Schools to quiz students, parents about Thanksgiving travel

by Guy Page

In hopes of reducing a looming increase in Covid cases and hospitalizations, Gov. Scott today announced at his twice-weekly press conference three measures:

  • The Monday after Thanksgiving, Vermont school staff under direction from the Agency of Education will be ask returning students and parents if they traveled to other households for Thanksgiving dinner. If they answer yes, the students will be required to attend school via remote learning for at least 7 days.
  • Gov. Scott said businesses will be urged to ask employees the same question. Again, if the answer is yes, they will be asked to quarantine. 
VTrans sign in Guilford, on MA border

Calvin Cutler of WCAX asked if it’s realistic to expect that enough people will tell the truth. “I’m just hopeful they will, for the good of everyone,” Scott said. “In the anticipation of that question, maybe you [listening Vermonters] ought to cancel some of the plans you have made.”

Doesn’t that put kids in the position of tattling on their parents, Wilson Ring of the Associated Press asked. Scott stood firm: “This is fair warning. If you’re planning on having gatherings outside your households, if you don’t want to have your kids in remote learning and quarantine for a 7 day period, maybe you should make other plans. I’m not sure it’s ‘tattling’ on anyone.”

Lisa Scagliotti of Waterbury Roundabout, a parent of a middle schooler, asked if parents have been notified about the plans for Monday. Secretary of Education Dan French said the information went out from his agency yesterday. 

  • The Vermont Principals’ Association is postponing indefinitely the start of school sports. The season was scheduled to begin Nov. 30. School sports “are paused until further notice,” Scott said.

Scott declined to impose further restrictions. “We think what we’re doing is working,” he said. However he freely used the ‘bully pulpit’ of the press conference to once again reinforce the need to follow existing regulations, especially concerning the upcoming holiday. 

“There are some who want to do the right thing but don’t see the risk of having lunch with a friend…or having people over for dinner,” Scott said. “Even your trusted friends and households are at much greater risk and may not even know they have the virus.” 

For the young, healthy and unconcerned, Scott advised: your actions could hurt others. “You never know when you’re going to be the domino who causes a nursing home outbreak or leads an entire school to go to remote learning.”

“Being smart now means we’ll get out of this sooner and stronger,” Scott said. 

THANKSGIVING THREAT OVERBLOWN? – Vermont Daily asked, “Last year over Thanksgiving, the World Cup in Killington alone drew 36,500 attendees, many from out of state. That won’t be happening this year. Is it accurate to use 2019 Thanksgiving travel numbers to project a spike in 2020 new cases and deaths?”

“The mobility data was for illustrated purposes,” Commissioner Michael Piecak said. Last year between 100,000 and 125,000 people were traveling in Vermont over the long weekend. “That event could have contributed,” but there’s still plenty of other travel to consider. Furthermore the 2020 Thanksgiving health risk assessment is based on gatherings of 10 people or more. 2019 was not the basis for that analysis,” he said. 

WHICH VACCINE IS BEST? Asked this question, Health Commissioner Mark Levine said he lacks the data but did discuss the decision-making parameters. “We want to understand their measures of efficacy, and adverse events,” he said. Levine also wants to know how many shots are needed: “a vaccine that has only one would be nice.” Another issue is storage temperature – the Pfizer vaccine needs ultra-cold storage, and the Astrozeneca does not, he said. 

Regardless, immunization will not be immediate upon vaccination. “It’s a matter of weeks” before the vaccine makes the recipient immune, Levine said. 

DONOGHUE SURPRISES – Reporter Mike Donoghue, a famously tenacious inquisitor of public officials over a 52-year career, surprised many listeners by passing on asking any questions. Instead, “in the spirit of Thanksgiving,” he praised Gov. Scott for his leadership and press accessibility.

“You understood that reporters act as watchdogs, not lapdogs,” Donoghue said. He lauded Scott’s transparency at an estimated 90 press conferences since the pandemic began. “I’m going to pass on questions today, and my wife and I will wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving.”

LONGWINDED REPORTERS WARNED – Citing time concerns, Scott Administration Communications Director Rebecca Kelley repeatedly has asked reporters to be succinct – often with little luck. “If we continue to have to cut short those reporters at the end of the queue, we’re going to have to reconsider the format to ensure more equal time is given across outlets,” Kelley said in an email to reporters 10 minutes before today’s call. 

To emphasize her point, Kelley included a spreadsheet listing reporters’ question(s) at the last presser, and – most important – how long the exchange took. Apart from the rushed minute-or-less allotted to the final three reporters, Vermont Daily had the briefest exchange: two minutes flat. The longest was Donoghue, whose four, unsurprisingly insistent questions consumed eight minutes, 30 seconds. 

Second longest was VT Digger’s Lola Duffert: four questions, eight minutes. The four VT Digger reporters on the call took 18 minutes, 15 seconds. The four reporters for WCAX needed just shy of 15 minutes combined.

25 replies »

  1. Good Lord. If parents need a reason to demand School Choice, this is it. What they’re not telling you is what they will require the parents to do. And if the State is allowed to ask this question, today, God knows what questions it will ask of our children in the future. I can see jack boots worn by Agency of Human Service agent’s on parent’s necks as abuse and neglect charges are thrown about like pebbles on the playground.

    Parents should keep their kids out of school for 7 days after the holiday in any case. If the question persists beyond that time period, you will know the intent of the interrogation has nothing to do with public safety. In that case, parents and their children should plead the 5th. On advice from counsel, be advised to assert your rights under the 5th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, and not answer the question.

    “No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation”

    • For the record, I regret my citation of the ‘Sig Heil’ remark and apologize for using it.

      • Thank you Jay – inferring it to be your wish, I have removed it. Not trying to censor, just respect the wishes of the author.

    • Good ole Guvnah should read up on the Stasi and Gestapo….started somewhere. Maybe Fuhrer Scott will vant the children to do more than just turn their parents in for violating his thanksgiving orders! Grab those brownshirts to dress them in for school

    • Stunning. The secretary of human services is a former Navy Seal who had led a life of saving lives. Stop insulting hard working Americans.

  2. This is communism at its worst. Teachers spying on behalf of the government asking kids what they did outside of school. Parents should instruct their children (whether they submitted to the governors rules or not) to refuse to answer any question a teacher asks like that. This is “BIG BROTHER” at its worst.

  3. Our governor has seriously overstepped his authority here in my opinion. To demand that students of all ages answer questions about how they’ve spent their time during a federal holiday is unethical if not illegal. And to ask businesses to do the same to affect the wages/employment of good people is beyond obnoxious and heavy handed. The tone of this is that most of us cannot and will not make good decisions, that we are selfish and don’t take the virus seriously. Governor Scott needs to apologize to the people of Vermont for his insulting and arrogant pronouncements.

  4. My mom, Barbara Bowen, grew up in Oslo Norway. She was in elementary school during the NAZI invasion of Norway. Hitler’s soldiers were stationed I; her school and listened in on the children’s conversations during recess in the school yard. She was plagued with these nightmarish memories til her death. The threat of covid is minimal compared to the flu in years past. This prison sentence which mr Scott has “suggested” people accept is unacceptable. When are y’all gonna wake up and fight back? Www. Make Americans free again. Com

  5. I can’t believe we have stooped so low as to interrogate our children in an effort to deprive us of our God given rights. Totally unconstitutional! I wish we new this when we voted for these dictators.