BURLINGTON, Vt. – Mayor Miro Weinberger joined other city leaders on the steps of Burlington City Hall to formally announce the end of the coronavirus state of emergency in the Queen City.
He also detailed a new report that documents the city’s response to COVID-19 as well as ongoing recovery efforts.
“What I’ve learned over the last 457 days and what this community I think should long remember, is that even in the face of a seemingly insurmountable challenge, the people of Burlington are capable of forging incredible progress,” Weinberger said.
The report includes a timeline of the mitigation measures, recovery efforts and other initiatives that made up the city’s COVID-19 response — from the formation of the Resource and Recovery Center to the city resolution to require masks in retail and city buildings to limits on gatherings at bars, restaurants and households.
UVM Medical Center President Dr. Stephen Leffler, a regular guest at Weinberger’s weekly remote briefings, said he believes Chittenden County had the best response in the nation.
“If you actually look at what we accomplished, how few deaths we actually had, how quickly we got people vaccinated, how well we worked together to keep hospital capacity available, we accomplished that because we all worked together every day on this,” Dr. Leffler said.
The report claims that communication was key to Burlington’s response, with strategies including work groups representing various segments of the community, providing translation and interpretation, data-based visualizations, and bringing trusted community voices into the fold. Burlington partnered with the Vermont Department of Health to gain access to city-level data on testing based on race, and developed an 8-point plan for the city’s COVID-19 response that prioritized getting COVID tests and vaccinations to Burlington’s BIPOC community.
It was also a response that often asked people to step well outside their usual roles – Mayor Weinberger recalled Burlington International Airport’s Aviation Director Gene Richards coming to him last March with a plan to get fabric for thousands of masks.
“A truckload, an actual truckload of bulk denim,” Weinberger said. “I would bet, even though I don’t have the research on this, that Gene was the only airport executive in the country using his talents to procure fashion-grade fabrics in the winter of 2020.”
While the report outlines recovery efforts, some of that work is just getting underway. Kara Alnasrawi, Church Street Markeplace Director and Director of Economic Recovery, said there’s roughly $900,000 to be spent that was approved by city council last month. A sizeable amount of it will go toward reactivating the economy and the community.
“Encouraging people to come out, re-engage with our local retailers, re-engage with the arts and music, and you’ll be seeing a lot of those programs rolling out, including reactivations in different neighborhoods of the city,” Alnasrawi said.