MONTPELIER, Vt. (WFFF) — On Wednesday, Gov. Phil Scott announced that plans are underway for $2 million to be set aside in an effort to incentivize vaccinations for Vermont students, teachers, and staff.
“Teachers, superintendents, and so forth will be monitoring the situation, but we wanted them to get enthusiastic about the process and we thought this was one way of doing so,” Scott said.
“We’re really trying to push beyond 80%, and ultimately we’d like to see all students get vaccinated, but also differentiate the grant award based on the enrollment of the school,” said Education Secretary Dan French. “We’re still doing the math to make it work.”
Scott and French also said that the two-week universal masking recommendation for schools has been extended through October 4 due to the ongoing spike of COVID-19 cases caused by the Delta variant.
This comes amid tensions over masking in schools, with reports of school board meetings turning into shouting matches, and in one case, ending early because community members refused to mask up. Scott said he’s noticed it across the board, from people who are against mask mandates and from those who feel the state isn’t doing enough to protect students and communities.
“With the delta wave has come a wave of divisiveness and anger,” Scott said. “If we’re truly going to move forward, we’ve got to reflect on the language we use, the fear and anger these words might stoke, and the wounds we’re deepening. This is the time to rally and pull together because COVID-19 is not going away, and we must not let it tear us apart.”
Vermont Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine has often remarked on “pandemic fatigue,” but on Wednesday, he said that term might not be strong enough to capture the current situation. He believes there’s never been a point in the pandemic where people have been this divided.
“I’ve never seen such differences in people’s awareness of and view of the current conditions,” Levine said. “People who are steadfastly for or against vaccines or masks. People who are pushing for more masks, people who shame the unvaccinated and blame them for current events.”