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Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger said the city would be working with the Burlington School District to provide meals to students during upcoming school closures during a telephone town hall Sunday afternoon.
Weinberger said the city’s Community and Economic Development Office was also exploring ways to provide relief to city businesses and their workers as social distancing practices increase in the city. However, Weinberger cautioned that the federal and state government have significantly more capacity than the city to provide that relief.
The coronavirus is spreading throughout the country and state, with a total of 8 confirmed cases in Vermont as of Sunday afternoon. Gov. Phil Scott ordered Sunday that all schools close no later than Wednesday until at least April 6.
Scott announced a state of emergency Friday, banning social gatherings of more than 250 people and taking other measures.
Weinberger was joined by fire chief Steven Locke, UVM Medical Center president Steven Leffler and Tracy Dolan, the deputy commissioner of the state Department of Health.
The city has taken steps to limit the spread, including instituting work from home for city employees for Monday, which Weinberger said was likely to expand past Monday and continue for “an extended period.”
The city has also opened an emergency operations center at the Burlington Police Department and will likely suspend non-essential city services this week, Weinberger said.
Locke said that essential city services are police, fire, public works and airport services, while other services, like permitting, assessing and the clerk/treasurer’s office are considered non-essential.
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Weinberger said the city would be working to assist the schools in coming days. Weinberger said Superintendent Yaw Obeng has accepted the city’s offer to continue providing meals to city families that need it.
“I expect to deploy city staff from nonessential city service to assist in this effort, and coordination for that effort has already begun,” he said.
The city has also created a coordination channel for organizations that work with seniors, Weinberger said.
The mayor stressed the need for social distancing at this point in the pandemic and said there was “likely” to be additional city restrictions in upcoming days and weeks to ensure social distancing.
“In the coming days and weeks the public should expect that many things we expect as part of our daily lives are likely to change,” he said. “The public should expect further action soon to do what we can to support social distancing.”
Burlington schools will be open Monday and Tuesday and closing Wednesday, following Scott’s edict.
CEDO is currently reviewing local, state and federal resources that could be repurposed to support businesses and their employees, Weinberger said.
“Certainly with any city resources, we are going to structure repurposing these city resources so one of the goals is to get direct assistance to people who might be at risk of losing needed income in the event of some kind of change in the status of that business,” he said.
The state and federal government have more leeway to provide relief to businesses and workers than the city, Weinberger said.
The U.S. House of Representatives passed a relief bill Saturday that provides workers with paid leave if they become infected or need to provide care, strengthens unemployment and food assistant programs and provides free virus testing.
Weinberger said the city was working to suspend utility shutoffs and exploring adjusting city deadlines and fees during the pandemic.
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