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MASK POLICY AND TOMORROW'S SPECIAL SESSION:
REP. KATHLEEN JAMES: STATEMENT FOR CONSTITUENTS
November 21, 2021

In recent weeks, Vermont has hit record-high levels of COVID infection rates as the highly contagious Delta variant continues to spread through our communities. In the last week, Bennington County — along with the Northeast Kingdom and Rutland County — has recorded the highest rates in Vermont.

As I write this, Vermont has the ninth-highest case rate in the nation, according to the New York Times. Our hospitals and ICU units are at capacity, and our schools, students and families continue to suffer from the negative impact of ongoing quarantines. Our state once led the nation for its COVID response, but now we’re breaking all the wrong records.

In a recent meeting with Vermont Health Commissioner Mark Levine and the Bennington County legislative delegation, Dr. Levine explained that the pandemic is now largely driven by unvaccinated Vermonters. On any given day, roughly 70-plus percent of new cases are occurring among the unvaccinated, with our youngest children — ages 0-9 — leading all age categories for infection rates, followed by ages 10–19. This is because most of our children are not yet fully vaxxed.

I strongly agree with Gov. Scott, Dr. Levine and the overwhelming majority of medical experts that vaccination is safe and effective, and that it should be our first and most important strategy. But in the face of a deadly pandemic that to date has killed 400 Vermonters, we must also be willing to deploy additional, common-sense public-health measures to get COVID under control.

Masks are an effective and scientifically proven way to control the spread of COVID among both vaccinated and unvaccinated Vermonters. That’s why the Centers for Disease Control and Vermont Department of Health are currently recommending mask-wearing in all indoor public settings. And according to a study published this week in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) — the first global study of its kind — mask-wearing is the single-most effective non-pharmaceutical public-health measure people can take, reducing COVID incidence by 53 percent.

It’s important to understand that vaccinated people can still contract COVID and therefore can spread the virus to others, even if they’re only mildly ill or asymptomatic. And an unvaccinated child can carry the disease to friends or family members. When everyone is masked, the risks of transmission are reduced, by half, for everyone.

We all want the pandemic to be over. But it’s not. Right now, 82 percent of Vermonters ages 12 and up are fully vaccinated. That’s promising. But until we hit high vaccination rates across all age groups — and until our case numbers drop below an agreed-upon threshold — Gov. Scott should enact a statewide, data-driven indoor mask policy. He has always had the authority to do so. Legislative action is not required.

Masks can help us avoid the dire outcomes we all want to avoid: more infections, more serious illness, more people struggling with long COVID, more deaths. And a data-driven indoor mask policy —one that switches indoor masking on and off based on case rates—could help us to keep our schools, businesses, restaurants and lodging facilities open and keep our economy moving forward.

When Vermont ranks ninth in the nation for COVID case rates, it harms our communities and undermines our recovery. And there are many times — in the life of a nation and in our own lives — when we must make choices that advance the collective good. Data-driven mask policies allow us to avoid more-restrictive measures, like lockdowns and business closures, that no one wants to return to — and can help us move more quickly to a time when masks are no longer necessary.

Gov. Scott has declined to enact a statewide approach. So I support the town-by-town option, which is the only step the Governor has said he will allow the legislature to take. He has said very clearly that he will veto anything broader. And when the legislature is not in regular session, attempting an override is not an option.

The municipal approach won’t have the same impact — a contagious virus doesn’t pump the brakes at town borders — but it will give local communities the power to debate and enact their own, more-protective public-health policies. A number of Vermont communities are asking for this authority, and the Vermont League of Cities and Towns has endorsed this approach.

Tomorrow, the legislature will meet in special session to consider masking policy for Vermont. Though it was a hard decision, I won’t be there to vote — I’ll be with my family on holiday plans made months ago. Through this statement, I want to be sure constituents know where I stand and why I won’t be in the statehouse on November 22.

The legislature will return to session on January 4, and relevant committees will take testimony from medical experts and review the latest scientific data and research to consider the best evidence-driven course of action for our state. I look forward to that important work.

I am happy to answer any questions. Email is the best way to reach me: KJames@leg.state.vt.us.
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MASK POLICY AND TOMORROWS SPECIAL SESSION:
REP. KATHLEEN JAMES: STATEMENT FOR CONSTITUENTS
November 21, 2021

In recent weeks, Vermont has hit record-high levels of COVID infection rates as the highly contagious Delta variant continues to spread through our communities. In the last week, Bennington County — along with the Northeast Kingdom and Rutland County — has recorded the highest rates in Vermont.
 
As I write this, Vermont has the ninth-highest case rate in the nation, according to the New York Times. Our hospitals and ICU units are at capacity, and our schools, students and families continue to suffer from the negative impact of ongoing quarantines. Our state once led the nation for its COVID response, but now we’re breaking all the wrong records.
 
In a recent meeting with Vermont Health Commissioner Mark Levine and the Bennington County legislative delegation, Dr.  Levine explained that the pandemic is now largely driven by unvaccinated Vermonters. On any given day, roughly 70-plus percent of new cases are occurring among the unvaccinated, with our youngest children — ages 0-9 — leading all age categories for infection rates, followed by ages 10–19. This is because most of our children are not yet fully vaxxed.
 
I strongly agree with Gov. Scott, Dr. Levine and the overwhelming majority of medical experts that vaccination is safe and effective, and that it should be our first and most important strategy. But in the face of a deadly pandemic that to date has killed 400 Vermonters, we must also be willing to deploy additional, common-sense public-health measures to get COVID under control.
 
Masks are an effective and scientifically proven way to control the spread of COVID among both vaccinated and unvaccinated Vermonters. That’s why the Centers for Disease Control and Vermont Department of Health are currently recommending mask-wearing in all indoor public settings. And according to a study published this week in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) — the first global study of its kind — mask-wearing is the single-most effective non-pharmaceutical public-health measure people can take, reducing COVID incidence by 53 percent.
 
It’s important to understand that vaccinated people can still contract COVID and therefore can spread the virus to others, even if they’re only mildly ill or asymptomatic. And an unvaccinated child can carry the disease to friends or family members. When everyone is masked, the risks of transmission are reduced, by half, for everyone.
 
We all want the pandemic to be over. But it’s not. Right now, 82 percent of Vermonters ages 12 and up are fully vaccinated. That’s promising. But until we hit high vaccination rates across all age groups — and until our case numbers drop below an agreed-upon threshold — Gov. Scott should enact a statewide, data-driven indoor mask policy. He has always had the authority to do so. Legislative action is not required.
 
Masks can help us avoid the dire outcomes we all want to avoid: more infections, more serious illness, more people struggling with long COVID, more deaths. And a data-driven indoor mask policy —one that switches indoor masking on and off based on case rates—could help us to keep our schools, businesses, restaurants and lodging facilities open and keep our economy moving forward.
 
When Vermont ranks ninth in the nation for COVID case rates, it harms our communities and undermines our recovery. And there are many times — in the life of a nation and in our own lives — when we must make choices that advance the collective good. Data-driven mask policies allow us to avoid more-restrictive measures, like lockdowns and business closures, that no one wants to return to — and can help us move more quickly to a time when masks are no longer necessary.
 
Gov. Scott has declined to enact a statewide approach. So I support the town-by-town option, which is the only step the Governor has said he will allow the legislature to take. He has said very clearly that he will veto anything broader. And when the legislature is not in regular session, attempting an override is not an option.
 
The municipal approach won’t have the same impact — a contagious virus doesn’t pump the brakes at town borders — but it will give local communities the power to debate and enact their own, more-protective public-health policies. A number of Vermont communities are asking for this authority, and the Vermont League of Cities and Towns has endorsed this approach.
 
Tomorrow, the legislature will meet in special session to consider masking policy for Vermont. Though it was a hard decision, I won’t be there to vote — I’ll be with my family on holiday plans made months ago. Through this statement, I want to be sure constituents know where I stand and why I won’t be in the statehouse on November 22.
 
The legislature will return to session on January 4, and relevant committees will take testimony from medical experts and review the latest scientific data and research to consider the best evidence-driven course of action for our state. I look forward to that important work.
 
I am happy to answer any questions. Email is the best way to reach me: KJames@leg.state.vt.us.

Comment on Facebook

No mask mandates!

Congratulations!

Tourists are noticing and bookings are down.

With the large influx of tourists the state is seeing, a mask mandate is going to be key.

Thank you, Kathleen. Happy Thanksgiving.

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Please join us at our constituent coffee hour this morning from 9 to 10:15. PM me for the Zoom link!
The Vermont National Guard wants to increase participation in the VA Airborne Hazards and Open Air Burn Pit Registry. Veterans who qualify should contact the Vermont National Guard Veteran Outreach Specialist in their respective county. Call 888.607.8773 or see the link below:

https://veteran.mobilehealth.va.gov/AHBurnPitRegistry/#page/home
Fun to spend time today with BBA sophomores studying government and civics. Great questions for me and Rep. Kelly MacLaury Pajala. And the new Founders Hall, designed by BBA grad Kyle Murphy, is truly remarkable. The future is bright!

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Omg that looks like a college! WOW

Very impressive!

Very impressive

CONSTITUENT COFFEE HOUR: SATURDAY

Seth and I are hosting two online constituent coffee hours as we gear up for the 2022 legislative session. Join us on Zoom from 9 to 10:30 am:

Saturday, November 20
Saturday, December 18

Please email KJames@leg.state.vt.us at least 30 minutes prior to each meeting for the link. We looking forward to hearing your questions, concerns and ideas.

Well also be hosting regular coffee hours in 2022 — look for the schedule in a future email and in the local papers. The session starts on January 4.

Thank you for your leadership, Becca Balint, State Senator and Jill Krowinski. >>>

VERMONT SENATE PRESIDENT PRO TEMPORE BALINT'S STATEMENT IN RESPONSE TO RECORD HIGH COVID CASE COUNT

Montpelier, Vt. – Today, Senate President Pro Tempore Becca Balint issued the following statement:

“Earlier today I requested a meeting with Governor Phil Scott to discuss the Covid-19 infection numbers that were released today. I conveyed to his staff that it’s long past time for his administration to pivot in their approach to the pandemic. Four weeks ago I made the same request. Today, 591 new cases were reported, the highest number to date, we have 53 Vermonters hospitalized, and 14 of those are in intensive care units. These numbers speak for themselves--this is unacceptable and we cannot continue this way. Although the governor was not able to accommodate my request today, I sincerely hope we are able to meet tomorrow and together begin to map out a better path forward for Vermonters. We cannot afford to wait another day. The administration’s plan is not working.

As far back as August, when the Speaker of the House and I reached out with concerns about the Delta variant we were told by the administration that the covid infection rates would plateau in a few weeks time. This didn’t happen--not in September or October. We continued to press for a shift in strategy and asked the tough questions about why that was not being done. Now we are seeing our highest numbers yet and our greatest community spread, and his team is still not using all the tools at our disposal. This is taking a terrible toll on families.They do not have the support they need to ride out this crisis.

I am one of many parents across Vermont whose child is home from school and is quarantining this week because she was potentially exposed to a positive case in her school. My spouse and I are juggling childcare while also doing our jobs. We are far from the only ones, but we are fortunate to have resources that other families don’t. Neither of us have to sacrifice a shift, or a paycheck, or a job to stay home with our children. Many Vermont families are at a breaking point; this surge in infections is crushing them. Staying the course on a failing strategy doesn’t make sense. We must be using every tool we have to help reduce the community spread of the disease.
It isn’t too late to change course. We can re-institute a masking mandate, and it can be tied to rates of infection in hot spots. Other states have already done this. We can still reduce the number of infections, the number of hospitalizations, and the number of Vermonters who will die from this highly contagious virus.

When things aren’t working, strong leaders do not stick their heads in the sand. They re-evaluate, pivot, and commit to a new path. This virus is unpredictable. We all hoped infection rates would drop as more Vermonters got vaccinated, but clearly that hasn’t happened, and we are overdue for a reassessment of strategy and a course correction. It has to happen now. I look forward to talking with the administration about how to get this done.”
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Thank you for your leadership, Becca Balint, State Senator and Jill Krowinski.  data-recalc-dims=>> VERMONT SENATE PRESIDENT PRO TEMPORE BALINTS STATEMENT IN RESPONSE TO RECORD HIGH COVID CASE COUNT Montpelier, Vt. – Today, Senate President Pro Tempore Becca Balint issued the following statement: “Earlier today I requested a meeting with Governor Phil Scott to discuss the Covid-19 infection numbers that were released today. I conveyed to his staff that it’s long past time for his administration to pivot in their approach to the pandemic. Four weeks ago I made the same request. Today, 591 new cases were reported, the highest number to date, we have 53 Vermonters hospitalized, and 14 of those are in intensive care units. These numbers speak for themselves--this is unacceptable and we cannot continue this way. Although the governor was not able to accommodate my request today, I sincerely hope we are able to meet tomorrow and together begin to map out a better path forward for Vermonters. We cannot afford to wait another day. The administration’s plan is not working. As far back as August, when the Speaker of the House and I reached out with concerns about the Delta variant we were told by the administration that the covid infection rates would plateau in a few weeks time. This didn’t happen--not in September or October. We continued to press for a shift in strategy and asked the tough questions about why that was not being done. Now we are seeing our highest numbers yet and our greatest community spread, and his team is still not using all the tools at our disposal. This is taking a terrible toll on families.They do not have the support they need to ride out this crisis. I am one of many parents across Vermont whose child is home from school and is quarantining this week because she was potentially exposed to a positive case in her school. My spouse and I are juggling childcare while also doing our jobs. We are far from the only ones, but we are fortunate to have resources that other families don’t. Neither of us have to sacrifice a shift, or a paycheck, or a job to stay home with our children. Many Vermont families are at a breaking point; this surge in infections is crushing them. Staying the course on a failing strategy doesn’t make sense. We must be using every tool we have to help reduce the community spread of the disease. It isn’t too late to change course. We can re-institute a masking mandate, and it can be tied to rates of infection in hot spots. Other states have already done this. We can still reduce the number of infections, the number of hospitalizations, and the number of Vermonters who will die from this highly contagious virus. When things aren’t working, strong leaders do not stick their heads in the sand. They re-evaluate, pivot, and commit to a new path. This virus is unpredictable. We all hoped infection rates would drop as more Vermonters got vaccinated, but clearly that hasn’t happened, and we are overdue for a reassessment of strategy and a course correction. It has to happen now. I look forward to talking with the administration about how to get this done.”" data-querystring="_nc_cat=100&ccb=1-5&_nc_sid=8024bb&_nc_ohc=JJ8Dt9tmAbkAX-zDRnx&_nc_ht=scontent-sjc3-1.xx&edm=AKIiGfEEAAAA&oh=fce89e5c0f12bf52794af41115afa655&oe=61ACD7D4" data-ratio="1200" class="cff-multi-image" />

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Now is the eminent time with cold weather upon us and lock down indoors

Thank you, Speaker Krowinski! I'm behind you 100 percent. Vermont led the nation earlier in the pandemic. Now we're setting all the wrong records. It's long past time to get this done.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

SPEAKER KROWINSKI CALLS ON GOVERNOR SCOTT TO TAKE IMMEDIATE ACTION FOLLOWING ANNOUNCEMENT OF VERMONT’S HIGHEST RECORDED CASE COUNT SINCE THE START OF THE PANDEMIC

Montpelier, Vt. – Speaker Jill Krowinski today issued the following statement:

“The first thing that came to mind when I saw today’s case count of 591 was, ‘Why? Why is more action not being taken to protect Vermonters and keep our communities safe? Why don’t we implement the strategies we know work, like a mask mandate, to mitigate the spread of COVID-19?’ The Governor has stated that he has the tools available to support our communities, but has yet to utilize those tools and has not articulated when the appropriate time is to roll out the mitigation strategies we know work. That time is now. That time was yesterday. That time was a month ago.

“Parents, students, business owners, health care providers, educators, and local officials are exhausted and looking for the Governor and his administration to take steps to support them in their day to day lives. Early on in the pandemic, Vermont was heralded as a leader in our response to the pandemic and the tremendous effort that went into collaborating and finding collaborative solutions to support our families, friends, and neighbors. Our communities are still making sacrifices to support each other, but they need the Governor and his team to take state action to give them some relief. We are not talking about shutting down businesses or implementing travel restrictions. A statewide masking policy, reminding Vermonters of the effective ways that we can protect ourselves and others - like staying home when you are sick, and increasing the availability of testing are all ways we can bend the curve like we did in the beginning. The data presented at the most recent press conference shows that we are on track to have this level of community spread for the next four weeks, and it is unfathomable to me that nothing is being done to address this unprecedented spread of the virus in every county in the state.

Vermonters are absolutely burned out and cannot understand why more is not being done to mitigate the spread in our communities. The Governor has the power and authority to take immediate action, he has before, and I know he can do it again. This is not a political decision; this is a decision that should be made based on following the data and the science. Governor Scott, please take action today to implement a statewide masking policy and utilize other strategies we know will make a difference in protecting Vermonters.”
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Thank you, Speaker Krowinski! Im behind you 100 percent. Vermont led the nation earlier in the pandemic. Now were setting all the wrong records. Its long past time to get this done.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

SPEAKER KROWINSKI CALLS ON GOVERNOR SCOTT TO TAKE IMMEDIATE ACTION FOLLOWING ANNOUNCEMENT OF VERMONT’S HIGHEST RECORDED CASE COUNT SINCE THE START OF THE PANDEMIC

Montpelier, Vt. – Speaker Jill Krowinski today issued the following statement:

“The first thing that came to mind when I saw today’s case count of 591 was, ‘Why? Why is more action not being taken to protect Vermonters and keep our communities safe? Why don’t we implement the strategies we know work, like a mask mandate, to mitigate the spread of COVID-19?’ The Governor has stated that he has the tools available to support our communities, but has yet to utilize those tools and has not articulated when the appropriate time is to roll out the mitigation strategies we know work. That time is now. That time was yesterday. That time was a month ago. 

“Parents, students, business owners, health care providers, educators, and local officials are exhausted and looking for the Governor and his administration to take steps to support them in their day to day lives. Early on in the pandemic, Vermont was heralded as a leader in our response to the pandemic and the tremendous effort that went into collaborating and finding collaborative solutions to support our families, friends, and neighbors. Our communities are still making sacrifices to support each other, but they need the Governor and his team to take state action to give them some relief. We are not talking about shutting down businesses or implementing travel restrictions. A statewide masking policy, reminding Vermonters of the effective ways that we can protect ourselves and others - like staying home when you are sick, and increasing the availability of testing are all ways we can bend the curve like we did in the beginning. The data presented at the most recent press conference shows that we are on track to have this level of community spread for the next four weeks, and it is unfathomable to me that nothing is being done to address this unprecedented spread of the virus in every county in the state. 

Vermonters are absolutely burned out and cannot understand why more is not being done to mitigate the spread in our communities. The Governor has the power and authority to take immediate action, he has before, and I know he can do it again. This is not a political decision; this is a decision that should be made based on following the data and the science. Governor Scott, please take action today to implement a statewide masking policy and utilize other strategies we know will make a difference in protecting Vermonters.”

Comment on Facebook

Yeah like mandatory vaccines to travel and must show card for proof.

On top of this, this alarming story from NPR about deer infected with covid! www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2021/11/10/1054224204/how-sars-cov-2-in-american-deer-could-alt...

Gratitude and thanks today, and every day, for those who serve.
Tough loss to Proctor but props to the Arlington girls soccer team for making it all the way to the state championship game! Congrats on a fantastic season and Go Eagles! 🦅💥🙌🦅💥🙌Image attachment

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Arlington played a great game

Fabulous

Awe I saw the balloons

Questions about COVID vaccines for children? Join Dr. Judy Orton of Green Mountain Pediatrics in Bennington and Southwestern Vermont Medical Center for a live FAQ event on November 10 at 6 pm. Register and submit your questions at the link below.

https://vtdigger.org/2021/11/05/faq-live-the-childrens-covid-vaccine-in-vermont/