Some lawmakers, school nurses, and other medical professionals urged Gov. Phil Scott on Monday to reinstate a state of emergency and indoor mask mandate as they say school staff, parents, hospitals and health care workers are stressed, some to their breaking point.
They also urged the governor at a Statehouse press conference to provide more resources for schools for contact tracing and testing and extend emergency housing to the homeless.
“I would urge the governor in the strongest terms possible to go back to the thoughtful, aggressive approach that he took early in the pandemic,” said Rep. George Till, a Democrat from Jericho, who is a physician.
The governor has emphasized personal responsibility and continues to urge people to get vaccinated even as children too young to be vaccinated register the highest rates of infection, said Anne Sosin, a public health practitioner researcher based at Dartmouth College. The state has had more deaths from COVID-19 since the start of September than in the first eight months of the pandemic, but Scott has refused to change course, she said.
"We don’t need to return to a lockdown, close our restaurants or bars or cancel Christmas as Gov. Scott suggested in a recent press conference, however we do need to return to evidence based approach to managing the pandemic,” Sosin said.
Jason Maulucci, press secretary for Scott, said vaccines work and Vermont continues to be a national leader in its vaccination efforts and consistently has had one of the lowest fatality, hospitalization, and test positivity rates in the country through the Delta wave.
“If the Governor believed state mandates were needed, he would implement them. But the fact is, declaring a state of emergency after nearly 20 months of experience with this virus and reimposing broad restrictions and closures is not something Vermonters would accept nor follow,” Maulucci said in a written statement.
School nurses are overwhelmed, exhausted and many are at their breaking point, either leaving their jobs or considering leaving, said Becca McCray, a nurse for the Burlington School District and president of the Vermont State School Nurses Association.
“The lack of guidance and piling on additional responsibilities is too much,” McCray said.
Rep. Erin Brady, a Democrat from Willison who is a parent, high school teacher, and school board member implored state leaders to do more to keep the state's unvaccinated children safe and mitigate the challenges for schools.
Both of her children, who are too young to be vaccinated, have contracted COVID-19 and one of them is sick, Brady said.
“When my third grader hopefully returns to school in early November he will have missed at least a month of school days just this year,” she said.