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New England News

Burlington Post Pandemic Action Report Released

Burlington, Vermont city officials marked the end of the municipality’s pandemic emergency order on Wednesday, gathering on the steps of City Hall to release a report on how they responded and lessons they learned since March 2020.
On March 16, 2020 an emergency order was mandated in Burlington to respond to the coronavirus pandemic.  On Tuesday, Mayor Miro Weinberger signed an executive order declaring the end of the emergency. He said it was the longest known declared emergency in the city’s history at 457 days.  “While there have been tragic losses of life over the last 15 months of neighbors and loved ones who had much more to contribute and give, our city’s and region’s performance throughout this emergency has been exceptional. The end of the Emergency Order marks a significant accomplishment. Most importantly this accomplishment belongs to the people of Burlington who in a time of great uncertainty and loss demonstrated a profound commitment to our community and through their actions ensured that Burlington remained one of the safest cities in the nation throughout the long COVID emergency.”  

UVM Medical Center President and Chief Operating Officer Dr. Stephen Leffler reminisced about initial supply shortages and fears about the emerging pandemic and how Vermonters responded.  “I really firmly believe that Chittenden County, Vermont has the best response to the pandemic in the country. And it could be the world. If you actually look at what we accomplished, how few deaths we actually had; how quickly we got people vaccinated; how well we worked together to keep hospital capacity available; we accomplished that because we all worked together every day on this. From our governor to our city and local governments, the Department of Health, our hospitals and providers, but most importantly Vermonters. Vermonters bought in. They did what was necessary to  keep each other safe.”

This spring Mayor Weinberger asked city departments to craft an after action report to outline what the city had done over the course of the pandemic and what had been learned.  City Planner Meaghan Tuttle, the city’s COVID response leader, said the resulting “COVID-19 Pandemic Response After Action Report” frames a number of principles that will hopefully guide future administrations should they encounter similar emergencies.  “The foundational principle that guided our work was really that idea that local actions matter. That really understanding the research and the history on previous pandemics and previous emergencies gave us the strong belief and strong evidence that the actions that the city took could impact the pandemic’s trajectory locally for the good or the bad. And in particular to recognize that that work that we would do would also be the foundation for how we would recover from the pandemic.”

Tuttle summarized the report’s outline of best practices and how the city incorporated them into its response.  “We looked across the world, across the United States. We looked at data. We monitored outcomes that other communities were experiencing to help us anticipate things that would be happening here in Vermont and here in Burlington. We identified trusted sources of information and followed them very closely so that we could anticipate challenges that were coming our way. This data driven approach helped us to identify opportunities where we could redeploy city resources to support emerging needs as well as to augment the state and other partners’ initiatives. Our data driven approach has also identified ways for us to evolve our approaches, our communications and our deployment of resources, in order to protect vulnerable people in our community.”

The after action report does not review any potential causes of the coronavirus pandemic.

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