This commentary is by Kelly Adams, a resident of Essex Junction.
I am a mother and a social worker who has two children in Vermont public schools. My spouse works in a large Vermont public school. And I am begging Gov. Scott and his cabinet to do more to mitigate the spread of Covid. Anything. More.
For the past couple of months, I have implored Gov. Scott through every portal of communication to do his part to help keep schools open through:
- More consistent mask quality and mask mandates.
- Universal vaccine mandates.
- Sufficient ventilation.
- Actual lunchroom plans that hew to the science.
Yet the concerns of worried parents like me have been dismissed by Gov. Scott as “divisive.”
Today, I received a letter from Gov. Scott in response to my latest email and I would like to publicly respond to excerpts from it. There are many people like me in Vermont who are desperate to keep our children in school but cannot understand why we have fewer mitigation strategies while case rates are vastly worse than this time last year.
I am begging the governor to return to the science and to “follow the data,” a phrase he often uses but doesn’t apply to our policies. We are all eager to pull together so that we can keep our children safe and in school for the full year.
Letter excerpts in italics:
Throughout the pandemic, the governor and his administration have made decisions and recommendations by following the data, trusting the science, and looking at the big picture, knowing nothing about this pandemic is a simple “black or white” choice.
Those of us seeking greater mitigation in schools are not at all employing black-and-white thinking and have, in fact, shown a great deal of nuance on the topic. The governor’s vaccination-is-the-only-path approach is actually an example of black-and-white thinking.
The good news is Vermont’s data does not currently warrant or support declaring a state of emergency.
We have our own highest seven-day rolling average of case rates in spite of having the nation’s highest vaccination rates. What would it look like to need a state of emergency? How bad does it have to get?
The data shows vaccines are working and Vermont’s high vaccination rate is making a difference. Importantly, Vermont continues to have the lowest hospitalization rate in the country. For comparison, if Vermont had Florida’s hospitalization rates, we would have around 500 Vermonters hospitalized instead of around 30.
We have never aspired to be Florida and should not use that standard to rationalize limiting protections for our children. Compare us to ourselves. Take a look at other high-income nations that are rocketing past us in tackling today’s issues — not last March’s issues.
We also continue to be among the top states for testing, and our positivity rate has been going down, as has our rate of new case growth, which are positive trends.
There is insufficient data at this time using run-chart rules to declare positive trends. But the seven-day rolling case rate data are very clearly at their worst.
Additionally, our data shows Covid-19 cases remain rare among fully vaccinated individuals, and when they do occur, they are often asymptomatic.
Children ages 0-11 cannot be vaccinated and a hopeful date for full vaccination of 5-11-year olds is early December. Are we giving up until then?
…he and his team will continue to watch the data and are always open to making changes if the data demonstrates a need.
We should focus on the health and education of our children here, do what we need to do, and not look elsewhere. Those of us who see increased mitigation as being past due are not being political. We are being parents and scientists and teachers and nurses and doctors and public health professionals (like the 91 in the Department of Health who have tried to sound the alarm).
Vermont has led the nation through this whole nightmare but now we are surrendering to some artificial deadline and some jaded view of science and progress. Please Gov. Scott, lead us through this reality.