Posted Fall 2020
From my professional experience in public health, I realize that further outbreaks of COVID-19 cannot be prevented as long as we still have a large percentage of our population that remains susceptible. Our goal must be to limit the exposure of Vermonters to the virus and to insure that rates of infection are low enough to be managed by our physicians, nurses, and hospitals. Our response to the pandemic must be based on the latest scientific and epidemiological information, and on the recommendations of our public health officials and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Vermont's economic recovery:
Given the uncertainty associated with how and when this crisis will end, it is extraordinarily difficult to anticipate what will be required to revitalize our economy. Vermonters have done an admirable job in limiting the spread of this disease, but we still have a huge population that is susceptible to this coronavirus.
Obviously, there are extremely challenging issues facing Vermont as we come out of this pandemic. Many will come down to finances. Our state is facing significant budgetary shortfalls due to deferred tax payments and anticipated lower revenue because of reduced economic activity and unemployment. Raising taxes will not be the answer to meet the shortfall, so challenging decisions will have to made. Small businesses are struggling and the unemployment rate is high.
The legislature will have to continue to work closely with the Governor to make decisions about the most effective strategy for using federal COVID-19 funds to help Vermonters and Vermont businesses. One area that clearly needs more investment is broadband and cellular infrastructure. We desperately need real solutions for equitable access across the state. Such an infrastructure could have created significant employment and economic opportunities before the pandemic and will be critical in the post-pandemic era. The pandemic also has illustrated the importance of food security and distribution systems. Local food already was a resilient aspect of Vermont’s economy, and we need to continue to promote and capitalize on this. Deployment of renewable energy systems similarly has an important future in our state. We will have to work diligently to protect existing businesses and to help them emerge from this crisis, especially our tourism economy, arts organizations, entertainment venues, restaurants, hotels, and dairy farms. It’s not going to be easy.
Protecting students and staff returning to school:
Direct student/teacher interaction is extremely important in K-12 education. I believe this is particularly essential for younger students. Maintaining quality education in Vermont is essential. Education is the key to providing for the future of our children. A well-educated populace strengthens our communities and our economy.
Therefore, a return to normalcy within our schools must be our goal. However, we cannot ignore the health implications of the coronavirus and must implement reasonable and effective procedures to protect our students, teachers, and staff.
As with other aspects of responding to the pandemic, our planning for the upcoming school year must be based on the latest scientific and epidemiological information, and on the recommendations of our public health officials and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.