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School Masking Recommendations A Focus Of Governor Scott’s Weekly Briefing

May 2021 file photo of Vermont Governor Phil Scott
Pat Bradley/WAMC
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Vermont Governor Phil Scott (file)

A focus of Vermont Governor Phil Scott’s weekly briefing Tuesday was the reopening of schools and COVID-19 guidance the state has offered to districts for in-person learning.

The Vermont Agency of Education has issued recommendations that schools can adopt as classrooms reopen. Because there is not a statewide State of Emergency, districts are not mandated to adopt the recommendations. The state is urging schools to require masks for all individuals for the first 10 days and then continue the requirement for those under 12 in schools with low vaccination rates. Children younger than 12 are not yet eligible to be vaccinated against COVID.

According to Governor Phil Scott all but one – the Canaan district – will follow the state recommendations. The Republican chided people who have created disruptions over the issue at some school board meetings.

“The school boards and superintendents who are implementing masking policies are simply doing what the state, at my direction, is recommending. The attacks towards them are absolutely unacceptable. And if they want to blame someone, blame me," Scott said. "I want to be very clear to those who are upset at their school district. They’re simply following the state’s advice. They’re doing exactly what I’ve asked them to do.”

Education Secretary Dan French reported that surveillance testing for COVID-19 in schools will continue this academic year.

“Unlike last year, this year we are including students in the surveillance testing. This means we will be conducting a lot more testing which will no doubt lead to the identification of more cases. Let me repeat that. This means we will identify more cases in schools. Many of which would not have been found because they are asymptomatic. This is not a bad thing since it helps us stop the spread of the virus in our communities," said French. "To date we have about three-fourths of our districts signed up for the testing and some started testing this week. I think it’s been challenging for more districts to implement the testing this week at the same time they’re opening schools. So I do expect participation to increase in the testing in the coming weeks.”

Governor Scott acknowledged that Tuesday is International Overdose Awareness Day and noted a need to refocus on the opioid epidemic. Health Department Deputy Commissioner for Alcohol and Drug Abuse Programs Kelly Dougherty explained the state’s efforts and described a new program.

“We have launched the ‘Know-OD’ campaign, which is k-n-o-w-o-d. And this campaign is designed to reach people who are at risk of an overdose and their loved ones and focuses on six steps to reduce harm and lower the risk of experiencing an overdose or dying from an overdose," said Dougherty. "Our work acknowledges substance use disorders as a medical condition. As a department and a state we are committed to providing the programs, supports and information to change how we view substance use disorder in Vermont.”

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