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New England News

Burlington Mayor To Call Special Session Of City Council To Pass Preemptive COVID Measures

Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger
Burlington VT Mayor's Office
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Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger

Last week, Vermont granted localities, especially college towns, stronger powers to set COVID-19 restrictions.  Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger plans to call a special session of the city council Thursday to pass stricter measures to prevent an outbreak in the city.
Last Friday, Republican Governor Phil Scott extended Vermont’s state of emergency for another month in response to the coronavirus pandemic.  He said his order included giving greater authority to local communities, especially college towns, to set stricter COVID-19 restrictions.  “To start it gives cities and towns the ability to lower the limit on gathering size. And it lets them limit hours for the sale of alcohol meaning they could set a curfew for bars and clubs. Looking at case growth in other states and hearing from other governors about what they saw and what they did it appears uncontrolled parties in crowds at bars and clubs are a big part of the problem. So I believe giving our towns, especially the college towns, some additional mitigation measures to work with is the right thing to do.”

This week the mayor of Vermont’s largest city said he plans to take advantage of the authority granted by the governor. Democrat Miro Weinberger says he will call a special session of the Burlington City Council to approve an emergency COVID-19 resolution.  “First we will be limiting the maximum size of gatherings on residential properties in Burlington to 25 people. Indoors the limit in residential buildings in Burlington will be 10 people. With respect to the regulation of alcohol in commercial establishments we will establish a last call for the sale of alcohol in Burlington at 10 p.m. in all Burlington establishments, bars and restaurants.”

Weinberger also outlined plans to enforce the new regulations.  He says the state Department of Liquor and Lottery will increase enforcement of state public health orders in the city’s bars.  The Burlington Police Department will also conduct what he called COVID Educational Circuits in college neighborhoods.  “Burlington Police will, as soon as this regulation goes into effect, begin to conduct supplemental COVID Educational Circuits to inform the residents about these changes, respond to complaints and if necessary write civil tickets. We have in many other areas of the pandemic response been successful at prioritizing education and engagement over actual ticketing and enforcement steps but our police will be prepared to write tickets if that is necessary.”

Weinberger had expressed a number of concerns about the University of Vermont’s reopening plans including testing transparency and consequences for missing tests.  The mayor said after meetings with college officials the city has been assured that test results will be shared with the state Department of Health daily.  The college has also clarified that any student who misses three tests will be suspended.  “It's clear to me that UVM has made major investments in staff time and resources in a very comprehensive and thoughtful plan. And further I can now say in a way that I couldn't a week ago that I appreciate that in response to city questions they have made some important further moves that address the top priorities.”

A special session of the city council to vote on the stricter preemptive COVID-19 resolution is planned for Thursday.