PLAINFIELD — Residents aren’t happy the state is planning on using Goddard College as a quarantine facility for the novel coronavirus pandemic.
The Select Board held a special meeting Monday night via Zoom, a teleconference application. The meeting, which had about 30 people in virtual attendance, was to discuss the state’s decision to use Goddard College’s Plainfield campus as a quarantine facility for those who are recovering from the virus that causes COVID-19 but don’t have a home. That includes people with mental health conditions, families and children in the custody of the state Department for Children and Families.
Paul Dragon, the director of field services for the state Agency of Human Services, said the state arrived on campus last week to set up the facility. The plan is to use the school’s dormitory space to house the patients while they recover from the virus. Dragon said the space can hold about 150 people, but the state is hoping it won’t go over 100. Their health needs will be served by nearby Plainfield Health Center which will have staff on-site.
It was not disclosed when the facility would start receiving people.
Dragon said the state wants to be transparent with the town, but residents complained that they weren’t involved in the process when the state picked Goddard. They talked about how the process wasn’t democratic and appeared to be hastily put together.
Those that would use the campus would do so voluntarily. There is no forced quarantine order in place so those brought there could leave whenever they wanted. This greatly upset some residents concerned about those carrying the virus coming into town.
Board members Sasha Thayer and Jim Volz were in support of a forced quarantine. Thayer said not having one already is a “grave error.”
“So people understand, this is not we’re asking you to be nice and be responsible. But that you are ordered to maintain quarantine,” she said adding she’s reached out to legislators asking for a forced quarantine.
Baylen Slote, the town’s health officer, did not agree with forced quarantine. Slote said he understands the concern, but forcing someone into quarantine is essentially locking someone up.
Sarah Phillips with the state emergency operations center said if someone wanted to leave the plan would be to return them to the community they came from.
Residents expressed concerns that those brought to the campus could be drug users or criminals, along with bringing in a concentration of people that are known to have a deadly virus.
Jenney Samuelson, deputy commissioner with the Department of Vermont Health Access, said there will be security on campus and if someone chooses to leave they will be accompanied until someone from the state can respond.
Board member Tammy Farnham said this situation is not one that people planned for. Farnham said the state is trying its best to minimize risk and help as many people as it can.
“And so as much as it’s scary for our community as a whole to bring these people here, we also need to recognize and stop and understand what the state is trying to do. It seems like having these people in one place, where they can get the help that they need and organize that in a manner where hopefully they’ll stay, that in turn protects our community more so than to have them wandering around and have no place to go. Truly, I understand how scary this is for all of us. And this is our community and I get that, but we don’t have time. You can see the numbers growing greatly. So my hat goes off to the state to do what they’re doing,” she said.