College restrictions announced

Fall semester to end at Thanksgiving; masks, social distancing, behavior contracts mandatory

By Guy Page

July 7, 2020 – At Gov. Phil Scott’s press conference today, a  Vermont higher education task force released Covid-19 “mandatory guidance”  for Vermont colleges this fall: quarantines for visitors, mandatory masks and/or social distancing when not in dorms, limited travel, limited special events. Food service at dining halls will be takeout, or by SD scheduled sit-down dining. There will be no more than two students per dorm room. First semester classes will end at Thanksgiving, and second semester will begin later in 2021. Disciplinary action for staff and students includes firing/expulsion for those who refuse to comply.

No decision has been made on whether athletic competition in high-contact sports will continue. As for student eligibility to live off-campus, there will be no further restrictions than at present.. “We decided to hold all students to the same standard,” Schneider said. 

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Greg Lamoureux of the County Courier questioned State of Vermont guidelines for dispensing $150 million in economic recovery funds to businesses. He said he has spoken to a local business owner who said “she clearly qualified, but didn’t need it and she was going to take the money and save it for a rainy day.” Administration official Joan Goldstein responded that applicants have to show 50% loss in any one month, must spend money on losses that arose due to the Coronavirus, and must spend all money received by the end of December.  

Does a business need to demonstrate these qualifications, Lamoureux asked? Goldstein did not answer directly, but said businesses should keep good records because “there is opportunity for audit.”

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In response to a question by Seven Days reporter Kevin McCallum, Health Commissioner Mark Levine said police brutality protests have not contributed to the uptick in Covid-19 cases. Concerns to the contrary “have not been borne out by the data,” he said. 

Most protesters at these outdoor events are wearing masks and practicing social distancing, he said. This is in contrast to large numbers of people swimming, sitting, eating and drinking on beaches who are not practicing any mask and social distancing, he said. 

The June 23 Boston Globe reported voluntary testing among Massachusetts protesters showed a 2.5% infection rate, slightly over the 2% statewide infection rate. 

PHOTO CREDIT NORWICH UNIVERSITY – former president Richard Schneider, who today unveiled a new set of Covid-19  “mandatory guidelines” for Vermont colleges.