COVID-19, Issues

November News

It’s hard to believe it’s already mid-November!  The shortening days adds to the gloom I know many of us are feeling as COVID has continued and intensified, but there are good things happening too, so don’t lose hope. Read more for an update on both the pandemic, including vaccines for kids and boosters for grown-ups, and other activity in Addison County and beyond.

COVID Update & Resources
This past week Vermont experienced the highest number of cases reported yet during the pandemic, with nearly 600 cases reported in just one day this past Thursday. Vermont now has the fifth-highest case rate in the nation. Still the Governor refuses to strengthen COVID protocols, such as indoor masking requirements based on case loads. Because the Legislature is not currently in session, there is not much we can do other than urge Governor Scott to step up. Fortunately, cases in Addison County remain relatively low compared to other regions in the state, so let’s keep up the good work, getting vaccinated, wearing a mask indoors, avoiding large indoor gatherings, and staying home when sick.

As most parents of young children undoubtedly know, children ages 5-11 are now eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccinations!  You can find lots of information about the COVID vaccine for kids, including where to sign up for a shot, on the VT Department of Health website. If you have questions or concerns about getting the COVID vaccine for your child, please speak with your pediatrician. The VT Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics is also hosting a series of webinars for parents with pediatricians around the state. Finally, your kids may be interested in learning more too, they can listen to the But Why: A Podcast for Curious Kids episode, “Why is it a shot? Kids’ questions about COVID vaccines,” – it’s a great podcast!

Most vaccinated adults are also now eligible for booster shots for all vaccine types, which is important as we go into the winter months. If you have questions, check out the frequently asked questions about COVID booster shots list on the VDH website. There are lots of locations to get shots for you or your kids, including at state-run clinics, local pharmacies, pediatrician offices, and a new walk-in vaccination site in Middlebury that does not require an appointment. While you’re thinking about vaccinations, don’t forget to get your flu shot too. Thanks for all you’re doing to keep yourself, your family, and our community safe and healthy during this difficult time!

Vermont Health Connect Open Enrollment
Speaking of staying healthy, now is the time to sign up or make changes to qualified health plans (health insurance) through Vermont Health Connect. You can apply online or on paper from now until January 15, 2022. There are lots of options for plans as well as subsidies to help pay for coverage. Even if you have not qualified for financial assistance in the past, you may qualify now due to the impact of the pandemic and federal eligibility requirements. You can apply online here or call 1-855-899-9600 to get more information and assistance.

Childcare for VT Guard and Women-Owned Business Surveys
This past week the nation honored veterans with annual Veteran’s Day events, reminding us of the sacrifices military veterans have made for our country. Here in Vermont, members of the Vermont National Guard serve our state and nation in many ways, including staffing COVID clinics and distributing emergency food kits during the pandemic. Members of the Guard attend required training events at least monthly throughout their service, putting a strain on many Guard families with young children who often cannot find childcare during weekend training events. This reality is particularly difficult for recruiting and retaining women in the Guard, who remain the primary caregivers for children in most families.

After listening to women in the Guard and learning about this challenge, I spoke with Adjutant General Greg Knight (a Huntington constituent) and connected him to the childcare advocates at Let’s Grow Kids to see if they could help find a solution to this vexing childcare challenge. Together, they have created a Child Care Pilot Survey for Vermont National Guard Drill Training Weekends to assess the need. If you’re a member of the Guard with children, please fill out the survey to let them know what your needs are, and thank you for your service to our state!

Are you a woman who owns her own business or is a business leader in Vermont? If so, fill out this survey created by the Vermont Women’s Fund and Change The Story, who have launched the This Way Up initiative to better understand and support “the power and potential of women’s entrepreneurship and contribution to Vermont’s economy and what the factors (are) that limit or enhance the growth of these enterprises.” Tell your story and be represented as a business or business leader in Vermont!

Route 22A Road Project Update
As anyone who travels through western Addison County knows, especially my constituents in Orwell and Shoreham, Vermont Route 22A is in really bad shape. The condition of the road, narrow areas that lack sufficient shoulders, challenging visibility, diverse vehicle usage, and excessive speed of some drivers have all contributed to a series of tragic accidents. I have been in regular communication with local transportation planners as well as officials from the Agency of Transportation to urge them to prioritize work along this dangerous corridor. At my request, VTrans has created a website which summarizes existing and planned projects along the Route 22A Corridor over the next five years. VTrans also sent a letter to interested parties, including local legislators, outlining these projects and how they are developed. Finally, this Wednesday, November 17 at 6:30, the Addison and Rutland County Regional Planning Commissions are hosting a Transportation Advisory Committee Meeting that will focus on the Route 22A projects. You can find the agenda and how to attend in-person or online here. Due to the complexity and scope of the work needed, it will take several years to complete, but I will continue to stay on top of these efforts to ensure the road is improved as soon as possible.

Welcoming Refugees
This fall, refugees from Afghanistan have begun arriving in communities across the country, including Vermont. While it’s likely that Vermont will only settle about 100 Afghan refugees, our state has geared up to make sure their welcome to Vermont is warm and supportive. Read this great story about Tracy Dolan, former Deputy Health Commissioner, who was recently appointed as the new Director of the State Refugee Office. I believe most of these new Vermonters are set to settle first in Chittenden County and then Rutland and Brattleboro, but it’d be great if Addison County could help out too. The biggest need right now is financial donations to help with moving and settlement costs beyond the government stipends – if you’re able to help, you can donate to the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants-Vermont. Thank you.

Finally, one of my favorite things to do is teach about government or talk with students about my work. This fall I’ve been teaching a class on Women in U.S. Electoral Politics at Middlebury College. I hosted a class visit and panel discussion of women in Vermont politics with several of the women I work with, including the Lieutenant Governor, Speaker of the House, Senate President Pro Tem, and Middlebury Selectboard Member Esther Thomas. See photo above. It was great to hear the inspiring stories they shared with Midd students.

This past week I also visited five fourth grade classes to talk with them about civics and what it’s like to be a state senator. It was especially fun to be able to visit the Salisbury 4th graders outside and bring them a Vermont State Flag to fly at their school. Even during a global pandemic, these fourth graders were enthusiastic and eager to learn about the world. Being with them made me so happy! I hope you find ways to be happy during these difficult times. Take care and stay safe.