CITY OF BURLINGTON: Mayor Miro Weinberger Declares Emergency and Announces New City Actions in Response to COVID-19


City of Burlington issued the following announcement on March 16.

Today, Mayor Miro Weinberger announced new City actions in response to the coronavirus. These actions are:

Declaring an emergency in the City of Burlington in order to exercise emergency powers to protect public health and safety;

Ordering the closing of all bars and the cessation of in-person dining for 24 hours starting at 6:00 am tomorrow, March 17, which is St. Patrick's Day, with the likelihood that these closings and cessations will continue;

Cancellation of all Board and Commission meetings through March while we develop a plan and mechanism for remote public meetings, with the exception of the Board of Finance and City Council meetings on March 23, which we will still hold. Please look out for additional information on remote plans for these two March 23 meetings;

Closing or restricting access to all City buildings and curtailing many City services in the interest of social distancing, starting Wednesday, March 18 and continuing at least until April 6. Please see the City's landing page for coronavirus updates for information about suspended or restricted City services; and

Suspending disconnections of municipal utility services for non-payment until further notice and working to put together a broad relief package.

Read Mayor Weinberger's full announcement:

Good afternoon.

Yesterday in our Telephone Town Meeting I advised Burlingtonians that many elements of daily life were likely to change in the coming days in response to the global outbreak of coronavirus.

Today, we are announcing new City actions and more of those changes.

The City is taking further action because we are dealing with a global pandemic unlike any other that we have seen in modern times.

Around the world and the United States, we are seeing this virus spread at an almost exponential rate.

In northern Italy we have seen the health care system completely overwhelmed by the virus, resulting in likely avoidable deaths e believe of patients infected by the virus, patients suffering from other illnesses, and health care workers.

Within this country, in Seattle, the site of one of the earliest and largest COVID-19 outbreak in America to date, medical supplies are running low, administrators are searching for ways to expand hospital bed capacity, health care workers are being asked to work extra shifts as their peers self-isolate, and hospital administrators are rapidly changing protocols as the outbreak stresses the system.

Here in Vermont, we are hopeful that we may still be able to take decisive steps to slow the spread of the virus and keep our health care system functioning well throughout this emergency.

While we do not know how many individuals in this community are currently infected, the fact that a very low number of patients are hospitalized at this time is a positive current fact.

I believe it is my job to do everything within my authority and responsibility to keep these numbers as low as possible, to protect this medical capacity, and to flatten the curve of new infections.

Already, the City has taken a number of actions in service of this effort in recent days.

Today, I am announcing new actions in the City’s response.

First, I am declaring an emergency here in the City of Burlington in order to exercise emergency powers to protect public health and safety.

Second, starting Wednesday, the City will close or restrict access to all City buildings and curtail many City services in the interest of social distancing. Our expectation is that these closings and curtailments will be in effect until at least April 6 and possibly longer.

We will suspend in-person programming of the Fletcher Free Library, Burlington City Arts, and Parks, Recreation & Waterfront Department.

Numerous other City services will be suspended or restricted. Our current plan – subject to change – will be detailed on the City’s website later today on our landing page for all coronavirus updates: https://www.burlingtonvt.gov/covid-19

I want to be clear that we intend to continue many City services throughout this emergency. These include: Water, electricity, emergency response, maintenance of streets and sidewalks, and recycling pickup. These also include internal functions like human resources and payroll, as I have committed to all City employees that we will ensure that they will continue to be paid no matter what actions or cancellations the City must take during this public health emergency.

Third, as a further social distancing strategy, I am ordering the closing all bars and cessation of in-person dining for 24 hours starting at 6:00 am tomorrow, March 17, St. Patrick’s Day – traditionally a day of large crowds in Burlington – in the interest of enforcing the Governor’s order banning crowds over 50 people. I believe it is highly likely that these closings and cessations will continue beyond Tuesday and will update the public tomorrow on this. Restaurants will still be able to offer food takeout and delivery. (Update: Following the City's announcement, Governor Scott announced that bars and restaurants will close for in-person drinking and dining starting at 2:00 pm on Tuesday, and continuing through April 6. The Mayor's order of closure starting at the earlier time of 6:00 am Tuesday is still in effect).

Before announcing further actions, I want to pause to acknowledge that while we hope these actions will save lives and otherwise protect our community, we know that they will cause economic damage. I have great concern about how these steps and others announced at the state and federal levels will impact hourly-wage workers, renters, and small businesses. I know many members of our community have great uncertainty and fear about how they will cope in the immediate future.

To address that uncertainty and make sure we are doing everything possible to ensure that vulnerable members of our community get the help they need in the days, weeks and months ahead, I have tasked Luke McGowan, the Director of the Community and Economic Development Office, to head up our relief efforts.

We expect to have considerable additional measures and information to share about this relief effort later in the week. For now we can announce the following:

The City will suspend disconnections of our municipal utility services – electricity and water – for non-payment until further notice. Of course, Burlingtonians who can pay these bills should continue to do so.

Further, I have confirmed that the organizations that house our most vulnerable populations in Burlington (CHT, BHA, Cathedral Square) have committed to the goal of suspending all evictions and the city will support them in this effort.

Further, I urge all private property owners to commit to voluntarily suspend evictions for individuals who can supply documentation of COVID-related economic hardship

Again, I know that additional steps will be needed, and I have instructed our team at CEDO to review all of municipal fee waivers, tools, and programs that we can use to offer relief to residents and local businesses in the days and weeks ahead. I plan to have another announcement regarding a relief package as soon as possible in the coming days.

There will be many questions to work through in the days and weeks ahead.

We don’t have all of the answers yet. But we are working hard and with creativity to respond to all of the needs of this crisis.

Lastly, I want to thank Governor Scott for his leadership in recognizing the magnitude of this crisis and taking swift action to address it.

I am also grateful for the action that Burlingtonians of all backgrounds have taken already to protect the community, their neighbors and elderly populations. We will need much more of this ethic of personal responsibility and sacrifice in the days to come.

For more information, see:

Mayor Weinberger's Executive Order Declaring a Coronavirus Emergency [PDF]

Original source can be found here.

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