At Vermont statehouse, a renewed call for mask mandate and new state of emergency

Coronavirus

Nurses, lawmakers and teachers on Monday called on Vermont Governor Phil Scott to re-issue a state of emergency, arguing that COVID-19 cases in schools are having a cascading effect on families. 

Rep. Mari Cordes, a registered nurse, said the state’s vaccine-only approach is not working, and the nursing shortage will only get worse if lawmakers don’t take more action. “Health care providers are exhausted and stressed,” she said. “We miss our families.”

On Monday, health officials reported 140 new cases of COVID-19, after reporting more than 500 cases over the weekend. Nearly four dozen people are currently hospitalized, including 13 in intensive care; 351 people have died since the pandemic began in March 2020.

Anne Sosin, a public health researcher at Dartmouth College, said her eight-year-old daughter has tested positive for COVID-19. Sosin wants Scott to issue a statewide mask mandate, something the governor has repeatedly said is not necessary.

“Data driven mask policies give us more time to vaccinate children and to deliver boosters to elders,” Sosin said. 

The group also asked for more funding for contact tracers and more health care staff in schools. 

“Probably 60-70% of the kids that walk in the door, walk in with COVID-related symptoms,” said Kelly Landwehr, a nurse at Middlebury Union High School.

Becca McCray, the lead nurse for the Burlington School District, said the first couple of months school have been difficult.

“We are overwhelmed, exhausted and many many are at their breaking point,” McCray said. “Either leaving their jobs or considering leaving, we can not afford to lose school nurses right now.”  

The CDC reports that Vermont has the 14th highest seven-day average case rate in the US.

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