Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger is providing daily updates on how the city, nonprofits and agencies in Vermont’s largest city are responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. His latest updates have focused on aid to low-income residents and small business.
As the third week of efforts to curb the spread of the coronavirus continues, Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger is hopeful that some progress is being made. But he emphasizes that it will take some time before life returns to normal. “I think we should start to prepare ourselves for the possibility that really for a number of months, maybe the better part of a year, maybe longer than a year, we are going to be needing to be very vigilant about this virus. There may well be future episodes of social distancing even when we come out of the initial one. This is something that we are going to need to get used to and be in for the long haul.”
One of the important parts of stopping the spread is determining how and when someone has been exposed. Mayor Weinberger says officers from the city Police Department will aid the Health Department with contact tracing. “The Burlington Police Department is the first sort-of non-state employees to join in that effort. And four Burlington Police detectives were trained by the Department of Health and I think they're going to be deployed to this effort in the days ahead.”
Weinberger also praised a judge’s ruling forestalling any evictions. “In the middle of a public health emergency where our order to people is to stay home and stay safe we can't have people losing their homes, getting kicked out of their homes.”
Age Well is one of five agencies on aging in Vermont. Director Tracey Shamberger says they are the largest provider of Meals on Wheels — considered an essential service. “We are seeing a significant increase in those needing Meals on Wheels as people socially isolate. Just to give you a sense in Burlington last year we served 6,163 meals for the year. In March of this year, we're approaching about 7,000 meals in the month of March.”
Burlington Police Department director of Drug, Mental Health and Homelessness Policy and Operations Jackie Corbally explained that the federal government has modified rules for opioid treatment programs during the federal emergency. “They are saying in a time of crisis that we are in right now it is more important that you as a clinician have access to individuals. If you have to use nontraditional ways like Facebook Messenger or other platforms, even calling on the phone, we the federal government view that as more significant than not having contact with people.”
Last week the city created a Resource and Recovery Center to help residents and businesses. Community and Economic Development Office Director Luke McGowan says they are repurposing a loan program to create grants for some small businesses. “This is $110,000 we have currently sitting in our account to support small businesses. It is not going to be enough by any stretch to support all the businesses employing low and moderate income employees here in Burlington. But it's a start and we already have a process in place to get this money out the door as quickly as possible.”
The city has acquired 100 forehead thermometers and is deploying them at city properties. Officials are also making them available to senior care providers and essential businesses.