A Reader Repents
Apologies! I read the "Class Act" 802Much of April 1 (accompanied by a photo of two sisters and their friend) at 2 a.m. (couldn't sleep) and thought I read the article thoroughly, but I apparently didn't. I certainly am aware that many, many people stay home together, even when they're not related by blood. (I have many such friends and relatives who do.) What's more, I'm most thankful to all essential workers. Indeed, we have a sign on our porch to thank all who deliver to our house (because package deliverers and U.S. Postal Service deliverers bring us joy in dark times), and I marvel every time I go to the grocery store to buy milk that so many work so hard and give so much in a very scary time for all of us.
My reaction [Feedback: "Too-Close Quarters," April 15] was rather knee-jerk, fueled by anger and assumption. I usually read much more carefully. I am duly chastened, and I apologize.
'Worth Every Paragraph'
Last week's "The Man Behind the Mask" cover story from Paul Heintz is by far the very best article I have seen on the State of Vermont's response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is an exceptionally well written and researched "long read" and worth every paragraph.
The anecdotes of the calm, competent response of Gov. Phil Scott and so many present and former Vermont citizens and leaders of all stripes demonstrates why "I Love Vermont" is not just a slogan. Vermonters pull together. Thank you!
[Re Feedback: "No Comments," April 8]: Recently, I was astounded to see photographs of India before and after the onset of the coronavirus. Before: dense smog and killing air pollution. After: crystalline skies and breathable air. Remarkable. Almost immediately thereafter, I read an article in Seven Days and saw, appended at the end, that reader comments had been suspended, and I had a similar reaction to the clearing skies in the Indian subcontinent: remarkable elation and relief. It felt like a breath of fresh air.
Today's political discourse is filled with sniping and debasement — so much prose pollution generating more heat than light. Who needs that? No one. I certainly hope India can keep its clean air after the virus crisis passes. Equally, I hope Seven Days also can keep its online articles free from the sullen discourse that drags democracy down.
Bruce S. Post
This is just a note to say thank you for your rationale in blocking comments in articles about the coronavirus [Feedback: "No Comments," April 8]. It's definitely an important time to let facts speak for themselves. Great decision.
At What Price?
I appreciate your coverage regarding the thousands of Vermont residents who have no access to income in "The Checks Are Not in the Mail" [April 8].
The Scott administration dictated a shutdown of 40,000-plus family-owned Vermont businesses overnight in late March, without having a viable plan for reimbursing self-employed business owners.
An email message from the Vermont Department of Labor on April 10 reads: "CARES Act — Pandemic Unemployment Assistance: This program allows unemployment insurance benefits to individuals not eligible for regular unemployment insurance, including the self-employed and independent contractors. The department is currently building the program, and further communication will be sent out when the program is active."
Our governor says these drastic shutdowns will save many, many lives. However, Vermont has had fewer than 50 deaths from the coronavirus while thousands and thousands of residents have had literally no access to income and may not be able to meet their basic needs for survival.
Scientific data demonstrates that most Vermonters recover from the coronavirus. However, our small-business owners, nonprofits and working-class families may never recover.
Our governor is deciding whose lives and whose livelihoods are more valuable. Therefore, I ask Gov. Phil Scott to make decisions based on the tens of thousands of people's lives being put into economic and emotional distress. Either open Vermont businesses or start paying people — before it's too late.
Nice No More
[Re "The Checks Are Not in the Mail," April 8]: My husband and I have been out of work since March 13 and have had no income since. On that day, we both opened claims online. The phone communication process with the Department of Labor is thus: Nine times out of 10, the department number is busy. Or a message says: "Due to high call volume, we cannot take your call," and it disconnects. Not sure how much less responsiveness could be offered.
The state government knew years ago that the computer system was outdated. Did they expect a revival of DOS systems? Did they expect machines to rejuvenate themselves? No, but all the state employees get raises and increased benefits?
I am disgusted at the sheep and herd mentality of the others in this state. We should be nice; we should be patient; everyone is doing the best they can. No, doing their best would have been updating the computer systems the state relies on in a timely fashion, so that this health pandemic would not be causing additional stress and problems for our residents.
Hear Them Roar
[Re Off Message: "Burlington Council Tells Guard to Cool Their Jets During Pandemic," April 13]: I could rant about how I feel regarding the Burlington City Council's suggestion that Gov. Phil Scott curtail the F-35 flying during this pandemic. However, I won't.
Instead, I will write about how important the F-35s are to me — not only now, but always.
I am a supporter of the Vermont Air National Guard and all the jets that we have been so fortunate to have at our airport. The feeling I get when I hear them is so exhilarating that I can't even describe it accurately. I sit in my home, working and wondering how long it will be before the pandemic is over and we can go back to some version of normalcy. I wonder, Am I doing enough to ensure the safety and good health of me and my family? Tempers tend to flare more quickly because of the stress.
Then I hear it, the roar of the F-35 engines taking off at the airport. I run outside, usually tripping over one of my dogs, in hopes of getting a glimpse of them as they pass over my house. Sometimes I can only hear them, and other times I am able to catch a glimpse as they head out on their daily training mission. My heart races and I smile as I watch and listen to the wonderful sound of freedom! My sense of calm is overwhelming!
Thank you to the Vermont Air National Guard and the F-35s for helping me stay sane during this otherwise dismal time.
Home, Safe Home
I am writing this thinking about how I can help from the safety of my own home. That is the only way to help: by staying home. People all over the world have been home for at least three weeks, but it's not over yet. Although, for some reason, governors are considering reopening already [Off Message: "In First Turn of 'Spigot,' Scott to Allow Some Vermont Businesses to Reopen," April 17].
I have witnessed many of my peers continuing to hang out in person. A deep anger fills me when I see videos on their Snapchat stories of them less than six feet apart. People I deeply trusted and respected have destroyed their reputations with me by putting others and themselves in danger by doing this.
Every time I strike up a conversation with someone, the first thing they always mention is how awful they think this is. Even some of the cartoons I see in Seven Days are negative. There is no reason to feel that way. There are so many opportunities for growth and creativity. But people shouldn't feel any pressure, as I have spent a few days just playing the game "Animal Crossing," and that is OK, too.
In conclusion, there is no reason to end the quarantine now. Doing so would cause great death. Providing help is necessary, though, because not doing so is leading people to make decisions about their safety that they shouldn't have to be making. Gov. Phil Scott was right to extend emergency orders because, at the end of it, we'll be better people in a healthier world.
David Beauregard Nicholls
Nicholls is a 16-year-old high school student.
Make Masks Mandatory
[Re Off Message: "In First Turn of 'Spigot,' Scott to Allow Some Vermont Businesses to Reopen," April 17]: I am concerned that mask wearing in public has not been made mandatory. It is a risky move, and it just isn't safe.
This virus is not going away. It is going to hide in all the corners of our society until it can be vanquished with a vaccine or a viable treatment. The mandatory wearing of masks in public is critical for four reasons:
- To keep us safe from the virus and to keep us from spreading the virus to others. We know the virus spreads by inhaling infected droplets that are expelled through talking, sneezing and coughing. A mask, worn properly, makes us safer.
- Vermonters are just as vulnerable today as they were on March 25. When vacationers come to Vermont with their critically needed dollars, as they must for our economy to survive, we all are susceptible to infection.
- Sometimes social distancing isn't possible. Even if we maintain six feet of distance in a store, we can't stop others from walking by us as we ponder whether we want green beans or broccoli.
- Finally, people need to feel safe. Right now, at the grocery store and at other public places, most people are wearing masks, but many are not. We can't have people sneezing on the vegetables or racks. A rule will ward off that problem. Just like the "No shirt, no shoes, no service" rule, we can easily have the "No face covering, no service" rule.
Kingdom Needs College
[Re Off Message: "Proposal to Shutter VSC Campuses Hits Quick and Furious Resistance," April 19]: It seems to me that in a state struggling with brain drain (young students leaving Vermont), we'd be working harder to keep them here. Instead, we close three campuses in the most economically challenged and rural parts of Vermont, where options are limited? If we want young people to leave, this is a great way to pack their bags.
On top of that, many young people in the Northeast Kingdom can't afford to leave. They depend on local colleges. Many can't swing room and board, so they live at home while trying to better their lives by going to school. This option has now been taken away.
The Northeast Kingdom seems to be the state's ugly stepsister. We were dealt the scam of the Kingdom Con. We consistently have the highest unemployment rate. And now we have young people without a local college. The forgotten area of the state that struggles to make do with what we've got just got yet another thing taken away. Good luck to us. Good luck to our kids.
Save the Colleges
[Re Off Message: "Proposal to Shutter VSC Campuses Hits Quick and Furious Resistance," April 19]: Friday we heard the devastating news from the chancellor of the Vermont State Colleges System, Jeb Spaulding, that the State College Board of Trustees on Monday will likely recommend closing three college campuses in the Northeast Kingdom: Northern Vermont University, with campuses in Johnson and Lyndon, and Vermont Technical College. Apparently, this historic decision has already been decided behind closed doors.
I am extremely disappointed the chancellor and the board are considering this unilateral approach without the mere suggestion of considering other options, both short-range and long-range, that could potentially save some or all components of these vital institutions.
The chancellor was quoted as saying that this will be "a gut punch to the Northeast Kingdom." You can recover from a gut punch fairly quickly. A more accurate metaphor is that they will be cutting the Northeast Kingdom off at the knees — an action from which the region will never be able to recover economically, socially or culturally. Do not forget, this region is already the most economically depressed in the state and struggles to keep young people and families as residents.
I wonder what former governor George Aiken would think about this tragedy. More importantly, what would he do?
Fletcher Potter III
Earth to Air Guard
Something jumped out at me after reading Courtney Lamdin's article "Burlington Council Tells Guard to Cool Their Jets During Pandemic" [Off Message, April 13]. Where's the outrage about the toxic levels of air pollution created by these F-35 fighter jets?
Not only is the intense noise level completely unacceptable, the elevated air pollution level from four to eight jets flying overhead two to four times a day Tuesday through Friday is just as unacceptable.
Emissions in Vermont have increased by 16 percent in recent years, according to VTDigger.org. How much longer can we go on ignoring the deadly effects of air pollution?
If we renege on our social responsibility to protect the Earth from ongoing environmental assaults, everything from the air we breathe to the water we drink and the food we eat will be endangered.
Is this the world we want to leave to our children and the generations to come? Tell me, what good are all these sophisticated military-style weapons if there is no more Earth to defend?
Our legislature is working hard to respond to COVID-19. Unfortunately, some of their actions inhibit our ability to understand and comment on their work.
In order to respond quickly and safely, the Senate changed its rules to allow voting by video, as described in "Vermont Senate Passes Eviction Moratorium During Historic First Video Vote" [Off Message, April 10]. The Senate did not change its rules prohibiting new bills this late in the session. In order to pass the legislation, the Senate took existing bills, removed the content, inserted new content and had to use the original titles. (The Senate did this on March 24, too.)
For example, the article mentions that one bill allows defendants to waive court appearances and allows remote notarizing of documents. That bill is S.114, "expungement of misdemeanor marijuana possession convictions." The Senate removed the original expungement content and inserted the new provisions. The difficulty is that anyone looking for a bill on defendants' rights or remote notarizing would not think to look at a bill on expunging marijuana convictions. And that is the problem. If one cannot find, then one can neither know nor comment.
Another difficulty is that the services needed to follow our legislature place a cost on their users. The cost is: being forced to give personal information — to Google, YouTube and Zoom — to get access to our legislature. That cost is contrary to our democracy and is unacceptable to many.
Our legislature can do both: respond to COVID-19 and give us better access.