Rep Sibilia: November 13th COVID Update

Friends and neighbors,

There have been 300 new cases of COVID in Vermont in the last three days. We are seeing rapid spread of the virus which is especially dangerous to the elderly and those with underlying health conditions. Governor Scott’s administration is pointing to

  • letting our guard down in social gatherings between families and neighbors
  • inconsistency in the wearing of masks and social distancing
  • failure to quarantine
  • refusal to provide contact tracing information

as the causes for the spread and has issued a new Executive Order restricting gatherings, sports and closing bars. A reminder that the danger we are collectively working to prevent is the overwhelming of our healthcare facilities. Our hospitals, state workers and national guard are again gearing up to ensure we have enough healthcare capacity to treat the ill, and we are approaching flu season which adds even more stress to our healthcare system.

The new order is asking multiple families not to gather. Earlier this week mandatory quarantines were reinstated for travel outside of Vermont or by travelers into Vermont. This extends to Thanksgiving. I understand what a burden this is. I usually have 40+ people in my own home for Thanksgiving and take time off to cook an extra turkey for my large family. We had decided to try and move to a larger space, but today my mom and I decided to cancel the family gathering this year.

I know this is hard friends, but in order to protect all of our ability to access healthcare in an emergency, we must follow these new guidelines.

“Let us remember that, as much has been given us, much will be expected from us, and that true homage comes from the heart as well as from the lips, and shows itself in deeds.” – Theodore Roosevelt

Vermont Reports Highest Number of COVID-19 Cases Since Start of the Pandemic

Governor orders SEOC to begin surge plan implementation and urges Vermonters to recommit to precautionary measures and avoid gatherings to slow the spread

BURLINGTON, VT – The State of Vermont reported 72 new COVID-19 cases this morning, the highest number of cases reported since the start of the pandemic, and almost double the number of new cases reported yesterday.

State officials say this concerning development highlights a trend of increasing positive cases as clusters and outbreaks grow across the state. These clusters and outbreaks often trace back to Vermonters traveling out of state and to social gatherings like baby showers, Halloween parties, deer camps and other small gatherings where masking and physical distancing breakdown.

In response to this trend, and the even greater surge in cases in other states in the region, Governor Phil Scott has directed the State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC) to prepare to execute existing surge plans, including re-deploying field hospital sites as a precautionary measure.  

A northern alternate care facility at the Champlain Valley Exposition in Essex Junction has an overall capacity of 400 beds, with most being warehoused by the Vermont National Guard since late-spring. That site has remained staged with 50 beds through the summer. 100 additional beds will be deployed in the days to come, with 250 additional beds and other components in reserve.

A 50-bed field hospital trailer is staged in southern Vermont near Rutland, so that southern facility remains ready to add another 50 beds for a potential surge.

Teams from the Vermont National Guard will carry out the mission to deploy these assets as the State preemptively prepares for impacts related to rising case levels.

“I understand that Vermonters feel fatigued from the pandemic, its impact on all of us and the sacrifices it has required,” said Governor Scott. “As I have said throughout this pandemic, we all have to do our part to keep each other safe and we must continue to follow the public health practices of wearing a mask, staying six feet apart, avoiding crowded places, and quarantining when you are sick. We also have to be smart about how many people we come in contact with and work together to limit that number, so we can slow the spread now, protect our neighbors, keep our kids in school and keep our economy open.”

Vermonters are encouraged to get tested for COVID-19 if they have recently attended any event or gathering with people from outside their small social circle, have traveled out of state, have had a visitor from out of state, or anyone that has been a near or close contact of a COVID positive individual. 

Additionally, when contacted by the Health Department contact tracing team, Vermonters need to work with them – providing full and accurate information – to help trace any individuals they may have interacted with recently. If contact tracers are unable to trace the spread of the virus, then they will be unable to contain an outbreak and mitigate any further spread into our communities.

Vermonters must understand that by engaging in riskier activities, like attending parties and gatherings – even small ones – there will continue to be a surge in cases and we will see community spread like the rest of the country. Vermonters have worked hard to protect our communities, keep our businesses open and send children back to school. Now is not the time to give up on the hard work and sacrifices over the last seven months.

The best way to stay healthy and prevent the spread of virus is to follow the core prevention actions: Wear a mask, keep a 6-foot distance from others, avoid crowded spaces and social gatherings, wash your hands a lot, stay home when you’re sick. 

Pop-up testing sites and other community testing opportunities are offered throughout Vermont. For locations, dates and to make an appointment, visit:healthvermont.gov/covid19-testing.

COVID-19 is highly contagious. People with COVID-19, even those who don’t have any symptoms, can spread the virus to other people. There are things we can all do to protect ourselves and the people around us from getting or spreading COVID-19.

  • Wear a mask indoors when you are with people you don’t live with or outside when you cannot always keep 6 feet apart. Vermont requires masks be worn in public spaces.
  • Stay home if you are sick. 
  • Wash your hands a lot. 
  • Keep your social circle small. Avoid social gatherings and if you do participate in one, it is strongly advised to limit it to 10 or fewer people with a very limited number of groups.
  • Stay at least 6 feet apart from people you do not live with.
  • Follow Vermont’s travel guidance: All non-essential travel now requires quarantine.

GOVERNOR PHIL SCOTT ANNOUNCES PAUSE TO THE STATE’S SAFE TRAVEL POLICY, COMPLIANCE CHECKS AND EXPANDED TESTING

As COVID-19 Cases Rise, Quarantine Required for Out-of-State Travel and Visitors

Montpelier, Vt. – To slow the spread of COVID-19 as cases and hospitalizations rise in Vermont and throughout the nation, Vermont will temporarily require a 14-day quarantine for all non-essential travel, increase compliance checks and expand testing to find the virus earlier and contain it faster.

The latest modeling, presented today by the Scott Administration, showed a 34% increase in cases in the Northeast since last week and cases are averaging 112,500 per day nationally. While Vermont continues to have the lowest positivity rate in the country, cases rose 46% this week. Hospitalizations are also rising in Vermont. 

“It’s important for everyone to see this data and recognize we are not in the same place today as we’ve been over the last several months, even while we continue to lead the country in many ways,” said Governor Phil Scott. “Though we’re not seeing the alarming growth many of our neighbors are seeing, we have to take action to ensure we don’t get to that point. I want to be very clear that much of our case growth is tied to two factors: Vermonters traveling out of state and Vermonters gathering in ways where distancing and masking break down. We need to act now to protect the vulnerable and to keep our schools and economy open.”

Commissioner of Health Mark Levine, MD said, “I cannot say this enough: To stop the spread, to protect each other, we need to act now. We are on the threshold – the decisions we make today will truly determine our future.”

All Non-Essential Travel Requires Quarantine

As the number of counties eligible for quarantine-free travel has dropped to only two, the cross-state travel map is being temporarily suspended effective immediately. A 14-day quarantine – or 7 days followed by a negative COVID-19 test – is now required following any non-essential out-of-state travel by Vermonters and for all travelers entering Vermont from another state. Essential travel includes travel to attend PreK-12 school and college if commuting daily, or for work, personal safety, medical care, care of others, parental shared custody, or for food, beverage or medicine.

Increasing Compliance Checks 

The State will also increase outreach and education to assess and encourage compliance with the public health guidance. The Vermont State Police, Division of Fire Safety and Department of Liquor and Lottery will resume compliance assessments and educational efforts at lodging facilities, bars and restaurants. The Department of Public Safety will also distribute COVID-19 safety cards during traffic stops to help inform drivers of the travel policy and other safety protocols. The Department of Fish and Wildlife is conducting outreach to hunters to ensure they understand the updated travel policy and gathering advisory.

Expanding Testing to Increase Early Warnings & Accelerate Containment

Governor Scott also announced the State is expanding its testing program, entering a contract with CIC Health of Cambridge, Ma. and developing a plan to offer testing every day of the week at locations throughout the state. It will also increase surveillance testing, which tests asymptomatic populations to find the virus in the community more quickly. To establish a baseline, during the week of November 16, the State will offer testing to K-12 teachers and staff. These tests will be voluntary. Following Thanksgiving break, there will be a regular rotating schedule, offering testing to teachers and staff in one-quarter of Vermont schools each week, so every teacher and staff member will be offered testing once per month.

Testing of school personnel is a surveillance strategy as they represent a large group of individuals in an organized setting who reflect their communities. This approach will help identify cases – particularly cases that never develop symptoms – thereby helping to reduce the risk of clusters or outbreaks and supporting efforts to sustain and expand in-person learning for students. The process will use the more reliable PCR tests. School personnel who are waiting for surveillance testing results will not need to quarantine. 

State Advisory: Social Gatherings Limited to 10 from Trusted Households 

These announcements follow an advisory issued last week strongly recommending social gatherings be limited to 10 or fewer people and with a very limited number of trusted households. Governor Scott and Dr. Levine urged Vermonters to heed the new travel and gathering policies as the Thanksgiving holiday approaches.

“With the success we’ve had over the last few months, I know it is disappointing to hear about new restrictions. But by acting early and doubling down on the work that made us so successful in the first place, I know we can get this under control, hold onto the gains we’ve made, and continue to be in a better position to get through this faster and stronger than any other state,” added Governor Scott.

Click here to find information on testing or to schedule a test.

Click here to view the travel guidance.

Click here to learn more about how to quarantine.

For more information on:


Vermont and Non-Vermont Residents Travel

As of November 10, 2020 the State of Vermont has suspended its leisure travel map and implemented a mandatory quarantine for anyone returning or traveling to Vermont.

  • Anyone returning or traveling to Vermont must follow Vermont’s mandatory quarantine policy. Vermonters returning from an out-of-state trip must complete either a 14-day quarantine or a 7-day quarantine followed by a negative test.
  • Vermonters must remember to follow any travel restrictions and quarantine requirements for the states they plan to visit.
  • Residents of other states must adhere to the quarantine guidelines:
    • Travelers arriving to Vermont in a personal vehicle must complete either a 14-day quarantine or a 7-day quarantine followed by a negative test in their home state and enter Vermont without further quarantine restrictions.
    • Travelers arriving to Vermont who have not completed a pre-arrival quarantine must complete either a 14-day quarantine or a 7-day quarantine followed by a negative test in a Vermont lodging establishment or with friends and family (travelers must stay in their quarantine location for the duration of quarantine other than to travel to and from a test site).
    • Read more about quarantining at the Vermont Department of Health website.
  • All out of state travelers utilizing lodging, camping and short-term rental properties in Vermont must sign and complete a Certificate of Compliance or affirm a compliance statement via a digital check box at the time of reservation and check-in to attest that they meet the quarantine requirement or are an essential/authorized worker.
  • All out of state travelers are strongly encouraged to register with Sara Alert upon arrival to Vermont to get two weeks of daily reminders to check for common symptoms of COVID-19.

Find answers to common questions about cross state travel.

Essential Travel

People traveling for essential purposes, including work, do not need to quarantine. Essential travel includes travel for personal safety, medical care, care of others, parental shared custody, for food, beverage or medicine, to attend preK-12 school and college if commuting daily, or to perform work for businesses that are currently allowed to operate. For more information about which businesses may operate and how they may operate, view the Work Safe Guidance. The current State of Emergency requires employers to use remote work and telework whenever possible to avoid unnecessary work travel. Businesses and employees must only travel for work related trips when absolutely necessary. Individuals engaged in a daily commute to and from their job are expressly exempt from the need to quarantine by Executive Order.

Persons should not travel to, from, or within Vermont if they are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms or if they meet the criteria for needing to Isolate or Quarantine.


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Help with utility back balances

You may qualify for some free funding from a state grant program for overdue utility balances tied to the pandemic. The money can be used for electric power, telephone, water and natural gas balances. You can learn the details to see if you might qualify for the Vermont COVID-19 Arrearage Assistance Program (VCAAP) for information, and to start the application online go to https://publicservice.vermont.gov. Apply now! The deadline is November 30, or sooner if all of the funding is given away before that.

For more information, visit the Department of Public Service’s website or check out the FAQs.


Will Vermont Make This Years Expansion of Vote By Mail Permanent


DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY SEEKS COMMUNITY INPUT ON LAW ENFORCEMENT MODERNIZATION PLAN 

Montpelier, Vt. — The Vermont Department of Public Safety is seeking public and stakeholder feedback to shape and refine the state’s continuing work to modernize policing across Vermont. 

This opportunity for comment and feedback is part of Governor Scott’s Public Safety Reform Initiative, created through Executive Order 03-20, which directed the commissioner of public safety to “actively engage with communities, particularly those communities that have been historically marginalized or harmed by policing, as we develop and deploy best policing practices.”

“Ensuring all voices are heard as part of this process, and giving those who have been most impacted by systemic inequity a seat at the table, is critical to the success of our work to strengthen the fairness and equity of systems of policing and justice,” said Governor Scott. “It is our hope we will receive significant public input as we move forward.”

Members of the public will be able to provide detailed comments online regarding several policies and strategies that flow from the Governor’s Executive Order and, in part, a 10-point plan presented earlier this year by law enforcement and public safety leaders from throughout Vermont. 

In addition, pursuant to the Governor’s Executive Order and Act 165, An act relating to a statewide standard and policy for law enforcement use of force(S.119), the Department of Public Safety is seeking input for a statewide model policy for law enforcement use of force. The state is seeking proposals for model policies or guiding principles to be considered in the creation of this uniform statewide policy.

This is just the first step in creation of this policy. Members of the public will have multiple opportunities to review drafts of this policy and offer feedback as it goes through the development process, from guiding legislation to a final draft.

“In January we put forth a suite of modernization proposals. In June, together with a variety of partners from inside and outside government, we added a specific 10-point strategy to the discussion of modernizing policing and public safety in Vermont. As we move forward, we want to ensure that all Vermonters have a voice in this process,” Public Safety Commissioner Michael Schirling said. “This plan will be successful and result in meaningful change only with the feedback, buy-in and support from our communities — especially marginalized communities and Black, Indigenous and People of Color.” 

Members of the public who would like to provide comments may do so by visiting https://dps.vermont.gov/modernization. Alternatively, they may email comments topolicing.feedback@vermont.gov.

With respect to the statewide model policy for law enforcement use of force, copies of model policies, guiding documents or other relevant materials can be sent to Jennifer Morrison, special assistant to the commissioner of Public Safety, atjennifer.morrison@vermont.gov

Additional details on the earlier 2020 modernization strategy and original 10-point plan are also available athttps://dps.vermont.gov/modernization.

In addition to inviting public feedback online, the Department of Public Safety is taking numerous steps to ensure the opinions of Vermonters are reflected and incorporated into this ongoing modernization effort. Among these steps, the Department is collaborating with researchers at Norwich University to design a comprehensive public survey; engaging the State’s Racial Disparities Advisory Panel; working with the State’s director of racial equity; and connecting with the Vermont State Police Fair and Impartial Policing Committee. Additional engagement strategies will evolve as the statewide conversation continues.

“The transformation of policing must begin with the input of the communities with whom the police must work,” said Dr. Etan Nasreddin-Longo, VSP’s co-director of Fair and Impartial Policing. “This proposal for the reform of law enforcement is merely a starting point and can be completed only by the input of various communities in the state. That thoughtful input is essential to reform.”


As always, if you have suggestions, concerns or critiques please be in touch so we can schedule time to discuss.

Please do not hesitate to contact me with questions, or if you need assistance navigating government services at (802) 384-0233 or lsibilia@leg.state.vt.us. Follow my regular posts online at http://www.laurasibiliavt.com

Kind regards, 

Rep. Laura Sibilia 
Dover, Readsboro, Searsburg, Somerset, Stamford, Wardsboro, Whitingham

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