Not-for-Profit, Award-Winning Community News and Views for Windham County, Vermont • Since 2006
Photo 1

ORCA Media

Gov. Phil Scott speaks of the state’s response to COVID-19.

Voices / Open Letter

Questions for the governor

‘Are you a subscriber to the notion that sacrificing the very lives of our most vulnerable, or those least able to risk losing everything, to mitigate economic anxiety is worth it? Is this the Vermont way?’

PatRICIA Sheehan operates a bed-and-breakfast. This piece is submitted as an open letter to Gov. Phil Scott, written after his May 1 press conference discussing the state’s plan to lift the COVID-19 lockdown.

Brattleboro

Gov. Scott: I watched with interest and concern your COVID-19 press conference on May 1 outlining the reopening of businesses.

You talked at length about the requirements you were putting in place to make workplaces safe for returning workers. Yet you then went on to say that those businesses could reopen, and their workers would be expected to return, if they had “at least in good faith attempted to acquire what they needed to do so.”

You mentioned thermometers, specifically, which are pretty much impossible to get at the moment for the businesses that will be required to take the temperatures of their workers on a regular basis.

You were asked point blank if that meant that businesses unable to get what they needed to open were still fine to do so. You said yes.

My questions regarding this are:

1. How can you tell people to go back to work and businesses to open if they are clearly unable to adhere to the guidelines you and the best health advisors have directed?

2. What are the possible ramifications for workers if they do not, therefore, feel safe enough to return to work?

In other words, is there any chance that they could be punished for wanting to protect their own lives as well as the lives of their loved ones? (I cite the example, which is most certainly illegal under OSHA standards and without a doubt immoral, of Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds, who is threatening workers who feel unsafe with the removal of their unemployment benefits if they refuse to return early, saying that would be considered a “voluntary quit.”)

3. Will you promise, unequivocally, that the health and lives of Vermonters take precedence over all other concerns during these very early days of a deadly global pandemic, and guarantee that no one can be expected to risk their health and life and the health and lives of the people whom they go on to interact with if their place of business does not provide their workers with the the things required to make them safe? That no one will be punished for choosing to stay safe until their workplace is actually made safe?

* * *

Regarding the idea that we can “turn the spigot” bit by bit as time goes on:

1. Can you explain where, when, and how you came up with this idea, and why you believe it fits the current situation?

Unlike hurricanes, floods, or other natural catastrophes, the effects of this pandemic have been ongoing and are expected to be for months, possibly even a year or more. Why would you use such an ill-fitted method to try to manage an unprecedented problem, especially with the health and lives of so many Vermonters at stake?

I listened to Vermont Health Commissioner Mark A. Levine M.D. carefully. Especially toward the end of the press conference, he made it clear that, until we have consistent testing and data, we will not have the information to be able to know for sure when we are in the clear with this virus — information that can tell us where new outbreaks or recurrences might occur.

He also said that we should expect an uptick in cases and deaths in the near future, yet you still want to go ahead with a reopening. Are you a subscriber to the notion that sacrificing the very lives of our most vulnerable, or those least able to risk losing everything, to mitigate economic anxiety is worth it? Is this the Vermont way?

2. Next, I am quite interested to know why you chose the two particular businesses you did to speak about the reopening plans. I know a bit about the equity firm that now owns Vermont Teddy Bear, and the reasons why it is now running that “Vermont” company. I also know a bit about John Connor and about the money his company he has given campaigns and candidates in the past.

Which brings me to my final question:

3. Why was the reporter from the VtDigger interrupted and not allowed to ask her follow-up question about your intentions regarding running again, when the topic clearly is relevant, given that a GOP organization is using your name while campaigning for the coming elections? Clearly, concerns and questions about how your political aspirations and affiliations could be coloring the decisions you are making for all Vermonters are legitimate and important to this conversation.

I would hope she would have asked another question, which I know is something many Vermonters would like an answer to:

4. Why have you been seeking more control over the funds we have and will be receiving from the federal government, and how do you square that with your supposed desire to work with all members of the state Legislature, especially on such an important matter to all Vermonters?

* * *

In closing, Vermonters, and tens of thousands of people in this country, are seriously ill or dying from this virus, many as a direct result of the delay, followed by wanton incompetence, of the president of the United States and his devotees. Even if that were not the case, people would still be suffering.

Could you explain, therefore, why you feel comments about it being too early to worry about not opening golf courses is an appropriate way to close your press conference?

I look forward to your responses in the near future.

Like what we do? Help us keep doing it!

We rely on the donations and financial support of our readers to help make The Commons available to all. Please join us today.

What do you think? Leave us a comment

Editor’s note: Our terms of service require you to use your real names. We will remove anonymous or pseudonymous comments that come to our attention. We rely on our readers’ personal integrity to stand behind what they say; please do not write anything to someone that you wouldn’t say to his or her face without your needing to wear a ski mask while saying it. Thanks for doing your part to make your responses forceful, thoughtful, provocative, and civil. We also consider your comments for the letters column in the print newspaper.

Comments

We are currently reconfiguring our comments software. Please check back if you’d like to read or leave comments on this story. —The editors

Originally published in The Commons issue #562 (Wednesday, May 20, 2020). This story appeared on page B1.

Share this story

Links

0

Related stories

More by Patricia Sheehan