COVID-19 Update for March 20

As many of you know, the first two COVID-19 deaths in Vermont were reported yesterday, and the first positive case of the virus was reported in Addison County on Wednesday. As evidenced by this story about a mother taking her young daughter for testing at Porter Hospital, this global pandemic is becoming very real for all of us locally. I urge everyone to take this public health crisis seriously. Please stay home if you can and limit in-person interactions with people outside your household.

I know you’re eager for more information regarding resources and services as you and your family are impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. I will not repeat most of what I’ve discussed previously; you can find my earlier COVID-19 updates on my website.The most comprehensive place to stay up-to-date with the situation in Vermont remains the Vermont Department of Health website. Visit the Porter Medical Center website for information about local medical services. Please call your primary care physician if you have questions about symptoms, exposure, treatment, and quarantine procedures.

Childcare for Children of Essential Persons
All schools and childcare centers were ordered by the Governor to close as of Tuesday, March 17. Emergency childcare will be provided for the children of people who have been identified by the State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC) as “essential persons” for maintaining the health and safety of the state. The current list of essential persons can be found on the Vermont Emergency Management website. SEOC created this list focusing on the current public health crisis, thus including health care workers, teachers providing required care & education, critical state workers, public health & safety, front line grocery workers, etc. Since childcare slots will be limited due to staffing and health concerns, it’s important that this list be focused on people directly responding to this public health emergency.

If you are employed in an area covered by the essential persons list and you need childcare for children up to grade 8 (generally ages 0-14) sign up for childcare spots via this form. Even if you have already been contacted locally, you should still complete this form, as the relevant state agencies will be matching families with available childcare slots. While the goal is to provide childcare to all essential workers who need it, there will be a limited number of programs providing care and must do so within the CDC guidelines that require gatherings of no more than 10 people and social distancing as possible. If you are categorized as an “essential person” during this crisis but do not need childcare or have made other arrangements for your children, there is no need to complete the form.

This emergency childcare for young children ages birth through five will be provided by local, generally private childcare providers. Care for school-aged children is being arranged by local school districts. Childcare sites will vary by age, school district, and availability of slots. Once it’s determined which childcare providers will participate, what school district plans are, and how many childcare spots are needed, there will be a clearer picture of how this emergency program will operate. As the crisis evolves, more people may be added or removed from the essential persons list. It’s important to ensure that essential persons get the assistance they need to do the important work of keeping us all safe and healthy. It’s also important to remember that while the work we each do contributes to our community, this emergency childcare program must focus on those people whose jobs are currently maintaining the health and safety of our state through this public health crisis.

Unemployment Insurance and Federal Assistance
I know many people have already lost their jobs due to this crisis and the Department of Labor has been inundated with unemployment insurance claims calls. You can now file an initial Application for Unemployment Insurance online! For questions you can still call the Vermont Unemployment Claims Line at 1-877-214-3331 and 3332, and while they have staffed up the phone lines, patience will still be required and appreciated.

More help is on its way through two major federal aid packages that have been passed by Congress. The first package includes assistance for small businesses and the second includes help for individuals, such as up to 10 emergency paid sick leave days for anyone affected by COVID-19. A third federal aid package is making its way through Congress and includes assistance for first responders. I will share more information on all of these programs as I have it.

Miscellaneous Provisions – Utilities, Licenses, Evictions, and Taxes
As of Wednesday, the Vermont Public Utility Commission directed the state’s regulated utilities to stop any disconnection of residential utility service due to nonpayment of electricity, natural gas, and telecommunications bills. This moratorium on involuntary utility disconnections will last until at least April 30, 2020. The Department of Motor Vehicles will no longer provide in-person services, and has issued a 90-day extension for license and registration renewals. You can still take care of renewals online. The Vermont Judiciary has suspended most non-emergency court proceedings, including most eviction hearings. Finally, most income tax payments have been deferred until July 15 without penalties or interest.

Safety at Home – Domestic Violence and Suicide
Unfortunately, many people do not feel safe staying at home. Since the state declaration of emergency a week ago, domestic violence incidences have been increasing. If you do not feel safe remaining in your home due to domestic violence threats or actions, please call or message WomenSafe at 802-388-4205 or They can help you create a safety plan, access safe housing, and meet your material needs. If you feel depressed and feel like you may harm yourself, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or text the VT Crisis Text Line to get access to remote counseling. The isolation and anxiety caused by the COVID-19 crisis can be overwhelming. Take care of yourself and reach out for the help you need to be safe.

Groceries and Food Access
School districts have gotten their food service pick-up and delivery services up and running for all students in their districts. A shout-out to the fantastic folks at Mt. Abe Union School District for their awesome Meals on the Bus program and design. I’ve been humming that song ever since I saw their flyer! The folks at the Vergennes Boys & Girls Club asked that I mention that they also run a meals program for students in their area, in addition to the ANWSD meals program. The AgeWell program for senior citizens needs drivers to deliver Meals on Wheels to homebound seniors. Many of their regular volunteers are themselves senior citizens who are at high risk for contracting COVID-19. If you are healthy and able, please consider volunteering for this crucial program. 

We should all be grateful to the hard-working grocery store clerks who are on the front lines of providing food to so many of us. Many grocery stores are implementing new hours and policies to ensure the health and safety of customers and employees. I urge everyone to be patient and show your gratitude to everyone working in our grocery stores! Finally, the Vermont Retail & Grocers Association has a fantastic website with advice and resources related to the COVID-19 crisis for small businesses in their industry. 

The ACSD Superintendent sent out a great list of self-care ideas yesterday to everyone in the school community, including things like: help others, especially at-risk members of our community; reach out to someone you care about every day; exercise daily; and practice slowing down and being mindful. My friend at Otter Creek Yoga has created yoga videos which are posted on the studio website to help people exercise and be mindful at home. The folks at Addison County Mutual Aid, have lots of ways you can help others. For example, my daughter baked bread and muffins for the Charter House Homeless Shelter yesterday.

I hope you are finding ways to stay safe and take care during these incredibly difficult times. Thank you to everyone who has reached out with questions, ideas, and concerns. I am trying to get back to everyone individually. I will continue to communicate information through these posts as I have it.

We are all in this together.