MONTPELIER — Gov. Phil Scott has ordered a 14-day quarantine for anyone coming to Vermont from out of state, the latest effort to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Scott issued the order Monday morning, which was followed shortly by a news conference. The governor also clarified that all hotels, inns and motels are to be closed unless they are housing those approved by the state.
Scott said his order follows the guidance provided by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, which is asking those in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, deemed virus hot spots, not to engage in non-essential travel for the next 14 days. His quarantine order applies to anyone, resident or not, who comes to Vermont for a non-essential purpose.
“To be clear, this 14-day quarantine does not apply for those just going to the grocery store or an essential job across the border,” he said.
The Vermont Department of Health reported 72 new confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, between Friday and Monday. The number of tests also went up by almost 1,700 over that three-day period.
Three new deaths were reported on Saturday, making the total number of deaths from COVID-19 in the state 12 people. No new deaths were reported on Sunday or Monday.
On Friday, the health department reported 184 cases out of 2,261 tests. On Monday, the total number of positive COVID-19 tests was 256 from 3,930 tests.
The number of positive tests is cumulative, so the total number includes the 12 patients who have since died.
Over the weekend the Vermont State Police announced they had gone around the state and checked with every hotel, motel or inn to make sure they were in compliance with Scott’s “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order from last week.
Police found 41 lodging establishments that appeared to not be in compliance. In central Vermont, the establishments were Quality Inn Barre, Pierre Motel, Budget Inn and Hollow Inn & Motel, all in Barre. In Rutland, they were the Highland Motel, Travel Inn, Quality Inn Rutland and Rodeway Inn Rutland’s North Main Street and Woodstock Avenue locations. Each establishment was sent warning letters by the state about complying with Scott’s order.
Hotels or motels are allowed to operate if they are housing someone from a vulnerable population, like the homeless, or if someone is in quarantine, or is an essential worker who needs the room in order to work.
All short-term rentals, such as those from Airbnb, and campgrounds and RV parks, are to be closed as well. Scott said officials still are seeing advertisements for lodging and online booking continue to take place. Monday’s order suspended online reservations.
“Our message is this: If you are entering the state, you are directed to isolate in order to protect those already here as well as the capacity of our health care system. This will help protect those currently in the state while allowing people who own a home, have a family, to be here as well,” Scott said.
He said he didn’t want the situation to turn into “us vs. them,” with Vermonters turning on those from elsewhere.
“That’s not who we are as Americans and certainly not as Vermonters. And we shouldn’t let anything change that,” he said.
When it comes to enforcing the order, Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan said his office will be reaching out to those 41 lodging establishments to make sure they are in compliance and to offer assistance. Donovan said Scott’s order does carry with it penalties for those found to have violated it. They include fines up to $10,000 per violation, and someone could be charged with a crime that has a maximum sentence of six months behind bars.
“I want to be very clear, the last thing any of us want to do is enforce these orders and seek those penalties. We’re asking for your compliance, and we’re asking for your cooperation. That being said, we also know that we all have a role to play during this crisis. We’re prepared to do our job,” he said.
The order is in effect until April 15, but Scott said Monday that deadline is expected to be extended.
For the most up-to-date information and guidance about COVID-19, including from the CDC, visit healthvermont.gov/covid19
BARRE — Too many cooks might be just what the doctor ordered when it comes to keeping vulnerable Vermonters fed in the middle of a pandemic.
At least that appears to be the case in central Vermont where, while steering clear of crowded kitchens, a just-launched regional “command center” has figured out how to feed nearly 200 homeless people now being put up in local motels.
It’s a seven-day-a-week, three-meals-a-day operation that has evolved in recent days, may morph in coming weeks but, for the moment, is meeting the COVID-19-inspired need thanks to an unconventional partnership.
It’s one that involves local clergy and some local businesses sharing the load with the two-person crew at the community kitchen academy run by Capstone Community Action.
There have been some early glitches, but the alliance seems to be working and just started what will be its first full week of operation.
Sunday wasn’t a day of rest at Enough Ministries where Dan Molind said his chef-wife Cathy led a kitchen crew that included his daughter, Katie, and church members Tom Sperry, Crystal Breer and Nancy Moran in preparing 400 meals – 200 lunches and 200 dinners – as their first contribution to the continuing cause.
“We really had to hustle,” Molind said, noting a busier weekend is days away.
Enough Ministries is taking weekend duty that will require them to crank out 1,400 meals between dinner on Friday and dinner on Sunday at its Washington Street church.
That’s a big bite for the tiny church that last month was serving lunch to roughly 40 people three days a week before adding dinner two weeks ago.
“Our volume has increased exponentially,” Molind said.
In the interest of social distancing, the kitchen crew hasn’t.
“It’s more work for less people,” said Molind, who is thankful for a recent kitchen upgrade and happy to be part of the broader food chain created to respond to a sudden need.
Though government money may soon be available to cover some of the cost
“It’s a huge blessing to have some money to be able to provide these kinds of services without having to say: ‘Hey, I need money to do it,’” he said. “We’re doing what’s right because we know it’s what’s needed right now.”
Enough Ministries is far from alone, according to Liz Scharf, director of community economic development at Capstone.
Scharf was tasked with cobbling together a workable solution to an unusual problem – one she said came together quickly thanks to some willing partners.
“It’s pretty darn amazing what we’ve done in a week,” she said.
Enough Ministries essentially has the weekends covered, though Morse Block Deli will be picking up lunch duty starting Saturday.
Thanks to a huge assist from New England Culinary Institute, Capstone is able to provide weekday breakfasts and prepare dinners Monday through Thursday.
That left weekday lunches and Scharf said the Salvation Army and Gusto’s have got that base covered. The Salvation Army is making the mid-day meals for distribution on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and Gusto’s is handling Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Gusto’s owner Josh Dickinson said he and his girlfriend, Jacki Douglas, pinch hit on Saturday, producing and packaging 200 meals of chicken and mostaccioli at the Prospect Street sports tavern that is open for take-out from 3 to 7 p.m.
Dickinson planned to spend Monday night slicing deli meat for the sandwiches he’ll be preparing today.
“We’re just happy to help,” he said.
That help is appreciated, according to Joey Buttendorf, the senior chef-instructor at Capstone’s kitchen academy.
With the Salvation Army, Gusto’s and Morse Block Deli taking turns with lunches and Enough Ministries preparing most of the weekend meals, Buttendorf and her assistant, Christine Cushing, can focus on preparing weekday breakfasts and dinners Monday through Thursday.
Buttendorf stressed breakfasts aren’t a two-woman operation and credits New England Culinary Institute chef-instructors Adrian Westrope and Dan Tabor for preparing everything from croissants to quiches that are packaged and picked up by volunteers and delivered along with dinners at 4 p.m.
“It’s an incredible team effort,” said Buttendorf, who would prefer to be part of it rather than holed up in her home.
“I’m really more satisfied cooking and helping,” she said.
Buttendorf said she is rolling with random donation in what feels like a massive daily episode of “Chopped.”
“Every day it’s a big blind basket (of ingredients),” she said.
On Monday, Buttendorf was preparing baked spiced turkey and chicken with mashed potatoes and broccoli, as well as a sausage and tomato goulash with candied beets.
“We’re trying to make it as nutritious as possible,” she said.
Buttendorf is resigned to the fact her cooking will have to do her talking for the foreseeable future.
“That’s the hardest thing,” she said. “We can’t say: ‘Hi. How are you doing?’ and put our hands on people’s shoulders right now. The food has to be enough.”
Scharf said the effort has been well-received, volunteers are safely delivering the meals to motels – including two where Good Samaritan Haven staff are handling the distribution. Good Samaritan has set up shop at the Econo Lodge in Montpelier and is making sure homeless residents housed by the state in rooms at the Hilltop Inn are getting meals as well.
For now, Scharf said things are working and she hopes to arrangement payment for the food now being used by the end of the week to make sure the system is sustainable – particularly if it needs to grow.
Disclosure: Executive Editor and Publisher Steven Pappas is the chair of the board of directors of Capstone Community Action.
BARRE — Anyone who knows Pam Loomis knows two things about her: she’s crafty and very giving.
In recent months, those traits have come together in bold efforts that first helped animals at risk in the Australian wildfires and now are helping to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus.
Within the last week, Loomis has been using up cotton fabric she has had leftover from years of doing crafts to make the N-95-type medical masks.
As of Sunday afternoon, she said she had completed 38 smaller masks and 18 medium-sized masks. There were another 63 pinned up and ready to be sewn, including some for smaller children.
“I do them in an assembly line,” Loomis said by way of explanation. “It’s a six-step process.”
On Monday, she planned to deliver (keeping social distance, of course) her bags of completed masks to a neighbor who is a local employee of Central Vermont Medical Center in Berlin. The masks would then be put through the hospital’s laundry and then distributed.
This project started when friends on Facebook tagged Loomis when they heard there was a worldwide shortage of the medical masks. Loomis said she also had heard that Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, New Hampshire, as well as CVMC, and other regional hospitals were looking for donations of either masks or hand sanitizer.
“I downloaded the pattern … and just started working,” she said.
Previously, Loomis had been making pouches in which orphaned baby kangaroos and wallabies could sleep as a result of the devastating wildfires in Australia earlier this year. She also was crocheting birds nests out of remainder yarns she had on hand.
“That’s what I was doing in February and early March,” she said.
To get those crafts to the other side of the world, Loomis successfully raised $400 to cover the expensive shipping charges.
“People knew I was doing that, so when they saw (the call for masks), they tagged me (online),” she said.
“I knew I could do it with the supplies I had here right in the house,” Loomis said, adding that she is a regular at local craft fairs. “I kind of like to do it all.”
Recently, Loomis had been sorting her supplies, determining which scraps she wanted to put into a yard sale or possible let go. Those scraps are becoming medical masks. (Although, she said acknowledge she had to order some additional elastic.)
Within her Barre City neighborhood, walkers sauntering by in recent days have asked her what she has been doing to pass the time of self-isolation. When she told them about the masks, a few elderly neighbors said they wouldn’t mind having one themselves. She’s made some for other friends, as well.
Loomis, a former caregiver and mother of two girls, has homeschooled her children, and has done countless projects over the years. And while her husband was deployed with the military four times, the family used projects as a way to give back to their community and pass the time.
“It’s important to us,” she said of her family’s commitment to giving back.
Loomis said she maintains a list of 15 or so friends – including residents of nursing homes and shut-ins – who she writes to every month or six weeks.
“I know I have a giving heart,” she said.
To make masks, go to https://www.dartmouth-hitchcock.org/patient-education/sewing-masks.html
Green Up Day is postponed to May 30 because of the COVID-19 outbreak and government measures to suppress it.
Kate Alberghini, executive director of Green Up Vermont, said Monday that Green Up Vermont’s board of directors made the decision over the weekend after soliciting opinions from more than 100 towns and solid-waste districts.
“Essentially, if it were to happen on May 2, we would have to distribute (supplies) next week,” she said. “A lot of places are closed, so that’s a challenge.”
This is Green Up Day’s 50th anniversary. It’s a day where people all across the state volunteer to pick up roadside trash, which is gathered in green bags and disposed of at no cost to the volunteer collectors. Some towns host community-building events in tandem with the trash pick up.
Alberghini said of the 251 towns polled, 130 responded. Of those, 72 said they’d support a move to May 30, a date suggested by Green Up Vermont. Thirty-one towns said to keep it on May 2; 14 didn’t have an opinion; 10 wanted it moved to the fall; three said to cancel it.
The poll asked towns about moving it to the fall. Alberghini said 23 respondents said “yes” to that question, 41 said “no,” while 56 were neutral or had no answer. A third question asked whether towns would be more comfortable moving ahead with their usual plans if May 30 were the date. Twenty-one said it’s too soon to know that, 31 said “yes,” they’d be more comfortable, while 78 were neutral.
There was much to consider about moving the date, she said. Pushing the date back means more vegetation making trash hard to spot and more risk of ticks. Going out too far might mean road crews are too busy to offer the help they normally do. Some towns suggested making it an ongoing practice throughout the month of May.
“We’re trying to find the best possible balance for moving forward with what we know now,” she said. “There are a lot of things we don’t know that we can’t really predict, no one can with this virus. We will just move forward with the 30th, taking all measures of safety precaution that we can and sharing that information and relying on people to be diligent in taking care of themselves as well.”
Holding the event as-scheduled, she said, would make getting supplies and word out much harder, and the event would lose much of the community-building it’s known for, given people would likely want to follow the social-distancing guidelines now in place.
“It can be done; Green Up can go on in a socially distant way, but to be cognizant of distribution and how people do want to keep it as a community event, that’s why we decided to push it a little further out,” she said.
Green Up Vermont is helped by volunteer coordinators in each town.
“We always provide a big trash skiff and a place to recycle tires and that kind of thing,” said Sorsha Anderson, Green Up coordinator of Middlesex. “Certainly if you drive around town on Green Up Day, there’s people out on every road picking up trash.”
She’s been the coordinator in her town for three years.
“I thought it would be a good idea to postpone it to at least the 30th with how things are,” she said. “I think the biggest issue is with the distribution of the trash bags in this social distancing world. Usually the trash bags are picked up at the schools and at the town clerk’s office, and they’re both closed. And going door to door with trash bags doesn’t necessarily work right now, touching everybody’s mailbox, their front doors, so it seemed reasonable to put it off.”
She said even May 30 seems ambitious, adding that summer might be a good option.
Regardless of what happens, this is still Green Up Day’s 50th anniversary, and plans to commemorate that haven’t changed, said Alberghini.
“One of the big things that we are doing this year, mainly in thanks of all the work the towns have done over the past 50 years, is to give them what we’re calling birthday boxes, so basically it’s a gift that contains a coupon for a birthday cake: it contains a maple tree sapling, and a granite plaque that was donated by a Barre company for planting in a public area.”
The plaques are from Buttera and Gherardi Granite Artisans, she said.
Additional coverage of the pandemic can be found on pages A2, A3, A5, B1, and more. Breaking news can be found at www.timesargus.com