Scott: Mask compliance through education, not mandate Visitors still must self-isolate for 14 days

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2020 Telegraph Publishing LLC

Gov. Phil Scott speaking at his May 4 press conference

While Gov. Phil Scott often says that his administration’s Covid-19 related decisions are “data driven and based on the best science,” when it comes to compliance with its public health directives (including the use of masks and the self-quarantining of people coming from out of state) it seems more anecdotal than empirical.

Over the past few weeks, Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine has regularly described his personal experience in visiting a store or two on the weekends and noting that the numbers of shoppers and employees using masks. Then on Friday, May 1, Scott lauded the high rate of compliance.

Asked why the administration had issued “guidance” rather than making the use of masks mandatory, Scott said, “I’d rather lead people than force them to do something. I think education and guidance is a much better path to doing the right things for the right reasons.”

Sign advising visitors to Vermont to self isolate for 14 days.

Having heard from readers complaining that locals as well as second homeowners are shopping without face coverings, on Monday The Telegraph asked Scott what efforts the state was making to educate the public including those coming to the resort areas from out-of-state and not quarantining.

Scott said that it is a very difficult situation to manage and pointed to the signs travelers see as they enter the state saying to self-quarantine for 14 days.

“We’ve tried to communicate that through every single press conference we’ve had – that you need to quarantine when you come into the state,” Scott said, adding that he hoped The Telegraph would reiterate the state’s guidelines.

“Anecdotally, we’re seeing more compliance – I’ve  seen it more in our region, I’m not sure why it isn’t in your region. But anything we can do to promote it would be positive,” said Scott, who then called upon Dr. Levine to talk about his latest trips to the stores.

The health commissioner said that in an informal weekend survey of one large box store and one supermarket, 90 percent of people were wearing masks.

The first screen of the state’s non-compliance reporting tool

“We’re really trying to create a cultural norm. Cultural norms come through people understanding and being educated, some element of peer pressure, some element of businesses saying you can’t enter if not facially covering,” said Levine, adding that, over time, that would build up to a level that it will be the exception rather than the rule that someone without a mask is seen entering a store.

“It’s really trying to evolve our culture, if you think about it in a very short number of weeks how many new cultural norms that we couldn’t have imagined before Covid. We’ve shown we are all capable of achieving these things,” said Levine.

The governor said that if there is abuse of the quarantine order for those entering the state, there are places on the Public Safety and Agency of Commerce and Community Development websites to make a complaint so the state could follow up.    As of publication time, the non-compliance reporting tool did not include not observing quarantine as a category for reporting.

Clinic visits, diagnostics, outpatient surgeries to resume

Also on Monday, Gov. Scott announced that the state would ease restrictions on clinic visits and diagnostic imaging such as mammograms. Scott also said that outpatient surgeries and procedures could resume but both announcements came with a long list of precautions and requirements.

These include:

  • screening of patients and staff for Covid-19
  • use of protective equipment
  • the wearing of mouth and nose coverings by patients
  • spacing of chairs in waiting rooms
  • written procedures for disinfection of common areas
  • signage to emphasize social restrictions and
  • access to hand sanitizer.

Providers of outpatient surgery also must use those precautions plus screening and testing requirements for patients and staff as well as protective equipment that does not tax the state supply.

If a Covid-19 outbreak occurs, the Health Department may require all providers in the region to return to the standards set out in the executive order issued on March 20.

Latest Covid-19 numbers

Since the daily tally of new positive tests for Covid-19 hit zero last week, the numbers have bounced back with two days of double-digit increases.

As of Monday morning, the total number of cases hit 902 with the number of deaths remaining at 52. By Tuesday, that number of cases rose by 5 to 907 while the deaths remained at 52. The number of people hospitalized with Covid-19 dipped to 8, where it remained on Tuesday and the number hospitalized under investigation rose from 7 on Monday to 25 on Tuesday.

The number of illnesses in Windsor remained at 43 while one more case was detected in Windham, which as of Tuesday has 73

As of Tuesday, the state has tested 17,518 people for the virus, up from 17,332 on Monday.


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