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Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger expressed “deep concern” Friday about the coronavirus outbreak at the Burlington Health & Rehab Center, noting there were “significantly more” patients and healthcare workers showing symptoms at the center than the five confirmed positive tests.
A resident in her 80s who lived at the center died from the illness Thursday.
Weinberger said that during a call with state officials Friday morning, he requested that all symptomatic patients and healthcare workers at the facility be tested, which Health Commissioner Mark Levine confirmed was happening. Weinberger said he also requested assurance from the state and the rehab center that the latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was being followed at the facility.
He said he was most concerned about ensuring that those with the virus and suspected to have the virus were being isolated. Weinberger said Levine told him the center was “working toward” the isolation of infected and suspected infected patients, and Weinberger asked for confirmation when that had been achieved.
Weinberger said he also asked Levine if any of the health care workers who were showing symptoms had worked in other health care facilities. Levine said he would get back to Weinberger with an answer, the mayor said.
As the city’s restaurants and bars closed this week and residents were encouraged to practice social distancing, the city’s parks have been well-utilized, Weinberger said. But he said people should be mindful and keep a distance of at least 6 feet apart to prevent the spread of the virus.
“We’re seeing people outside, and that’s a good thing,” he said. “We are concerned about some of the activity we have seen in the parks.”
The city is worried about people playing basketball, congregating in large groups and using playground equipment that could be a vector to spread the disease. The city is installing new signs barring those kinds of activities in the parks, and will be monitoring parks this week to ensure those rules are followed.
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Weinberger said he had reached out to Gov. Phil Scott about the possibility of ordering the closure of movie theaters, gyms, recreation facilities and other businesses where social distancing is not possible.
Scott issued a new order closing businesses including exercise facilities, hair salons and others Saturday morning. He also restricted gathering sizes to no more than 10 people.
The City Council will consider a resolution Monday to address the crisis, Weinberger said. This resolution would adjust the city’s employee leave policy and establish a Burlington Resources and Recovery Center to help residents access federal, state and city resources.
The resolution will also explore fee, penalty and tax waivers and extensions and attempt to address the upcoming “significant” reduction in city revenues, Weinberger said.
Weinberger said the city is also working with the Department for Children and Families to expand the motel voucher program to provide housing to homeless residents in hotels and motels and ensure that social distancing can happen in shelters.
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