Vermont hospitals can handle virus peak, models show

By Guy Page

April 13, 2020 – The State of Vermont’s latest computer modeling now shows Vermont hospitals will have enough beds to handle the hundreds of expected Covid-19 cases at its peak, a senior spokesman for the Scott administration said at a press conference Friday. 

The State’s 400+ available hospital beds will suffice under both optimistic and less-optimistic scenarios, Commissioner of the Department of Financial Regulation Michael Piecak said. He cautioned however that stay-at-home and social-distancing orders must stay in force because without them the modelings could “turn on a dime,” administration official says. The following are a sampling of questions asked and answers given at the press press conference.

Given the more positive results shown in the modeling, did the State of Vermont overreact with its State of Emergency orders?

“The more successful we are, the more it’s going to look like we overreacted,” Gov. Scott said. “I’ll take the blame for that, over the alternative path that we had more deaths than predicted.”

Many people have said ‘you’re ‘overreacting,’” Scott said. “They may be right in some respects but it is only because of the steps we have been taking.”

Are fewer Vermonters filing for unemployment?

State unemployment officials said daily new applications for unemployment are down to 1500-3000 per day, from a peak of about 6000, Dept. of Labor Commissioner Michael Harrington said. The 70,000 unemployed Vermonters represents a 20% employment rate – which he stressed is not a response to economic trends, but to the Covid-19 response measures. But it will be “a long process” for Vermont to return to historic unemployment lows of 2.4% seen just a month ago.

When and for which businesses will the first lifting of restrictions occur?

Landscapers and other outdoor businesses will be among the first business sectors to have restrictions lifted on a gradual basis, and it may well happen before the state of emergency ends on May 15, Gov. Scott said. “We will open the spigot a quarter-turn at a time,” he said repeatedly. These decisions will be Covid-19 data-driven, he said. 

Gov. Scott also took exception to the statement that he has “shut down” businesses. “We have not shut down any businesses,”  His administration is promoting curbside service and delivery. “The goal is to prevent people from congregating….”We want people to be able to sell their products but to do it in a different way.”

Asked about his decisions prohibiting gatherings of more than 10 people – essentially freezing business activity for weddings, graduations, and other events involving large groups of people – Scott said, “This is counterintuitive to everything I have stood for. But I am hopeful we can go back to where we were.”

Photo: Gov. Scott removes his mask before beginning April 10 press conference.