Selectboard Special Meeting Notes: Masks Redux

brattleboro selectboard august 17 2021

The Brattleboro Selectboard approved a new rule requiring face covering indoors, subject to the approval of Dr. Levine and the Vermont Department of Health. If Levine doesn’t approve, the board strongly recommends, rather than requires, the face coverings. This is all in response to a rapid rise in regional COVID cases, more Delta variant, and a fluctuating CDC rating of viral transmission.

In a related action, the board recommended to everyone who is able, please get vaccinated.


Brattleboro Selectboard Special Meeting Agenda – New Mask Requirements

The Brattleboro Selectboard will meet on Tuesday, August 17, 2021, at 6:15pm in the Selectboard Meeting Room at the Brattleboro Municipal Center (320 Main Street). The public is encouraged to participate in the meeting over Zoom. The Municipal Center will be open to the public with limited seating spaced six feet apart and face coverings will be required in the meeting. The attached agenda contains information on how to access the meeting remotely, including the required “passcode.”  ASL interpreters will be available for deaf and hard-of-hearing community members.


Town of Brattleboro COVID-19 Response Status – August 11, 2021 – Masks Required in Town Buildings

Update to the Community from Brattleboro Town Manager Peter Elwell: 

The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (the CDC) has reclassified Windham County from an area of “moderate public transmission” of COVID-19 to an area of “substantial public transmission” of the virus. 

All Town of Brattleboro government facilities remain open to the public at this time, but we have reinstituted the requirement that anyone inside Town buildings must be wearing a face covering. This applies equally to employees and to visitors. It applies equally to vaccinated people and to unvaccinated people. The CDC guidance on this matter is clear: all “people [should] wear a mask in public indoor settings in areas of substantial or high transmission.” 


The Delta Variant

I superficially looked at the CDC site, and learned 2 things about delta:

1. CDC sayszz the Delta Variant is one and a half times as contagious as Alpha (which I understand is the first new iteration after original Covid-19. What they mean is that if a person infected with Alpha would (under a particular set of circumstances) infect 2 additional persons; then a person infected with Delta, under the same set of circumstances, would infect 3 people. (Of course a major epidemic management goal would be to get the that number down to .9 or less.).


Only 55.8% In Windham County Are Fully Vaccinated, Says CDC

According to the CDC’s website, 64.4% of the total population of Windham County has had at least one does of a COVID vaccine.  55.8% are fully vaccinated.

Keep this in mind as we crow about Vermont’s high vaccination rates.  We haven’t hit 70% in Windham County yet. We’re much closer to “half way there” than the “almost 100%” people like to assume.


An Open Letter To The Unvaccinated

If you are choosing to not get the COVID vaccine then you need to accept complete responsibility for your behavior. That means acknowledging the fact that you may be responsible for the suffering and death of others. It means that you should make an effort to keep away from other people while you wear a mask. But your selfish behavior has made it clear you will not make the effort to protect others.

American society is putting a lot of effort and money into trying to convince the unvaccinated to get the shot, but those efforts are resulting in less than adequate outcomes. The time has come to give up on the unvaccinated and start punishing them for putting the rest of us in danger.


What to Do with $3,000,000

BCS proposed graduated distribution of COVID stimulus funds and a “People’s Budget” at the last selectboard meeting (July 6, 2021).
A draft of the technical explanations will be available on the BCS website. This is not a final version, but is pending peer review.

In comments at the end of the meeting the board members expressed some confusion about the funds. They no doubt have their own ideas about spending on infrastructure projects and tax relief for property owners. One member of the board actually said that distribution of the money to low-income people would be inappropriate, although the ARPA legislation specifies the purpose of the funds as COVID relief. This would certainly not exclude payments to low-income people.


Minority Rules in Government and COVID

It’s bad enough that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and his band of idol-worshipping Trumpies are controlling much of what goes on in congress, but many of their supporters around the country are also in control of the course of COVID.

Federal politics has always been less than representative of the will of the people and that kind of imbalance has increased over the last few years. Even though Democrats have a slim majority in the Senate they have great difficulty passing any significant legislation because of issues like the filibuster and the need for 60 votes for bill passage. This situation has all but crippled the body politic and it will continue for the foreseeable future.

That future is starting to look at little grimmer when it comes to COVID in this country. A minority of Americans are determining the course of COVID because of their refusal to get vaccinated. The unvaccinated are not a monolithic group but it seems clear that states that lean Republican and places that have bought into the Trump lies have the lowest vaccination rates.


Why Don’t We See More Masks?

Engaging in usual forms of commerce makes one believe that the pandemic is a thing of the past. I find it extremely frightening that more people are not wearing masks in public because the science does tell us that not enough people have been vaccinated to provide the kind of herd immunity that we might need to protect all of us.

Fifty four percent of the U.S. population has received a first dose of vaccine and 47% have received a second dose. That means that as you go about your daily business about half of the people you see should be wearing masks. Of course, the vaccination numbers vary by state. Vermont has a vaccination rate of 82% for a first dose and 75% for a second dose. Massachusetts is at 70% for a first dose and 61% for a second dose.

Even with those numbers we still should see a quarter to a half of the people we engage with on a daily basis wearing masks. It is just not happening. Most places, as well as the CDC, have lifted mask restrictions for vaccinated people and have let the unvaccinated rely on their conscience to do the right thing.
Guess what? It ain’t working. The daily numbers of new COVID cases and deaths are declining but more than 600,000 Americans have died from the disease and it has become clear that most of the recent deaths are in people who have not been vaccinated.


The (Final) Brattleboro Town Manager Weekly COVID-19 Update

Update to the Community from Brattleboro Town Manager Peter Elwell: 

There is no longer a COVID-19 State of Emergency in Vermont. 

All Town of Brattleboro government facilities have reopened for public visitation without an appointment. Some offices will still require face coverings or other special precautions until further notice. For example, masks will be optional in the public spaces throughout the Municipal Center, but anyone who needs to go behind the counter or into the vault at the Town Clerk’s Office will be required to wear a mask. 


Vermont Leads The Nation Combating COVID – Now Lets Lead On A Green New Deal!

Cabot, Vermont, 6/15/21 – With over 80% of Vermonters having received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and nearly 72% of us fully vaccinated, today [6/15/21] the Governor declared an end to the State of Emergency and the termination of pandemic related social restrictions. It is significant that Vermont is the first U.S. State to reach an 80% vaccinated rate. It is also significant that throughout the pandemic Vermont suffered only 24,339 known COVID infections and 256 total deaths; both our infection and mortality rate were the least in the Nation compared to the 49 other States. And while even a single death is a regrettable tragedy, stacked against Alabama’s half a million plus cases and 11,000 (and counting) fatalities, it’s clear that we fared better than most. And while we are not out of the woods yet, we have also emerged with the 5th lowest unemployment rate in the Nation at 2.9% (Texas by comparison is at 6.7% while Florida is at 4.8%).

How did we do this? Well, while much of the South and other parts of the country fretted about masks being an infringement of civil liberties and the vaccine being part of some insane conspiracy, Most Vermonters from the get go cared about their communities, abided by social distancing, wore masks (even before any mandates came into effect), and worked collaboratively in making our society resilient in the face of hardship.


Selectboard Meeting Notes – The Final Zoom, Financing, and Web Site Information Gathering

Brattleboro Selectboard june 15 21

The Brattleboro Selectboard held their final Zoom meeting Tuesday night. Their next meeting, July 6, will be in person (with a hybrid mix) at the Municipal Center in the Selectboard Meeting Room. The Governor says it must be so.

Water shutoff will resume, in November. The board also approved of a financing plan for the water treatment plant on quite favorable financial terms, Tri-Park finances were re-financed, a process for gathering information for a new town website was presented, and committee members were appointed.


Brattleboro Selectboard Agenda and Notes – June 15, 2021

The Brattleboro Selectboard will be discussing water and sewer finances, including paying for the new water treatment plant, at their next regular meeting. They’ll also consider reinstating water shutoffs for delinquent accounts and Tri-Park loan refinancing.

There will also be COVID matters, committee members, and a process for creating an RFP for a new town website. You can bring up other matters not on the agenda during public participation.


Town of Brattleboro COVID Update June 4, 2021

” WHAT IS NEW TODAY 

• Effective today, the Selectboard has terminated the Townwide emergency order that required face coverings to be worn inside all facilities (public, private, and non-profit) where the public is invited. Individual organizations and building owners can still require face coverings at their own facilities. 

The Town of Brattleboro thanks everyone for complying with the Townwide “mask order” during the 54 weeks that it was in effect. 

• The public may now enter the Gibson Aiken Center without an appointment. 

The number of spectators is still limited for indoor programs. Masks are still required at all times while in the building. 

• At this time, masks are still required inside all Town of Brattleboro government facilities. “


To Mask Or Not To Mask

Many of us have been wearing masks for over a year and have looked forward to the day when our faces could be on full public display. The Coronavirus is showing signs of receding, at least in this country, and vaccination numbers are increasing.

The CDC has said that fully vaccinated people can do away with masks in most public places and that they do not need to social distance. Exceptions include public transportation such as buses, airplanes and hospitals.

The new CDC guidelines are confusing a lot of people as well as states and municipalities.


Town of Brattleboro Mask Order Still In Effect

The Brattleboro Town Manager’s COVID-19 update today says the following:

“WEARING FACE COVERINGS REQUIRED 

At its meetings on May 19 and May 26, 2020, the Selectboard adopted the following resolution. The resolution was reviewed and reaffirmed at the Selectboard meeting on June 16. On May 13, 2021, the United States Government issued new guidance that says fully vaccinated people can safely choose not to wear face coverings indoors or outdoors. Today, Governor Scott reiterated that guidance to Vermonters. The updated guidance states that “fully vaccinated people can resume activities without wearing a mask or physically distancing, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance.” The Town of Brattleboro’s face covering order remains in effect at this time. Moreover, it is important to remember that many people are not yet fully vaccinated so individual businesses may choose to continue to require face coverings on their premises even after government-issued face covering orders have been rescinded. “


When Should I Stop Updating COVID Regional Dashboards?

Are the daily summaries still useful to you? The numbers are going down in general, but they aren’t at zero and new variants are making their way through the system. When should I stop summarizing the data?

I was thinking that perhaps if we hit zero cases in Vermont for 5 days in a row, that could be a signal to call it quits. But NH still has a pretty high transmission rate (around 3%), and MA isn’t at zero yet, either though their numbers have impressively declined.

What say ye? Let me know what you’d like…