Editorial: COVID-19: What to expect
As I write this editorial this Sunday night at 7:30 p.m., here are some thoughts and current facts about COVID-19, Vermont and the state of our lives:
• First, as of late afternoon, the Vermont Health Department had registered 52 confirmed cases of the coronavirus. That’s up from 49 the day before. A gain of only three is somewhat reassuring. Prior to that, from Thursday to Saturday, the number had doubled from low 20s to 49. Vermonters do have the ability to limit the worst of this pandemic if we practice social distancing with serious intent.
So far in Vermont, 1,158 people have been tested (as of Sunday afternoon), two people have died, 307 are being monitored and 310 have completed being monitored and are off quarantine.
• The known cases in neighboring New York, on the other hand, are skyrocketing. That state now has 5% of the world’s known cases, with 15,168 confirmed cases, up 4,812 since Saturday. As of late Sunday, 114 people have died from the disease. One concern for Vermonters is that New Yorkers with second homes in the region are fleeing to them, and in some instances bringing the virus with them.
Should Vermonters roll up the welcome matt and tell them to stay in New York! No. If they own a second home in Vermont, we should welcome them as Vermonters too. As a state dependent on tourism, we can’t take advantage of the revenue they bring to the state during the good times, and give them the cold shoulder during this crisis.
As New Yorkers and others learn through this crisis they can work remotely, the more gracious Vermonters are, the better our reputation will be as a wonderful place to live (high taxes and all.)
• Will Vermont go on lock-down, or partial lockdown, as other states? Gov. Scott hasn’t signaled what he will do as of Sunday, but here’s a look at what some places have already done:
– Delaware ordered residents to stay at home and closed nonessential businesses starting Tuesday; while Kentucky ordered ‘nonessential’ businesses to close. Ohio and Louisiana imposed a statewide stay-at-home mandate this Monday, while Philadelphia ordered residents to stay home effective Monday and Pennsylvania closed nonessential businesses.
– California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a statewide shelter-in-place order this past Thursday, and New York’s Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Friday announced that all New Yorkers must stay home “to the maximum extent possible,” as of Sunday night.
– Illinois has a stay-at-home order that began Saturday, as does Connecticut, Oregon and New Jersey.
That gives Vermonters an idea of what to expect. When should the governor make that call? In our opinion, that call should be made when the trend lines show that the state’s hospital beds won’t adequately meet demand. As soon as that is known, hopefully weeks ahead so as to prevent that scenario, Vermonters should expect that call. Lock-down doesn’t mean you can’t leave your home, but it does mean your movements around others need to be essential so be prepared.
Ending on a hopeful note, let’s reflect on two fund-raising efforts that have already exceeded expectations. Vermont Coffee Company’s CEO Paul Ralston started a $25,000 challenge match for HOPE last week to restock their food shelf. The match, totaling $50,000 was raised in a matter of days, so he started another $25,000 challenge match to help the John Graham Shelter in Vergennes and COTS in Chittenden County.
And the United Way of Addison County announces this Monday it is launching Addison County Responds, to help its member agencies serve those in need during this health care crisis. Four donors have put up a $50,000 match that they hope will be met by the end of the month. To find out more about that grant and to make a donation, go to https://bit.ly/39eBRNI.
As UWAC director Helena Van Voorst said to me in an email on Saturday, “through all the confusion and fear, there is great beauty. The outpouring of compassion and generosity we’ve been witness to at UWAC this week is humbling. I am filled with gratitude to be living in this county and working with generous people like you and like these donors. What an honor to call this ‘work.’”