Vermont teachers renew demand for mask mandate

Coronavirus

Vermont educators have planned a call-in campaign Tuesday in an effort to convince Gov. Phil Scott to reimpose a mask policy and support COVID-19 testing in schools.

Right now, the Department of Health’s guidance only recommends students and teachers wear masks. Anne Sosin, public health educator at Darmouth College, says a mandate will help keep children in school and parents in the workforce. 

“Putting a mask policy in place buys us more time to vaccinate our kids under 12 as well as to deliver boosters for our medically high risk populations,” said Sosin.

In September, Vermont recorded the second-highest number of COVID-related deaths. Educators have urged Scott to reintroduce a mask mandate for months. 

“We are trying as educators and public health professionals to say, ‘enough is enough,” said Peter Langella, a librarian at Champlain Valley Union High School.

Weekly COVID-19 testing is another challenge as schools struggle to fill gaps in staffing.

“So much gets thrown on schools right now. From the basic education all the way through to mental health, counseling services, social work, feeding the students. It’s unbelievable what schools are doing right now,” said Langella.

Randolph Union High School teacher Tev Kelman said he was out of the classroom for a week after an exposure in his child’s daycare center. 

“It was hard to have two young children and no childcare. It meant I had to use a week of sick-time, it meant my kids (my students at school) had to have a sub for a week,” he said.

Sosin says while Vermont has not seen any deaths in children from Covid, the country saw the most deaths in children in the month of September. She and her colleagues hope to get Scott and other New England governors to adopt a regional mask policy based on one in Nevada.

“It turns masking on when transmission is high and it turns masking off when transmission subsides to low or moderate levels,” said Sosin.  

The governor’s office did not respond to a request for comment Monday. Scott and Education Secretary Dan French will likely address these concerns at the state’s weekly COVID-19 press conference Tuesday.

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