PLAINFIELD – The state has decided Goddard College will not act as a quarantine facility for the novel coronavirus pandemic, citing a lack of need.
The state had been planning on using the school’s Plainfield campus to house those without a home while they recovered from the virus that causes COVID-19. The site would have been for families and children who are in the custody of the Department for Children and Families.
The original decision to serve as a quarantine divided the town.
Some welcomed the people in need of care with open arms while others suggested putting up a fence around the campus to keep the infected in and making the infected wear identifiable clothing. There was concern about the lack of transparency or “buy-in” from the town before things were put in motion while others noted the urgency needed during a worldwide emergency.
But all of it appears to be for naught because Kerry Sleeper, deputy secretary of the state Agency of Human Services, told town officials Friday night the state would not be setting up a quarantine site there. State officials have been “cautiously optimistic” with the data coming in regarding those infected in the state and have said the current trend has the state doing better than the best-case scenario forecasted in late March.
“As a result of reviewing the very latest (COVID-19) case load and related modeling I have determined that the State does not require the bed capacity that Goddard offered as a potential site,” Sleeper wrote in an email. “All our decisions to identify potential surge sites were premised on ensuring we could meet the isolation needs of recovering Vermonters given the projected worse-case scenario. Responsible crisis management requires that we examine existing capacity and build contingencies to close the gap in essential services. Good crisis management also requires that we constantly reexamine the available data and reevaluate in order not to waste resources.”
Sleeper said the data shows the state appears to be falling into a moderate rate of infection. He said he wanted to be careful not to send a message that the health crisis is resolved and much work is still needed over the next several weeks.
He commended town officials for how they handled the situation, noting it was a challenging position to be in. State officials have said previously the town didn’t have much choice in the matter because it was a public safety situation.
In her response to Sleeper, Select Board chairwoman Sasha Thayer stated, “These are indeed challenging times and too often frightening to many as it feels as though we are attempting to successfully navigate very turbulent waters in a tiny canoe. I appreciate the care and thoughtfulness that seems evident across this state, in sorting out under tremendous time pressures how to adequately care for and serve those who are directly affected by the COVID-19 virus, their families, and those in all our communities. There are rarely easy answers to the problems that arise in such times.”
At a news conference on Monday, Secretary Mike Smith, of the Agency of Human Services, said the state’s primary isolation facility will be at the Holiday Inn in South Burlington. Smith said the facility, which has capacity for 150 people, should be operational early this week if it wasn’t already Monday.
The state had been planning on creating multiple such sites around the state, including at Goddard. Those sites also were canceled due to lower-than-expected infection rates.