Burlington prepares for a summer changed by COVID-19

Local News

In a telephone town hall with health experts, Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger said Tuesday that the the COVID-19 pandemic will likely mean summer events in the city will be postponed or canceled.

Weinberger was joined by University of Vermont Medical Center President Dr. Stephen Leffler and Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, who oversees the Office of Public Health Practice and Training at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health.

One caller wondered if summer weddings or other large gatherings may be able to go on as planned. Dr. Sharfstein said that unfortunately, it might be time to reconsider.

“The kind of wedding that, you know, wedding movies are made of, I think it’s going to be awhile before those are safe,” Dr. Sharfstein said.

Discussions on re-opening businesses have picked up this week at both the city and state levels. Weinberger said he’s excited to continue those talks, but it’s going to be a lengthy process with no clear finish line in sight.

“We’re able to have this conversation now because after nearly two months of sacrifice, we’ve flattened the curve of the first wave of COVID-19 infections,” Weinberger said. “As we do that and have some hopefulness, we’re well aware that the battle with coronavirus is far from over.”

Other callers wanted to know the process for re-opening childcare facilities. Gov. Phil Scott said they can re-open June 1.

“It’s a very difficult situation when there’s a small but serious risk,” Dr. Sharfstein said. “Parents will have to make their own decisions about what they’re able to do.”

There will be additional health and safety measures for childcare facilities, and there will likely be other changes in the interest of preventing the spread of COVID-19.

“You can measure kids’ temperatures going in with thermal scanners and do a symptom check, which we’re doing in many different locations now,” said Dr. Leffler. “It’s one way to slightly decrease risk. “It’s not perfect, there’s nothing perfect around this. I think we’re going to have lots of these kind of tradeoff conversations.”

June 1 is also typically one of the busiest moving days of the year, particularly for college students. Weinberger said he’s looking to add a testing element and resources for those in quarantine who have returned from out-of-state.

“I’m thinking the city or other community groups and volunteers, there may be something we can do to support those quarantines and help people actually succeed at them,” Weinberger said. “They’re supposed to be more strict than the stay-at-home order here, where people go out for essential tasks.”

There’s a consensus that it will be many months the community is managing risks, and even when stay-at-home orders are up, every day life will still be different.

There still hasn’t been a decision made on the annual July 3 Fireworks Spectacular.

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