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Vermont Governor’s Briefing Includes Bias Warning And Notice Of Expanded COVID Testing

Screenshot of Governor Phil Scott during May 13, 2020 COVID-19 update
Screenshot of Governor Phil Scott during May 13, 2020 COVID-19 update

Vermont Governor Phil Scott began his latest COVID-19 briefing Wednesday by telling Vermonters that he will not tolerate any hate, bigotry or bias in the state as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
On March 30th Republican Governor Phil Scott issued travel restrictions mandating that any visitors planning an extended stay to Vermont self-isolate for two weeks.  As he began his mid-week briefing he told residents that it’s critical to maintain civility and unity during the pandemic. He said he brought that up because of what he called a disturbing incident he was made aware of this week.  “I learned of a family in Hartford who had New York license plates on their vehicle even though they had become Vermonters a few months ago. And as they were pulling out of their driveway they were, amongst other things, told they were not welcome here and that the governor did not want them here either. And sadly this happened in front of their 11 year-old child. I want to be very clear. I have no tolerance for this kind of thing.  It’s unacceptable. It does not represent my views or who I believe we are as a state.”

Scott added there was another upsetting element to that confrontation.  “Making this situation in Hartford even more disturbing was the racial undertone used during this exchange with the individual, who is a person of color. So let me be very clear.  This is not acceptable and it can’t be tolerated and there’s no excuse for it.  The Vermont State Police are investigating and I personally called the family to apologize.  This virus cannot be used as an excuse for hate, bigotry or division. Our common enemy is the virus, not each other.  If you take nothing else away from this briefing today please let it be that.”   

Unlike Massachusetts, New York and Connecticut, Vermont does not mandate wearing face coverings in public. The Scott administration has asked the Vermont Retailers and Grocers Association to ask members if they would prefer a mandate.  State Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine reiterated his call for Vermonters to voluntarily wear masks.  “Masks do seem to reduce respiratory droplet transmission.  Interestingly, but not unexpectedly, compliance must be high for this strategy to work. And again when we wear a mask we protect others from our own droplets. And since we don’t know if or when we are in a pre-symptomatic stage of COVID-19 this is a habit we all need to adopt.”

The impact of the pandemic on Vermont’s upcoming summer tourism economy is a growing concern.  Scott says despite the heavy economic toll there must be a phased-in return to business operations.  “I know it’s difficult. I don’t underestimate the financial significance of this and what it will mean to our state as well to those individuals for their businesses. I don’t take this lightly but we don’t take the virus lightly either. We’re trying to do it as quickly as we can without putting people at risk.”

State health officials said this week Vermont is now offering free COVID-19 testing for anyone who makes an appointment, even people without symptoms. Agency of Human Services Secretary Mike Smith says it’s part of the state’s broader effort to prevent the spread.   “One of the things that we have been pushing is making sure that Vermonters that want a test get a test. That’s where we’re headed and that means that those pop-up tents and pop-up centers are open for people that are asymptomatic.”

Governor Scott plans to extend Vermont’s State of Emergency on Friday.


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