I am so glad the sun has been shining during these short Winter Solstice days. We’re in the midst of a second holiday season disrupted by the COVID pandemic, so I hope you’re finding ways to stay safe and find a bit of joy and light too. My family celebrates both Hanukkah and Christmas, so our month has already been brightened by eight days of lighting our menorah (and eating latkes!), and we’re looking forward to a quiet Christmas together on Saturday. Today, as I write, my kids are in the kitchen baking holiday cookies to share with friends and neighbors. Keeping family traditions alive during a crisis is so important, and after I post this blog, I will be taking a break from legislative work for much of the next week to enjoy our family traditions.
As you know, Vermont is in the midst of a continuing surge in COVID cases and deaths, first from the Delta variant and now from the Omicron variant. You know what to do by now: get vaccinated and boosted, get tested when necessary, mask-up indoors, stay home when sick, and refrain from large indoor gatherings. Our hospitals are being overwhelmed with patients, mostly unvaccinated people who are very sick with COVID. If you have not yet gotten vaccinated and boosted, or taken your kids ages five and older to be vaccinated, please do so as soon as possible. It is the best gift you can give to your family and our community this holiday season.
Getting vaccinated protects you and those around you who either can’t be vaccinated or who are vulnerable, including many senior citizens, from serious illness and death. Getting vaccinated also shows respect and empathy for health care workers, childcare providers, teachers and school staff, and other frontline employees who have been dealing directly with the stress and risk of keeping our hospitals and healthcare facilities, schools, childcare and senior centers, and other vital organizations operating throughout this crisis. Finally, getting vaccinated honors the many Vermonters who have died or lost someone to COVID over the past two years.
You can find lots of information about the safe and free COVID vaccine, 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 you or your child, please speak with your physician. All vaccinated people over aged 16 are also eligible for booster shots for all vaccine types. 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 the walk-in vaccination site near the Hannaford market in Middlebury that does not require an appointment.
Getting tested before and after holiday travel and gatherings is especially important due to the highly contagious Omicron variant. The VT Department of Health is distributing free take-home test kits at locations around the state today and tomorrow, and several days next week, although they run out quickly. Rapid tests are also generally available at most pharmacies. Many, but not all, insurance plans now cover the costs of these test kits. While regular test sites will be closed on Christmas and New Year’s Day, they will be open other days. Visit the VDH Testing Information webpage for more information.
Wearing a mask indoors is so important during these winter months. Whether your town requires masks indoors or not, please mask up indoors while you’re working, attending holiday services, shopping, or running errands. Not only does this protect you and others, it shows respect and kindness for the people around you, many of whom may be vulnerable or anxious about COVID. Thank you for all of your efforts to keep our community safe during these difficult times.
If like me, you’re still doing a bit of last minute shopping, there are many, many wonderful local businesses who need our support and are brimming with local goodies! If you’re still looking for that elusive “cool” gift for a teenager in your life, check out the excellent second-hand shop Buy Again Alley which you can read about in the Addy Indy, “Middlebury secondhand boutique struts its style.” For babies and toddlers on your list, you could give them the gift of reading wonderful books year-round by signing them up to receive monthly books from the Dolly Parton Imagination Library through Addison County Readers. My kids adored these books when they were little!
Finally, it looks like we might have a white Christmas, as a bit of snow is forecast for Saturday, so some very excellently named VTrans snow plows and their drivers may be out keeping the roads cleared. In case you missed it, school kids around Vermont got to name the snow plows that work in their towns, including “Snowy Chicken” the plow named by the kids at Robinson Elementary in Starksboro. You can see the full list of the 163 snow plow names here. They are pretty great!
I know this holiday season is difficult for so many people who are mourning the loss of family and friends or are struggling to make ends meet during these difficult times. I hope 2022 brings health and healing for you, our community, and our world. May you and your family and friends have a safe, healthy, and joyful holiday season. Take care of yourself and be well.