Vermont governor tells schools to question students about their Thanksgiving gatherings

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Vermont Gov. Phil Scott has authorized the state’s school districts to question students about their activities following their Thanksgiving break with an eye towards finding out if they and their families violated his COVID-19 holiday travel and gathering restrictions.

In a lengthy Twitter thread, Scott, a Republican, relayed the story of Mary Pat Brown, a mother of six from Bristol who died earlier from the virus.

“I appreciate the Browns’ willingness to share their story and put a name to the very real consequences of this virus. These deaths are not just numbers. They’re people who loved their families and their communities, and who are no longer with us because of this terrible virus,” Scott wrote.

“This is a tragic reminder of why we’re asking Vermonters to sacrifice to slow the spread of the virus, protect the vulnerable and keep families like Mary Pat’s whole,” he continued.

“There are some who want to do the right thing but don’t see the risk in getting together. But with the amount of virus in our communities right now, even trusted friend and households are at much higher risk and may not know they have the virus,” he added.

He went on to chastise people who violate his coronavirus restrictions on gatherings and other activities.

“Maybe you just aren’t worried about getting the virus. You’re young/healthy, you can work remotely or you just don’t think it’s a big deal. But you never know if you’re going to be the domino that leads to a nursing home outbreak or pushes an entire school to remote learning,” Scott wrote.

The GOP governor said “enough of these dominoes put our health care facilities at risk,” while noting that it’s up to all residents to protect “family and friends.”

“So I’m asking you to help by avoiding getting together with people outside your households and not travel this week,” he continued, noting further that violations will be met with punitive actions for students and parents.

“Unfortunately, we know some will still get together and schools have asked for help. @VTEducation will direct schools to ask students or parents if they were part of multi-family gatherings and if the answer is yes, they’ll need to go remote for 14 days or 7 days and a test,” he said.

“I know asking you to sacrifice yet again is frustrating. But there is light at the end of the tunnel and we’ll get there. The sacrifices we make today and in the next few weeks will ensure we get to the end faster, stronger and in a better position than any other state,” Scott wrote after acknowledging that Vermont has the lowest number of COVID-19 cases and deaths in the U.S.

Unsurprisingly, several Twitter users blasted Scott and compared his interrogation order to life under historic authoritarian regimes.

While several governors not only issued travel bans and restrictions but also urged neighbors to call police on suspected violators, others state leaders took the opposite position.

In Missouri, Gov. Mike Parsons, a former state lawmaker and a sheriff, declared that “government has no business” regulating gathering in residents’ homes.

“The holidays are coming, and as the Governor of the State of Missouri, I am not going to mandate who goes in the front door of your home,” he tweeted. “Government has no business going through the front door of your homes to decide how many members of your family are there, how many are not.”

Parsons did advise residents to do all of the things health experts have recommended during the pandemic such as washing hands, wearing a mask, and socially distancing.

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem made a similar commitment to her residents ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday.

“In South Dakota, we won’t stop or discourage you from thanking God and spending time together this Thanksgiving,” she tweeted. “I’ll continue to encourage each and every one of you to exercise personal responsibility and make smart choices.”

Jon Dougherty

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