Vermont conservatives and especially Donald Trump supporters are indeed media shy [From the Publisher: "Talking Cure," November 11]. At Trump rallies, attendees tell me they won't talk to any reporters because they perceive bias. For example:
• Online comments have been turned off: This decision by many media outlets — including Seven Days — gives the impression (true or not) that they don't welcome conservative pushback. VTDigger.org in particular acknowledged that Black Lives Matter backlash influenced its decision to eliminate comments.
• Social media blackouts ignored: In October, Facebook blacked out some conservative activists and candidates, including Art Peterson, a House candidate from Rutland and outspoken BLM opponent. Had candidates been kicked off social media for supporting Joe Biden or BLM, one suspects the media would have taken notice.
• The rush to cry "racist": Nothing reinforces conservatives' negative media stereotypes more than watching news coverage of an event they attended being falsely portrayed as racist. They know they're not racist. They know the event (say, the Support the Police rally in July) wasn't racist. But coverage focused on one unknown person making one derogatory comment. Conclusion: The media came with an agenda.
• Columnists seeking retribution: On November 12, an Addison County Independent columnist likened some Trump supporters to abusers. He quotes Vermont-born journalist Garrett Graff: "America should watch closely this week and demand a heavy price for those who callously, and cowardly, cast doubt on the integrity of our election system."
Such statements make Trump supporters who just want fair elections wonder if they'll end up in a reeducation camp.
Page is the publisher of the online Vermont Daily Chronicle.
Reports of record COVID-19 cases, absent a proportional fatality spike, invite questions about testing [Off Message: "Vermont Records 109 New COVID-19 Cases as Surge Continues," November 12].
Is PCR, which amplifies viral RNA through a series of cycles, truly a "gold standard test"? In August, the New York Times reported that data from three states showed that "up to 90 percent of people testing positive carried barely any virus" and that the CDC's "own calculations suggest that it is extremely difficult to detect any live virus in a sample above a threshold of 33 cycles." Likewise, a study in France concluded that "patients with Ct values > 34 do not excrete infectious viral particles and thus may be discharged." In July, Dr. Anthony Fauci told the "This Week in Virology" podcast: "If you get a cycle threshold of 35 or more, the chances of [the virus] being replication competent are minuscule" — that samples above 35 cycles are "just dead nucleotides, period."
Why does this matter? Because Vermont's PCR test, manufactured by Thermo Fisher Scientific, sets a cutoff of 37 cycles. And since the Department of Health does not report Ct values with test results, we don't know which positive tests show harmless viral debris from past infection and which signify live infectious virus. Are all "cases" created equal? Why is the health department treating positive results this way?
The COVID-19 PCR assay is not a pregnancy test. "Yes/no" isn't good enough. We need transparent reporting of Ct values with the test results. The implications for public health policy, given the hysteria of the moment, are obvious.
I am greatly offended by the comments of Matt Krauss of Stowe [Feedback: "How Many Conservatives?" November 18]. In what universe does he think that only conservatives serve in the armed forces, belong to the local fish and game club, fly an American flag, watch NASCAR, support local police, etc.? Since when do the conservatives own these entities? Yes, perhaps only conservatives donate to Republican presidential candidates, but even this is not a total given. But, for sure, the conservatives do not own the American flag.
I was astonished to read of a traveler's criticisms of Burlington International Airport's COVID-19 response [Off Message: "A Traveler Says Quarantine Info Is in Short Supply at BTV," November 19]. Director of Aviation Gene Richards and his team have been among the most proactive organizations I have seen regarding the protection of its customers. They were very early to adopt handwashing stations at the very start of this crisis. They continue to be leaders regarding innovative approaches to safety, including thermal scanning of passengers and the establishment of rapid-testing resources. I find that the reminders are very prominent at the airport and am puzzled by the traveler's contrary observation.
All I can say is that if there is a feeling that more should be done, then the state should copy what Gov. Andrew Cuomo did in New York by deploying Army National Guard personnel to be present and to ensure that those arriving understand compliance. I experienced that deployment at John F. Kennedy International Airport and found that the National Guard was professional, courteous and effective. Let the airport continue doing what it does best in running the airport, especially during these times that deplete operating revenues while at the same time increase costs. I just wish the state were more supportive of the airport instead of resisting the value of the safety innovations developed by the airport, such as rapid testing.
Follow the Law
[Re "Coronavirus Rekindles," November 18]: On Saturday, November 21, around 2.30 p.m., I went to Dunkin' Donuts on Williston Road in South Burlington to get a coffee. It was pretty busy, but I decided to go in. Everyone was wearing a mask except a youngish man with blond hair, a black cap, and an elaborate black and gold jacket. While he was waiting for his order, he cheerfully and loudly chatted up one of the staff behind the counter, who chatted back. His defiance was palpable.
It is now the law that people wear masks, especially indoors. COVID-19 numbers are escalating every day in Vermont. None of the employees said a word. No one asked him to leave. I think the rest of us were too intimidated and uncomfortable to say anything. I left. If we cannot count on the people working in an establishment to enforce the rules that keep us safe, then it is no wonder the virus is leaping out of control.