Communities around the globe are being affected by the spread of the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, and Essex is no different.
Schools and businesses are being shut down while events are being cancelled by the minute. Stores across town are running low on inventory as some shoppers stock up on food, cleaning supplies, and paper goods.
Other shoppers, however, are just trying to find their usual amount of products.
“My daughter needed some, and I need some,” said a 74 year-old Essex woman who asked not to be identified after purchasing a small amount of toilet paper. “I think it’s sad that people are panicking. I’m not--yet, anyway. Just be more careful.”
In addition to schools being closed until April 6, the Essex Middle School’s eighth-grade trip to Washington, D.C. and the sixth-grade trip to Cape Cod this spring have both been cancelled.
Pitchers and catchers at Essex High were scheduled to start practicing on Monday (March 16) with the rest of the spring teams having a start date of March 23. However, the Vermont Principals’ Association announced Monday morning that it would mirror the governor’s state of emergency timeline for school closures and pushed back the beginning of practices until at least April 6.
Many people are heeding the advice of healthcare professionals and practicing social distancing--avoiding contact with the public as much as possible. Others, however, are trying not to let the situation disrupt their normal routines.
Tristan Woodward, a former Essex resident who now lives in Fletcher, visits The EDGE Sports & Fitness in town after work five days per week. He was found heading into the facility Friday afternoon--being shocked at how few cars there were upon arrival.
“I am very surprised,” he said, “because every time I come here, this parking lot is chock full of people. Today, there’s nobody here; it’s so rare for me to see this on a Friday.”
He also said that he wasn’t planning to do anything additional while working out.
“I wipe down the equipment every time I use it,” Woodward commented. “I don’t foresee myself doing anything different or out of the ordinary. I think people are definitely taking this thing a little bit too far.”
The Essex Westford School District (EWSD) is trying to assist families following the governor’s announcement that schools would be closed by March 18 until, at least, April 6. The district said it is collaborating with the state to provide childcare options for healthcare workers and others who are essential to the COVID-19 response.
While schools are closed, EWSD will continue to provide meals for its students. Starting March 19, breakfast and lunch will be bagged at Essex High and can be picked up with a drive-thru style service at Maple Street Park (8-10 a.m.), Essex Elementary (9-11 a.m.) and Westford School (10 a.m.-12 p.m.) Monday through Friday. The pair of meals is available at no cost for all children 18 and under--no application or prior approval being needed.
With property taxes being due by March 16 and dog licenses being required by April 1, a dropbox by the door of the town offices located at 81 Main Street became a helpful way to limit the amount of people going inside.
While the doors to the Brownell Library will be closed to the public starting March 18, services will still be available. Among other options, people can call in with requests--the outsides of those materials being disinfected before they are put in a paper bag and left in the rear entryway of the building for pick up.
On the horizon for the Village of Essex Junction is its annual meeting slated for April 1. Board of Trustees President Andrew Brown said that the village will not hold its dinner, and the board is exploring what it can do about the actual meeting.
“We are consulting with our attorney and the Secretary of State’s office as we must hold an annual meeting and we must have a budget passed by the voters before June 30, 2020,” Brown said in a Monday email to the Reporter. “Because our charter specifies the budget must be voted on at annual meeting, we are exploring what legal options exist.”
Brown also noted that officials made the decision to close the Essex Area Senior Center until further notice to keep the senior population safe and healthy. The Essex Senior Van is also being limited to grocery shopping, well visits to medical offices, and prescription pick-ups from pharmacies as long as the passenger has been symptom free from coughs, colds, flu, fever, shortness of breath, and difficulty breathing for the past 14 days.
Additional measures include closing off the Essex Rec building at 75 Maple Street to the public and cancelling Village Kids childcare and after-school care as of March 18.
“I am thankful for the professionalism and expertise that our staff has and their regular contact with the Vermont Department of Health, Vermont League of Cities and Towns, neighboring communities and other sources of credible information,” Brown’s email added. “At the core of any municipality is to do what is best for the safety of our community and we take this responsibility seriously.”
As some restaurants close their doors, a pair are going in the opposite direction. MARK BBQ and Heart n Soul are usually open Thursday through Saturday, but they decided to get cooking a day early this week and open on Wednesday to provide a free meal for anyone with food insecurities--offering grilled chicken, vegetables, and mashed potatoes or penne with marinara or meat sauce.
“Our commitment to our community has never fallen short, and it’s not going to fall short now,” said owner Darrell Langworthy in a video posted on MARK BBQ’s Facebook page. “It’s time for us to step up, and we’re going to do just that… This isn’t like hoarding toilet paper, people. We need to take care of those that really need it. We need to do what we can for our communities.”
Langworthy noted on the Facebook page that this will continue every Wednesday until the situation clears up.
On March 12, Essex Unified Manager Evan Teich and Essex Police Chief Rick Garey posted the town and village’s municipal response to the state of affairs.
“This situation is changing every day,” the statement said, in part. “Municipal staff are not experts on the Coronavirus and so we are monitoring and following the Vermont Department of Health and CDC recommendations and guidelines for safe operation of our municipal functions and services. In order to make sure the best and most up to date information is being used/delivered, we are referring staff and the public to the VT Department of Health and CDC webpages which are updated daily. We are referring calls from the public about this topic to 211 or recommending they call their doctor. Emergency Services (police, fire & rescue) will continue to meet as needed to discuss potential updates to procedures to insure the continued delivery of all emergency services to our communities.”
Vermont State Representative Linda Myers has announced that she will not be running for reelection to the House this year.
Myers has been representing the Chittenden-8-1 District since September 2001 when she was appointed to fill the seat of her late husband, Representative Martin Myers, who died in office. She then ran for, and won, nine consecutive two-year terms to become the longest-serving representative from Essex.
“By the end of my current term, I will have served in the Legislature for 19 years,” Myers said in a recently-sent press release. “Add my 13 years of service on the Essex Selectboard that were concurrent with my job in the Legislature, including four of those years as chair, and I feel I have given a significant part of my life in service to my community. It is time for me to step down and give the opportunity to others to service Essex in Montpelier.
“While I am not specifically in favor of legislated term limits,” Myers noted, “I do believe that at some point a legislator should personally decide when to step down, and this is my time.”
During her time in Montpelier, Myers spent 13 year on the Corrections and Institutions Committee--eight of those being as the vice chair. She also served two years on the Commerce and Economic Development Committee and is currently helping write the state budget as a member of the Appropriations Committee. Myers is on the Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules and the Judicial Nominating Board. Additionally, she has served on the Legislative Corrections Oversight Committee and is a former chair of the Legislative Women’s Caucus.
“I have really enjoyed my years in the Legislature,” Myers added, “working for Vermont and the people of my district. I have met so many wonderful citizens of Essex who have taken the time to call me or meet me in town or in Montpelier. I want to thank all of the Essex residents who have supported me and have voted for me over the years. It has been my pleasure to serve.”