Op/Ed

Opinion: Cooperative group talks COVID-19

LAURIE PATTON, BRIAN CARPENTER, PETER BURROWS

This community forum is a joint effort of Brian Carpenter, chair of the Middlebury selectboard; Peter Burrows, superintendent of the Addison Central School District, and Laurie Patton, president of Middlebury College.
 
 
We write to members of the Middlebury and Addison County communities with an update to our joint letter of March 20, 2020, to share information and let you know about our collaborations and communications between sectors of the community as we move into the fall. We are proud of the work of our state, our county and our town to keep the incidence of COVID-19 one of the lowest in country. We know that many of you are concerned that, even while Vermont rates stay low, COVID-19 outbreaks rise across the country.
In March, we formed the Middlebury Information-Sharing in a COVID Emergency (MICE), a group that currently includes Middlebury selectboard Chair Brian Carpenter; Town Manager Kathleen Ramsay; Police Chief Tom Hanley; from UVM/Porter Medical Center, Interim President Tom Thompson, Dr. Anna Benvenuto, and Emergency Management Director Mike Leyden; Addison Central School District Superintendent Peter Burrows; and from Middlebury College, President Laurie Patton, Director of Community Relations Sue Ritter, Executive Vice President David Provost, Assistant Director Amy Carlin, and Director of Business Services Matt Curran. We have been meeting on a regular basis to share information and updates.
At the moment, we are preparing for the return of students in the schools as well as the college, and the completion of the rail project in town. Many of you have shared your concerns about the spread of disease as our educational institutions and businesses open and develop plans in response to the pandemic. We are meeting and working around the clock and sharing our plans across all of our institutions to put safety first, following guidelines from the state of Vermont and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. We are in touch with state authorities on a daily basis in order to continue our low COVID-19 transmission record.
From the Town of Middlebury
Throughout the State of Emergency declared by the governor in March, all town services — including police, fire, water, wastewater, Department of Public Works, vital records, land records, elections, and land planning and zoning — continued without interruption. In the initial days of the stay-at-home order, library staff quickly pivoted to provide enhanced support for patrons seeking to access materials online, offer virtual story times, and an IT help desk for patrons needing assistance with the new, omnipresent world of virtual conferencing. In June, the library transitioned to much-appreciated and well-used curbside service, and now offers limited in-person access. Parks and Recreation ran successful summer camps and swim lessons.
With more than 90 e-mail bulletins to date, Local Emergency Management Director and Police Chief Tom Hanley has brightened our days with clever, brief, easy-to-understand summaries of the governor’s executive orders, state and federal guidelines, and resources for COVID-19 testing and support. For a quick read on the latest hyper-local COVID-19 news with a dash of humor, visit the town’s website, townofmiddlebury.org, to see the complete library of bulletins or sign-up for the e-mail distribution list. As the point person for the town’s COVID-19 response efforts, Chief Hanley has also led outreach and education efforts on the benefits of mask wearing; secured 2,000 masks for distribution to businesses; and confers weekly with the Vermont Department of Public Safety, Emergency Management, and Department of Public Health.
From the Addison Central School District
Addison Central School District has been working throughout the summer to prepare for the potential impacts the COVID-19 pandemic will have on Vermont schools in the 2020-2021 school year. ACSD’s recent School Reentry Plan, developed by ACSD staff, students, and families, outlines the systems and structures the district will put in place in each of the different phases of learning that we may face: in-person, hybrid, and remote. These structures will enable us to respond to changes in Vermont Department of Health guidance and be prepared for the potential transitions we will need to make between remote and in-person learning. Above all else, we realize that our biggest goal throughout the next year is supporting our students, our families, and our staff as we work together to continue learning and growing through unprecedented times.
From Middlebury College
The college is observing a phased re-opening plan, which will proceed depending on conditions. You can see all of our safety precautions and opening plans here. Students are expected to observe pre- and post-arrival quarantine and be tested twice upon arrival. In Phase One, after they emerge from room quarantine, students must observe a campus quarantine. The campus will be closed to visitors. Town and college have plans in place to address concerns about students arriving from red and orange areas of the country, particularly concerning off-campus conduct. Town leaders and the town police are working with the college and the community to ensure that safety rules that have been put in place outside of campus are enforced to minimize community transmission of COVID-19. The college has also been working closely all summer with the hospital, and the two medical staffs have established protocols for working together in all levels of COVID-19 conditions. The college is monitoring local conditions daily and is prepared to close if it is not safe to stay open.
The town, school district, college, and hospital will continue to nurture their deep and successful collaborations and communications, which existed in our community pre-COVID-19 and have only strengthened with the onset of the pandemic last winter.
We know this fall will bring challenges, and those require constant connection. We are proud of our work together and appreciate the collaborative spirit in our community that has brought us this far. The people of this community are the number-one driver of our safety, and we are grateful. We have shown that we are indeed better together.

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