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VT Gov. Scott’s discusses COVID testing before holiday gatherings and the legislature's special session

Vermont Statehouse
Pat Bradley
Vermont Statehouse

Governor Phil Scott held his weekly briefing Tuesday, a day after the Vermont legislature met in special session to pass a narrowly tailored law allowing localities to pass mask mandates. The governor says the measure was the only compromise he would agree to in the wake of calls to take stricter action as COVID-19 cases rise in the state.

The bill passed by the legislature allows local communities to pass mandates requiring the wearing of masks in public places. During his briefing the state’s Republican governor said the legislature’s one-day session reflected the difference in opinion over what actions he and legislative leaders feel should be taken.

“I brought the Legislature back for a special session in order to consider a bill, which I signed this morning by the way, as a compromise between our extreme differences of opinion regarding COVID strategy. Legislative leaders believe we need to return to a State of Emergency, impose a statewide mask mandate and a host of other restrictions. And I don’t," said Scott. "But as you’ve heard me say repeatedly masking when inside in public spaces is a good idea right now because masks work. But at this point in the pandemic mandates won’t and I think they’ll be divisive and counterproductive.”

Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger says he will propose an ordinance that would require face coverings in indoor public settings except for in situations where all employees and customers are verified as vaccinated against COVID-19. The Democrat says the measure will go before the city council at a special meeting December 1st. The Burlington ordinance would include all public transportation such as buses, trains, taxies and ride shares. It would exempt vaccinated workers who do not interact with the public. The mayor says it would be reconsidered every 30 days and could be suspended if the risk of COVID transmission in Chittenden County drops to a “moderate” level as defined by the CDC.

The weekly data report shows that COVID cases are rising — up about 15% in the country and 27% in New England. In Vermont cases increased about 4% over the past week. Scott urged Vermonters to get vaccinated, get their booster shots or get tested before gathering for the holidays.

“My team continues to make vaccines and boosters as accessible as possible. We’ve been promoting this ahead of the holidays. In the last week we conducted 69,000 tests. That’s over 10% of our population. This is a great way to ensure you don’t spread the virus to more vulnerable family members at Thanksgiving. And most importantly if you’re sick stay home," Scott said. "Now as a result of Thanksgiving we will probably see a higher number of cases next week and the week after. So we’re asking you to help us keep that spike as low as we can.”

This month the Vermont Department of Health issued “School Action Levels” to be used when screening schools for PCBs. The memo from the department states the action levels “can be used as an indicator of when schools need to identify and abate potential sources of PCBs inside their buildings.”

Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine noted that the guidance is part of a legislative requirement for air testing in newly built or renovated schools.

“All we had was what the screening levels were if they were detected in air at any location," Levine said. "So we actually have been working in earnest with the Department of Environmental Conservation to create the entire framework that has been called for. I believe we’re the only state in the country that has this program for testing of schools.”