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Burlington Mayor Holds Tele-Town Hall On COVID Surge

Burlington street sign
Pat Bradley/WAMC
Burlington street sign

Coronavirus cases are increasing in Vermont. Tuesday evening, Burlington’s mayor held a virtual town hall with medical experts to discuss concerns and what people should know about new guidance to stem the spread of COVID-19.
The weekly forecast presented during Vermont Governor Phil Scott’s regular update on COVID-19 shows nationally, cases are expected to increase 79% over the next six weeks.  In the Northeast cases are projected to go up 105% in the next six weeks.
Late last week Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger cautioned residents to remain vigilant as the seven-day case average rose to a level that would put the city and county into a mandatory quarantine status under the state’s travel map.
On Tuesday evening he held a virtual Town Hall with Vermont Commissioner of Health Dr. Mark Levine and UVM Medical Center President Dr. Stephen Leffler to discuss the growing incidences of the virus.  “This is the fourth telephone town hall meeting we’ve had since the start of the pandemic in March. And each of our prior events has taken place at a key inflection point in our response to this virus. And we’re doing this because tonight we’re at another one of those inflection points. With the cold weather forcing more and more activities indoors we are seeing virus levels rise here in Chittenden County and Burlington and really throughout Vermont to levels that we haven’t seen since April. And this really makes clear we’re in a new phase in our response to this virus.”

Dr. Levine says the exponential increase regionally and nationally in cases is due in part to people moving indoors as weather gets colder, and pandemic fatigue. “There’s only 30 counties in the U.S. that are green or yellow and Vermont has 4 of those still. So we truly are an island. And for that reason we really do feel that travel, if it happens, it is essential it be accompanied by a mandatory quarantine.  The second take home point is the risk of small gatherings.  If you limit your interaction socially to as small number of households, even trusted households and family, you will be much safer.”

Nearly 500 residents joined through various platforms.  Residents had a number of questions including one man who asked Dr. Levine how the spike in cases could affect holiday plans.  “On Thanksgiving our daughter and son-in-law they’re planning to get quick response tests before leaving New York and they will have their result the same day.  If it’s negative they want to come up and they’ll be driving. Them coming up how safe is it for them? How safe is it for us and our community?”
Dr. Levine:  “The day you test negative is the day you are negative. But it doesn’t mean that you are actually free of virus. It just means you were not infectious at that time.”

Over the weekend Vermont reported its first COVID related death in more than three months, bringing the total to 59.  At the end of the Town Hall Mayor Weinberger read a post that had been entered on Facebook during the meeting.  “This is a statement from Michael Burdick. He says: Hello. I’m from north Burlington. My mother was the 59th death from COVID reported from the state this weekend. We wear our masks so much more here than my home town and thank you Burlington for that. So not a statement, a plea. Please don’t let down your guard. We all have the fatigue and that’s reasonable. Me too.  What is your adherence worth to you? Please Burlington stay vigilant. Let’s keep ahead of this. We can do this.”

The full teletown hall can be viewed here: