Officials in Vermont have outlined a series of initiatives over the past week to enhance social distancing and minimize transmission of the novel coronavirus. Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger is announcing additional changes in the state’s largest city.
During a tele-town meeting over the weekend, Mayor Weinberger warned residents that daily life was likely to change as the coronavirus spread. On Monday he announced new actions because of the exponential rate of spread. “While we do not know how many individuals in this community are currently infected, the fact that a very low number of patients are currently hospitalized is a positive current fact. I believe it is my job to do everything within my authority and responsibility to keep these numbers as low as possible to protect medical capacity and to flatten the curve of new infections. Today I am announcing new actions in the city's response. First I'm declaring an emergency here in the City of Burlington in order to exercise emergency powers to protect public health and safety.”
To promote social distancing the mayor ordered that beginning Wednesday the city will close or restrict access to all city buildings and curtail many services. “Everything that we are posting in terms of curtailments of city services is subject to change. The current plan is that these closings and curtailments will be in effect until at least April 6th and very possibly longer. As we are announcing these curtailments I do want to be clear that we intend to continue many city services throughout the emergency. The services we plan to continue include at least water, electricity, emergency response from both the police and fire departments, maintenance of streets and sidewalks and recycling pickup. I have committed to all city employees that they will continue to be paid no matter what actions or cancellations the city must take during this public health emergency.”
Weinberger said the focus of his actions is to save lives but acknowledged there will be economic hardship as a result. He has asked Community and Economic Development Office Director Luke McGowan to create new initiatives that can ease distress on the city’s most vulnerable population. “We are monitoring what's going on at the federal level. There's a relief package that's currently being worked out that would lay out broad support for the workers and businesses that we care most about here in Burlington and this would include paid leave, free testing and an additional slew of benefits. Second thing we're doing is we are working closely with our state and federal partners to bring access to funds and resources that are available today.”
Burlington will suspend all disconnections from municipal electric and water services. Organizations that house vulnerable individuals are suspending evictions and the mayor is urging private property owners to voluntarily suspend evictions if a tenant “has documentation of COVID-related economic hardship.”
Updates on Burlington’s actions are available on the city’s website.