Understanding Vermont's "Stay Home. Stay Safe" Executive Order

(Posted 3/25/2020)

As nearly everyone in Vermont is probably aware, late on Tuesday, March 24, Governor Scott issued an addendum to his original executive order; this addendum orders people to “stay home and stay safe in order to slow down the spread of COVID-19 in Vermont and protect ourselves, our families, and our neighbors.

You can find details, discussion, and clarification of what the order might mean for you and your family in the linked articles below.

However, if you are feeling overwhelmed by too many articles and radio/TV broadcasts, we offer the following simplified summary:

1. This addendum, like the original Executive order, is first and foremost a public health measure. It is intended to slow down the spread of COVID-19 and “flatten the curve” so that our hospitals are not overwhelmed and the front line service workers on whom we all depend are able to continue their essential work during this COVID-19 epidemic. 

[To quote Governor Scott during his 3/25/20 press conference: "I need you to stay home...Doing so will save lives. It's just that simple ... Everyone should be erring on the side of public health."]

2. Although this order to “stay home” and “stay safe” will undoubtedly inconvenience most of us and in many cases create emotional uncertainty and/or financial hardship, it may also protect hundreds of thousands of individuals from contracting the virus and help to insure that if they do require hospital care for any reason during this emergency, the hospitals will be able to provide the beds and needed equipment to do so. 

[If you have any doubts about this, we strongly recommend that you listen to this highly informative VTDigger podcast interview with Dr. Joshua White, chief medical officer at Gifford Medical Center. ]

3. The current order addendum does NOT prohibit people from leaving their homes for any reason; it allows them to do so for personal safety; groceries or medicine; curbside pick-up of goods, meals or beverages; medical care; exercise; care of others; and [certain] work.” 
[As Governor Scott was quoted in the Times Argus: “We understand there are basic needs, you can leave for essential things like going to the grocery store and the pharmacy, or to seek medical care, or as I said earlier just to get out and get some fresh air and some exercise... but if you’re unsure about something, whether you should be doing it or not, err on the side of public health and stay home.”]

4. Note that this exception to “stay home” includes going outdoors for exercise, including walking, as long as one can and does observe social distancing of at least 6 feet. (We might add that getting out of the house for a walk or other exercise can also help reduce stress, a known factor in immune system health.) 
[As Governor Scott has been quoted in various media: “Take your dog for a walk. Grab your running shoes or get your cross-country skis out... just keep your distance from others while doing so.”]

5. Even though some of us in Vermont may not know anyone (yet) who has been confirmed as being infected by COVID-19, the evidence is clear: as more people in Vermont are able to be tested, more are being found to have contracted the virus; and every day more people in Vermont are dying from COVID-19 related symptoms. 
[To quote Governor Scott on VPR: "This virus is spreading quickly...It may not have affected you yet, but all too soon, many of us will know someone personally, and then it will seem all too real."]

6. People who think they don’t know anyone who has contracted the virus are likely to be mistaken because the early stages for the majority of cases are asymptomatic; however this is the real danger to everyone they may encounter when they are out and about: they are carriers of the disease without realizing it and are likely to spread it to others, including high-risk individuals like people who are 60+ and/or have underlying health conditions like diabetes, asthma, other respiratory system weaknesses, or compromised immune systems. That is why this executive order is calling on Vermonters to “do the right thing” and self-regulate; i.e. “to stay home and stay safe.”
[To quote Governor Scott on VPR: “Vermonters will self-regulate, much like they have with other orders. Folks want to be safe, want loved ones and friends to be safe as well....This is about public health and ensuring that our healthcare system remains viable and has plenty of space for people.”]

And finally, we share with you this Facebook Post:
I’m an intensive care specialist in a small city.
Coronavirus isn’t just like the flu, but it’s only really very dangerous to the elderly or the already unwell. Quite a lot of people in their 80s will die, but most of the rest of us will probably be okay.
If you’re in your 70s and you get Coronavirus, you’ve got a really good chance of survival. If I’ve got a bed for you.
If you’re in your 60s and you have a heart attack, you’ve got a really good chance of survival. If I’ve got a bed for you.
If you’re in your 50s and need bowel cancer surgery, you’ve got a really good chance of survival. If I’ve got a bed for you.
If you’re in your 40s and have a bad car accident, you’ve got a really good chance of survival. If I’ve got a bed for you.
If you’re in your 30s and have terrible pre-eclampsia as a complication of pregnancy, you’ve got a really good chance of survival. If I’ve got a bed for you.
If you’re in your 20s and have a bad reaction to a party drug, you’ve got a really good chance of survival. If I’ve got a bed for you.

I have 7 beds equipped with life support machines. We have a plan to increase to about 25. Getting more isn’t a matter or more equipment or more money, that bit is easy. There are not enough skilled staff, even if we all work double shifts every day for six months (and we probably will).
If 50% of my city gets infected, that’s 75,000 people. If 5% of them need life support (which is the estimate), that’s 3750 people. For 25 beds.
And then I might not have a bed for you.

So it’s up to you to flatten the curve. Wash your hands. Stay home.

The actual text of the 3/24/20 addendum: 

The Barre-Montpelier Online Times-Argus


Can I go out? And other questions about the ‘stay home’ order (3/25/20)

Vermont Public Radio (VPR)

Vermont Gov. Phil Scott: 'I Need You To Stay Home' (3/25/20)

Scott Issues 'Stay Home, Stay Safe' Order. What Does This Mean For Vermonters? (3/25/20)

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