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Governor Phil Scott Discusses Decision To Dismiss Schools For Remainder Of Academic Year

School bus
Pat Bradley/WAMC

Trying to further slow the spread of the coronavirus, Vermont Governor Phil Scott has closed all schools through the end of the school year.
On March 15th Vermont Governor Phil Scott ordered all schools in the state to close from March 18th to April 6th.   He issued an updated education order Thursday evening, and said Friday the decision was made in consultation with the Agency of Education and the Department of Health.   “As this pandemic continues, the health and safety of all Vermonters is my top priority. Every decision I’ve made is guided by the best information I have for public health.”

Scott said earlier steps attempting to slow the spread and ease the burden on the health care system including a temporary dismissal of schools have not been sufficient.   “So working closely with the experts at our Department of Health and the Agency of Education I came to the difficult decision to extend dismissal and close in-person instruction at schools for the remainder of the school year. However, to make sure our kids continue learning, I’m asking districts to complete plans for continued education through remote learning.”

Scott called his decision sad and acknowledged that it would be difficult for many families.   “The education of our kids along with the bonding and learning experience they get in school are incredibly important. So I fully understand and appreciate the impact this will have on our kids individually and families across Vermont. But from my vantage point I believe it’s the right decision because it’s for the health of our kids, communities and the entire state. That’s why we’re doing this: to keep people safe, to slow the spread, to save lives.  Because the sobering reality is before too long, each of us will know someone who has lost their life from this virus.”

Vermont Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine then provided the most recent data on the coronavirus in the state noting that another 25 positive cases were recorded on Thursday.  Two more deaths occurred Thursday and early Friday, bringing total fatalities from COVID-19 in Vermont to 10 as of Friday.  Levine said the Health Department is taking additional actions to further contain the spread and will allow more latitude for doctors to order COVID-19 testing.   “Tests will still be prioritized and patients who have no symptoms will not be tested. But people who have only mild or moderate symptoms will have more opportunity to be tested now. They will still need to call to talk with their physician or other health care provider so that they may order the test. Let me be clear. You cannot just show up at a testing facility or a drive-through. The test must be ordered by your physician.  The objective here is to identify more COVID positive patients early, isolate them, and slow the spread of the virus.”

Levine said they are able to enhance testing due to an aggressive procurement strategy for both the collection and testing kits.  

The governor’s order to close schools for the remainder of the academic year directs school districts to have plans for distance learning in place by April 13.

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