Be Prepared, Be Patient, And Please Don’t Clear The Shelves
by Rachel Feldman, Vermont Business Magazine Vermont Governor Phil Scott, Congressman Peter Welch, and Vermont leaders Monday outlined further COVID-19 response measures the state will take. The key messages to Vermonters: prepare for fast-moving changes, don’t clear the grocery store shelves, maintain personal contact through safe means, and provide help for others.
“We are going to have to do a lot more before this is over,” Scott said. “It’s important to give people time to prepare, mentally and emotionally.”
With 75 positive tests and five fatalities attributed to COVID-19 in Vermont to date, Scott reminded people that these precautions are meant to protect those most at risk.
According to Congressman Peter Welch, who’s negotiating federal support for individuals, small businesses and hospitals, as well as possible aid for states, “It’s much better to do too much too soon, than to do too little too late.”
Welch said the plan he’s advocating would cost around $2 trillion and assist the financial system and small businesses so they can keep going.
While he said he would support giving checks directly to individuals ($1,200 for each adult is one plan suggested), he’d much rather have plans in place to keep people employed and if not to add $600 to the unemployment benefit; Vermont pays about $500 a week in unemployment insurance.
Prepare For More
The Scott Administration last week urged businesses and nonprofits to implement every “work from home” procedure possible.
Monday’s message made it clear that steps will soon be taken to further reduce contact and direct more non-essential employees to stay home in order to slow the spread of COVID-19, which could include a “stay at home” order.
Other states such as New York and Connecticut have taken these measures, which mean all non-essential employees are required to work from home.
On Monday, the Vermont Public Service Department released a Wi-Fi Hot Spot Map: https://publicservice.vermont.gov/announcements/public-wifi-hotspots-vermont to help Vermonters working or learning remotely find Internet access.
As Scott said about the impact of COVID-19, “it’s not a question anymore of if, it’s of when.”
Purchase Provisions For The Proper Period
Stock up two weeks’ worth of food and supplies. That’s the recommendation from Vermont Retail and Grocers’ Association President Erin Sigrist. As panicked shoppers clear shelves, Sigrist reminded people that goods are available, as long as shoppers don’t put undue strain on the system.
“Go back to shopping as you used to. Don’t hoard,” Sigrist said. “Shop for two weeks [of food and supplies.]”
If people continue to bulk purchase products they don’t need, “it limits the abilities of our neighbors to remain healthy and safe as well.”
Many Vermont stores are already setting aside specific hours for vulnerable populations to do their shopping. Shops are also offering alternatives to shopping, such as curbside pickup and home delivery.
A full list can be found at www.vtrga.org.
Pay Attention To Each Other
Interaction is the key during isolation, officials said. It just takes a different form when social distancing is imperative.
Scott and Health Commissioner Dr Mark Levine urged Vermonters to use video calls, text messages, personal letters and other digital means to stay in touch with each other.
“We’re not looking for social isolation,” said Dr. Levine. “We do want people to not be as physically connected with each other as they were, but that does not mean they need to be socially isolated. It really means that all of those creative ways in modern technological times that we connect with one another, we need to take advantage of more than ever before.”
Provide Help When You Can
“We cannot allow the physical separation to pull us apart,” Scott said. “We need to use this moment in time to come together in other ways.”
Vermont businesses such as Casella Waste Systems, Cold Hollow Cider, and many others are donating personal protective equipment to hospitals and health care centers, creating hand sanitizer and collecting contributions for the community.
All Vermonters are urged to think of ways they can “tap into their creative spirit.” Examples include picking up groceries or a meal for a vulnerable neighbor, donating resources for students currently learning home or toys for young children, sending cards to a local senior center, or donating to food shelves.
Everyone is being urged to give what they can.
“When you order takeout, make sure you tip them well,” Scott said. “They could use it.”
New Directive from Governor Scott
Scott also today announced additional mitigation measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In consultation with the Department of Health, Governor Scott has directed all businesses and not-for-profit entities - to the maximum extent possible - to put into place telecommuting or work-from-home procedures, no later than 8:00 p.m. on Monday, March 23.
“We’re now entering a new phase in this fight to flatten the curve,” said Governor Scott. “Vermonters should also expect additional steps in the coming days that will further reduce contact and direct more to stay home in order to keep everyone safe.”
This order follows further reductions to the allowable size of non-essential mass gatherings to no more than 10 people and the closure of all close-contact businesses, both announced Saturday, March 21.
At this time, any entities not required to close under a previous order, or unable to implement work-from-home procedures, must implement – and publicly post – CDC and the Vermont Department of Health guidance related to COVID-19, including:
- Maintaining a distance of six feet between people;
- Ensuring employees practice appropriate hygiene measures, including regular, thorough handwashing;
- Ensuring that employees who are sick remain home; and
- Regularly cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched objects and surfaces.
The Governor has also said Vermonters should prepare for a forthcoming announcement on further restrictions and a stay-at-home directive. He further advised all Vermonters, “All of us should already be taking personal responsibility to physically distance ourselves from others and to follow the guidance in place to help keep each other healthy and safe.”
For details on these new measures, click here to read the full addendum.
Commercial entities, employers, event sponsors and others with questions should contact the State Emergency Operations Center at 800-347-0488.
COVID-19 ACTIVITY IN VERMONT
|Positive test results*||75|
|Total tests conducted||1,173|
|People being monitored||336|
|People who have completed monitoring||316|
*Includes testing conducted at the Vermont Department of Health Laboratory, commercial labs, and other public health labs.
+Death occurring in persons known to have COVID-19. Death certificate may be pending.
Note: With the quickly changing situation, we continue to adjust reporting, looking for the best ways to communicate with the public. It is important to remember that as the number of people testing positive increases, we need to assume that we are all at risk, whatever our location. Now is the time when social distancing can make an enormous difference.
This table is updated daily by 1:00 p.m. Last updated: March 23, 2020
For the latest information and guidance relating to Vermont’s COVID-19 response, visit www.healthvermont.gov/covid19.