It’s an ancient understanding that someone who preaches doom will, eventually, be proven correct if the sermon is consistently repeated. Thus, it was thought to be safe prediction that when Vermont’s schools opened to in-class instruction that the coronavirus would explode with a vengeance. That may end up being the case, but a little less than a month in and Vermont has the safest school system in the country.
Even the “irresponsible” undergraduates at the University of Vermont appear to be paying attention to the rules. UVM has an infection rate of less than a single percent, which is off-the-charts low when compared to their peers nationally. At Middlebury College, the school removed 22 of its students from campus for violating the school’s rules; a sign that Vermont’s higher ed community is taking the issue seriously, contrary to expectations.
Among the state’s entire preK-12 school system, only four cases have been detected. Accordingly, the Scott administration has eased the standards on schools moving them from a Stage 2 to Stage 3, which allows for school sports and other activities. Some of Vermont’s preK-6 schools may soon reopen on a full five-day-a-week in-school learning routine, which is about as close to being normal as we’ve seen since March. Again, not expected by the skeptics.
The governor has extended the state of emergency order to October 15, but at the same time he’s also allowed the state’s hospitality industry more flexibility as we head into the fall foliage season. That, of course, will raise new concerns, the fear being that “outsiders” will bring the virus with them.
But the point is that we’ve earned the trust which allows past restrictions to be loosened. We haven’t had single death in almost two months. We currently have one person in the entire state of Vermont hospitalized with the disease. Of the 42,000 college students tested only 38 students tested positive, not one student is in quarantine. We’re the safest state in the nation; doesn’t that justify some confidence?
The trepidation felt by the vulnerable was understandable, including teachers and school staff who openly worried about having to return to school, not knowing what they might face, or whether the schools had taken the precautions necessary to open safely. Thus far, it appears that the school districts have comported themselves well and the fears have settled to a low ebb.
As good as Vermont’s circumstances are it’s a given that things could turn upside down should we drop our guard and allow behaviors that would invite a return to life as we experienced it last spring. The challenge will be at its keenest as the weather turns cold and people, including the tourists, retreat indoors.
Tempting fate as we might be, one of Vermont’s advantages is that we have experienced success and it’s been recognized nationally. It makes us all the more cautious; we don’t want what we have taken away. Including a reputation.
by Emerson Lynn