo by EIV Technical Services).

Winter access for the public to the grounds of the Burlington Country Club

During the pandemic, outdoor and activity to open space is even more vital. Recently, though, the Burlington Country Club stated that it was going to restrict public access to its grounds during the winter months. This week, I met with the President of the Board and General Manager of the Club, listened to their concerns about public access, and expressed my strong views that they should immediately return to their previous practice. Following our meeting, the Burlington Country Club took action to remove the ‘No Trespassing’ signs by the end of the week, and agreed not to prohibit public access to their grounds this winter in support of public health during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Thank you to all of the Burlingtonians who raised this concern with my office, to City Councilors Karen Paul and Joan Shannon for advocating for public access, to the many members of the Burlington Country Club who immediately called for the policy to be reversed, and to the Board for their willingness to quickly reconsider this change. I recognize that Burlington Country Club has concerns about the use and treatment of their property and remind all Burlingtonians that if they access that property they should treat it respectfully, be mindful of any areas that are roped off, and avoid damaging this winter outdoor resource.


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