Rep. Sibilia: Valley cases 12/31/20

Good afternoon all,

The Vermont Department of Health has new town updates and we can see that week over week there are 25 new cases in the Whitingham, Wilmington and Dover area.

Bennington has several outbreaks including with their Police Department and with workers at the Veteran’s Home. I know we all hope for a quick containment and wish the officers, caretakers and veterans a fast and uncomplicated recovery. At today’s update and briefing with Governor Scott and his cabinet the Secretary of the Agency of Health and Human Services noted that the Bennington outbreak is being traced to several multiple household gatherings – like other outbreaks in Vermont that happened around Halloween.

When someone contracts COVID-19, contact tracers reach out to find out who that person has exposed and where they have been. This helps the Department of Health figure out where cases are originating from. In the past when the Governor has increased or decreased recommended guidelines, it has been based on science and data which can include contact tracing data. The Governor’s orders at Thanksgiving limiting social interactions in homes but not eating out in restaurants was due to the data showing people were getting sick from being exposed at multiple family gatherings in homes, unmasked and often with alcohol. Not from restaurants

This video from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control demonstrates how community spread happens. Because we are seeing a significant number of cases, it is even more important to follow the health and safety guidelines.

Vermont State Guidance on Outdoor Recreation and Covid-19. In addition, The Agency of Commerce and Community Development, in cooperation with the Department of Health, the Department of Public Safety and the Vermont Ski Areas Association, has developed mandatory guidance for ski areas and their guests to maximize safety and mitigate the spread of COVID-19. The full guidance is available at accd.vermont.gov/content/vermont-ski-resort-covid-19-winter-operations-guidance.

I’ve heard from a number of folks who are concerned about visitors. I’ve also heard that there was “an outbreak at Mount Snow”. I’m aware that some places in the Valley that have closed had an employee that tested positive. There are very reasonable concerns as a result of this which I’ve heard and take seriously. In the past few days I have spoken with Mount Snow, with the Department of Health, with the Ski Areas Association and with every legislator from every major ski area in Vermont to see what the data is and what the anecdotal stories are.

What I am hearing and seeing – so far – does not show the cases we are seeing in the Valley are originating from Mount Snow. The state tracking data to date is not showing COVID-19 originating from any of the ski resorts including Mount Snow. That means – so far – people are not getting sick by going to the mountains. That is not to say that no Mount Snow employees have gotten sick. Like all employers are required to do, Mount Snow does a daily health screening of every employee.

That is also not to say all visitors are complying with the guidelines throughout the Valley. I am hearing folks concerns that when there are a lot of extra people in town, and also a lot of new cases, and that people are scared and trying to be even more careful and keep social distance – that is hard to do because there are a lot of extra people in town. If you are certain the executive orders are being violated, there is a means of seeking enforcement. Fines are possible for violating executive orders. Education and enforcement are possible if actions threaten to endanger people. I’ve heard that there were lines waiting to get in at Shaw’s – that’s inconvenient, but also means they are following the health guidelines. It may be helpful to use a food delivery service from Shaw’s through instacart or go to Brattleboro for food shopping. If this presents a hardship for you or your family please let me know so we can assist.

I expect that if contact tracing shows the mountains are where spread is happening (and it isn’t as of yesterday), that we will see the governor close the resorts or impose new restrictions. Data is what has driven his orders in the past.

Tough Call Deerfield Valley Establishments Close for the Holiday Week

Also – not everyone in the Valley agrees on how to proceed.

One week ago I had a Valley resident tell me the governor was violating his oath after I posted the revised guidance that two households could gather for Christmas, “because the governor has no right to comment on what he does in his house”. That person let me know they planned to gather with multiple other households for Christmas. As it happens, at least one member of one of those households worked with someone who had tested positive. Two nights ago, at an in person meeting where many folks were unmasked, the select board of a district town board voted 3-2 to sue the governor because they believe the virus is nothing worse then the flu and the executive orders are violating their constitutional rights.

Stamford Board Votes to Terminate State Covid Restrictions

It’s a very very fine line we are all trying to walk together friends. Vermont is still doing better then most other places, but with this virus raging across our country, the only way to keep our kids in school, protect our healthcare workers and elderly, and reduce the damage being done to our businesses is to wear a mask, wash your hands, social distance, get tested and respond to contact tracers. The governor today encouraged folks to hang on for just a little longer – the vaccines are starting to come in and warmer weather will be here soon.

A New Year is just around the corner…

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 lsibilia@leg.state.vt.us. Follow my regular posts online at http://www.laurasibiliavt.com

Stay healthy, 

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

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