Editor’s note: This commentary is by Tom Evslin, the former chair and co-founder of NG Advantage, who is also an entrepreneur, author and former Douglas administration official.
According to Vermonters who reelected Republican Gov. Phil Scott overwhelmingly in a very blue state, he has been doing a great job leading us through the pandemic. I agree. “But,” I thought, “saying I can’t go for a socially distanced walk in the woods with a friend goes a step too far.” Especially when I was looking forward to exactly such a walk.
“We know that outdoor transmission isn’t much of a problem,” I fumed. “The resurgence is because of a bunch of spoiled brats going to a bar, some unmasked Halloween parties, and car-pooling to and from a hockey arena. Why do I have to be punished? I’m going to walk with my friend, anyway. Go ahead and arrest me.”
And then I heard what I sounded like. Just like the idiot who won’t wear a mask because “if you’re going to get Covid, you’re going to.” Just like the people who have an unalienable right to party wherever and whenever. And I thought about the people whose businesses are failing because it’s not safe for them to be open, the people who’ve lost their jobs, the people who do keep on working at risk to themselves because we need them to be working.
Then I realized I don’t get to make my own rules or draw my own line during an emergency.
Vermont has more reported cases of Covid now than we had during the first wave, although many fewer deaths or hospitalizations so far. The numbers don’t just come from more testing; the caseload has soared over the last two weeks; hospitalizations are increasing. Scott prohibited inter-family gatherings indoors or out, hopefully short term, and issued other restrictions to help get control of the spread rate. His immediate response was broad brush. Essentially he was saying “stand back, stand back!” It wouldn’t have made sense for him to wait until he could spell out every exception to every restriction.
We don’t want to have to go to total shutdown. We don’t want to close the schools. We don’t want to overwhelm the hospitals, especially when our biggest hospital is suffering the computer version of a pandemic. I can wait to find out if hiking is a permissible exception. There are probably people who even think some other exceptions are more important. The sooner the numbers turn down, the sooner we can relax as we did before. And the vaccines are coming!
Had a nice Zoom with my friend to catch up, took a walk with my dog, and realized the answer to the question “What if I think a Covid restriction goes too far?”
Suck it up!
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UPDATE: Gov. Scott has modified the order to say a Vermonter can take a walk with one friend or neighbor as long as masks are worn and socially distancing is maintained. I’m glad for the common sense and still glad I waited.