Good afternoon all,
I hope you have found moments of joy and peace during the Hanukkah and Christmas seasons.
I’m working to get a more comprehensive legislative update and survey out to you all prior to the session, but wanted to update you all on some local, state and national developments and provide some tools for coping. I am aware that several local establishments including the Valley View Saloon, The Dover Forge and the River Valley Market have closed amidst reports of increasing cases in the Valley and an influx of holiday traffic.
Please be kind to one another out there.
Remember that we do not know the circumstances of an individual with out of state plates, including whether or not they are a local resident, a traveling healthcare professional, an out of state family member who has followed quarantining guidelines or a second homeowner who has been here for 6 months. We have more then a few locals who are – often aggressively – denying the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic and openly challenging and disregarding the health and safety guidelines from the medical professionals and scientists hired by the governor the majority of Vermonters elected to lead our state. Personal responsibility goes a long way my friends. If you wear a mask and social distance, wash your hands, don’t gather unmasked to socialize with multiple other groups in confined spaces – you’ve done a lot to protect yourself, protect our healthcare workers, keep kids in school and help businesses stay open – no matter how many people are in the Valley.
As of today, a federal recovery bill that was passed by Congress which will extend unemployment benefits and add a $300 benefit to Vermont’s unemployment benefit has still not been signed into law by the President. He has 10 days to either sign the legislation or veto it or it will be considered to be signed. The relief included in this bill is welcome news for workers in our hospitality industry in particular which continues to have to operate at diminished capacity during the state of emergency. The federal extended unemployment benefits have currently ended for the approximately 800 Vermonters who were utilizing them. This bill must pass for those benefits to be reinstated.
If you or a neighbor or family member are in need of food or shelter, please have them contact 211 and also let me know so I can assist. FARMERS TO FAMILIES FOOD BOX DISTRIBUTIONS are ongoing. I welcome hearing from employers looking for full time workers and workers looking for full time employment and trying to provide connections to those in need for work or help.
Vermonters have been working hard to keep our schools open, keep our hospitals from being overwhelmed and keeping our businesses open. Like so many of your family members who are also working with the public daily to keep our critical services and functions going, all three of my children hold jobs that require them to interact repeatedly with the public as a healthcare worker, restaurant worker and retail worker. Thank you for all you are doing to protect, share kindnesses and employ patience with those who are working to serve our communities.
SMALL MODIFICATION MADE TO COVID-19 GATHERING RESTRICTIONS FOR HOLIDAYS
Restrictions on outdoor recreation and youth sports reduced
Montpelier, Vt. – As COVID-19 case growth in Vermont has stabilized, Governor Phil Scott today announced a small, temporary modification to restrictions on multi-household gatherings during the holidays, a phased restart of youth sports and restoration of earlier guidance allowing outdoor activities.
Between December 23 and January 2, households may gather with one other trusted household. State officials stress that, while gathering with one other household is allowed, anyone over the age of 65, those with pre-existing conditions and those who work with vulnerable populations should avoid gatherings.
It is strongly recommended that everyone who participates in a multi-household gathering be tested seven days after the gathering. If a Vermont household gathers with a trusted household from outside of Vermont, all participants from both households must quarantine for seven days followed by a negative test (or a 14-day quarantine) after the gathering. Thecross-state travel policy remains in place and anyone traveling to Vermont must follow the quarantine requirements.
“While we’re providing a narrow path to very small holiday gatherings, we’d rather you not do it at all,” said Governor Scott. “But we’ve improved our numbers in Vermont, all other prevention measures will remain in place, and we understand that mental health has to be considered alongside physical health.”
Governor Scott also announced youth sports may resume with no-contact practices and Vermonters may resume outdoor activities with those outside their household, as long as physical distancing, masking and other precautions are observed.
Effective December 26, school-based and youth recreational programs may begin practices with individual skills, strength and conditioning. No contact between athletes is permitted at this time, and physically distanced and masking are required. Adult recreational sports and spectators at sporting events remain suspended.
“I’m grateful for the work Vermonters have done to level out our number of cases and I believe these are the right steps at this time, but it’s important to remember that the gains we’ve made are fragile and we’ll only hold them steady if we remain smart,” said Governor Scott.
For more information on:
- COVID-19 health information, guidance and case data, visit www.healthvermont.gov/covid19.
- The Governor’s actions, visit governor.vermont.gov/covid19response.
- The state’s modeling, visit dfr.vermont.gov/about-us/covid-19/modeling.
FIRST SHIPMENTS OF COVID-19 VACCINE ARRIVE IN VERMONT
Burlington, Vt. – Governor Phil Scott today announced the arrival in Vermont of the first 1,950 doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. This is the first portion of the 5,850 doses coming to Vermont this week. The State Vaccine Depot and the University of Vermont Medical Center in Burlington each received 975 doses at approximately 8:00 a.m. today. The doses were sent as part of the initial nationwide shipments that followed the Emergency Use Authorization for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine issued by the FDA on December 12.
The Vermont Department of Health was allocated weekly shipments of 5,850 doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine through December. On Tuesday, December 15, the Health Department will receive an additional 1,950 doses, and another 1,950 doses will ship later this week directly to pharmacies that have contracted with the federal government to administer vaccines at long-term care facilities. The Health Department, in coordination with the State Emergency Operations Center, will distribute vaccine to hospitals throughout the state.
Initial doses will go to the groups identified as priority populations in Phase 1a by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). These include high-risk health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities. These priority populations were also recommended by Vermont’s COVID-19 Advisory Committee and approved by Health Commissioner Levine.
The Health Department will announce more information about vaccine availability as the next priority groups are determined. Dr. Levine affirmed that the State is committed to ensuring access across Vermont, and will work closely with the health care providers, pharmacies and others who will provide the vaccine to Vermonters: “We are working with community organizations and other partners to make sure people who are disproportionately affected by COVID-19, including Black, Indigenous and people of color, have equitable access to the vaccine.”
Information about the vaccine, its distribution, and updates about getting vaccinated will be regularly updated at healthvermont.gov/covid-19/vaccine.
COVID Conversations: How to Speak Up and Stay Friends
COVID-19 has caused considerable behavioral shifts, with “everyday” activities being called into question. Handshakes and hugs are now recognized as risky greetings. Mask-wearing has morphed from seemingly standoffish to being generally accepted as community stewardship.
Many of us are still struggling to navigate this new existence. Neighbors may have differing opinions about safety measures. Family members might disagree with certain protocols, causing a rift within those relationships.
5 Strategies for Positive Social Interactions
Below are 5 strategies for positive social interactions from two University of Vermont Medical Center physicians whose jobs involve navigating difficult conversations.
Tim Lahey, MD, Director of Clinical Ethics at the UVM Medical Center and Professor of Medicine at The University of Vermont Larner College of Medicine, shares that the key to overcoming the challenging encounters we’re all facing is to ground yourself with patience and understanding.
“It’s easy for us to leap to conclusions about behavior having bad motivations. When, in fact, it’s normal human behavior to forget, or to be confused, or to have been misinformed. That person is just trying to get through the day and do the best they can. If we have a forgiving, compassionate framing, I think it’s easier to remember to communicate in a way that’s more approachable and less likely to lead to conflict.”
Robert Gramling, MD, Holly and Bob Miller Chair in Palliative Medicine at the Larner College of Medicine and Chief of the Palliative Medicine Division, concurs with this approach.
1) ACKNOWLEDGE ANY AWKWARDNESS WITH A HUMOROUS ANGLE.
Finding a bit of comedy in the situation, while conjuring internal compassion for the person you’re talking with, goes a long way.
“That person is probably trying to deal with something totally new as well,” notes Dr. Gramling. “Some of what we’re dealing with really is odd and even funny, so [it’s important] to find that space in yourself to say, ‘I’m really trying to do something I’ve never done before,’ and cut yourself and others some slack.”
2) FREE YOURSELF FROM THE MISCONCEPTION THAT YOU HAVE TO BE RESPONSIBLE FOR ANOTHER PERSON’S BEHAVIOR.
No one knows what anyone is really going through at any given moment. For example, someone may have just received bad news. This doesn’t mean you have to absolve others’ behavior, but it helps to put the situation in a more forgiving light.
3) DON’T BE AFRAID TO ASK QUESTIONS AND VOICE YOUR CONCERNS.
If you’re attending a gathering, it’s OK to inquire about the host’s proposed social distancing guidelines. Also, be upfront about your expectations.
“Anticipate that possible moment and say something like, ‘If it turns out there are lots of people, I hope you won’t take it personally if I leave a bit early.’ Just so it’s a little easier for you in the moment to react the way that’s most appropriate, without feeling uncomfortable about it,” says Dr. Lahey.
4) GET CREATIVE WITH SOCIAL INTERACTIONS.
Face coverings and social distancing make it difficult to have clear conversations—particularly for anyone living with a hearing or vision impairment. Dr. Gramling shares a personal example of when he and a friend were sitting comfortably six feet apart and actually conversing via their mobile devices.
“It was a lovely conversation. We could talk in a regular voice. We could hear each other’s emotion. We felt connected, and it worked.”
5) CLARIFY YOUR POSITION IN A NON-JUDGMENTAL WAY.
If you’re looking out for a neighbor or elderly family member who is staunch about not taking necessary precautions, it’s perfectly appropriate to shape your own behavior in response to that attitude.
“You don’t need to do it in an angry way or feel like you can’t [speak up]. I’d say, for instance, ‘I respect your point of view, but I hope you understand that since I’m really worried about this virus, and I want to make sure I’m a good neighbor, I’m going to have to leave.’ They may realize they could experience a consequence, but they experienced it at the hands of somebody they can only see as being pleasant and respectful,” explains Dr. Lahey.
It All Comes Down to Positive, Transparent Communication
Ultimately, the best advice Drs. Lahey and Gramling can pass along is communication—and not the negative kind. “I think sometimes in COVID-19, when people feel anxious or even fearful for their own safety, it’s easy to lapse into those finger-pointing kind of communications. ‘You should know better,’ or ‘You have to do this, don’t you care?’ That [approach] is incredibly important to avoid,” cautions Dr. Lahey.
“Giving [someone] the benefit of the doubt is going to get you off on far better footing. It won’t solve everything. There will be some conflicts; we totally understand that. But, there are going to be lots of avoidable ones,” adds Dr. Gramling.
To read more COVID-19 resources and information, visit https://www.uvmhealth.org/coronavirus
Having convenient access to up-to-date COVID-19 guidance can help you and your family stay safe. To ensure you have the latest information on the pandemic, sign up for text, email, or phone alerts through VT-alerts. Register today by visiting vtalert.gov.
Better Places Grants
The Better Places pilot program provides “placemaking” grants ranging from $5,000 to $20,000 that improve the vitality of state designated downtowns, village centers, new town centers, or neighborhood development areas. The Better Places partnership is a place-based economic development program that:
• Revitalizes and improves public spaces in support of local economic and community development efforts
• Empowers residents to play an active role in shaping their communities, building social capital, and local pride
• Supports local COVID-19 response and recovery efforts
• Advances “quick build” projects that boost confidence, builds partnerships and sparks momentum
• Improves public health, reduces social isolation, and increases physical activity
• Stimulates the creative economy and supports public art projects
Learn more about placemaking efforts in Vermont communities on our blog post and sign-up for AARP’s monthly virtual placemaking meet ups to connect with other Vermont placemakers.
A 3 day pack of grab-and-go meals will be available for any child, 18 and under, who would like them for January, 4, 5, and 6. Orders should be submitted by 12:00 on 12/30, and meals will be available for pick up at the Readsboro Bandstand, Twin Valley Elementary School, and Twin Valley Middle High School, from 12-12:30 on Monday 1/4.
Here is the Meal Order Form and the menu for the 3 days is attached.
As always, if you have suggestions, concerns or critiques please be in touch so we can schedule time to discuss them.
Please do not hesitate to contact me with questions, or if you need assistance navigating government services at (802) 384-0233 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow my regular posts online at http://www.laurasibiliavt.com
Rep. Laura Sibilia
Dover, Readsboro, Searsburg, Somerset, Stamford, Wardsboro, Whitingham