It was one of the signal moments of the George W. Bush presidency. The leader of all Americans yukking it up with the rich and powerful, making sport over his assiduous cosseting of The Ruling Class.
Well, it’s looking more and more like Gov. Phil Scott’s heart is in the same place.
On Thursday, Commerce Secretary Lindsay Kurrle sent a memo to the Vermont business community on the subject of the pandemic. I guess she’s proud of it, because her agency also released it to the press. I’m not sure she should be; the memo is a glimpse into the real priorities of the Scott administration, and helps explain his refusal to consider any steps that might interrupt the flow of commerce.
Kurrle’s memo urges businesses to take steps to limit the further spread of the virus. This indicates that despite its public optimism, the administration is seriously worried about the next phase of the pandemic.
The most telling line in the entire thing: “Should we see an influx of positive test results, it could impact your ability to operate.”
Not “it could spread suffering and even death among Vermonters.” Not “it is likely to take an outsized toll on the most vulnerable among us.” Nope. The big concern is that businesses might have to limit operations or even shut down. Oh, the humanity!
Kurrle begins with obsequious praise for business leaders who “stepped up” in the face of the coronavirus. She wrote of “your sacrifices” — not those of front-line workers or the suddenly unemployed or the vulnerable elderly, but the real heroes of the pandemic: our bosses. “You rose above fear and frustration and acted without knowing when you would open your doors again,” Kurrle wrote. “Thank you for all you have done for our state.”
Gag me with a spoon.
Kurrle pivots to a reassurance that the administration is “working hard to continue to move forward and toward the collective goal of finally put this pandemic behind us. And we get closer every day.”
Yeah, given the rising tide of bad news about the Omicron variant, that’s got a distinct odor of “whistling past the graveyard” about it.
But despite the “tremendous progress we have made,” Kurrle writes, the pandemic has overstressed the health care system and exacerbated existing issues with mental health and substance use. So, in this time of need, she is once again turning to the pillars of our community: the bosses.
She warns that “your employees are likely to gather with family and friends over the next two weeks increasing chances for continued spread of COVID-19.” Damn those irresponsible employees with their weak-minded fondness for loved ones! These family gatherings, she writes, makes it more incumbent on businesses to be the responsible ones.
Kurrle cites the governor’s favorite fake statistic — only 5% of adult Vermonters unvaccinated, as previously discussed — to drive home the message that we just need one more big push to get us across the finish line.
What steps should employers take? Mandatory vaccination or frequent testing, a review of workplace health and safety policies (in order to minimize hospitalizations for any reason), and “be thoughtful and caring” about workplace interactions of all kinds. Because who knows what kind of irresponsible stuff Bob Cratchit is getting up to with his family, amirite? He might even give Tiny Tim a hug!
Kurrle then promotes a December 20 webinar for employers to get the latest information and ask questions about the pandemic, and closes with another thank-you “for all you do for Vermont and Vermonters.” What selfless patriots our bosses are!
Basically, Kurrle is urging businesses to do what the Scott administration refuses to — limit gatherings and mandate vaccinations/testing. Because state-imposed mandates don’t work, as the governor is so fond of reminding us. But private sector mandates, I guess, are highly effective.
She and her boss very much hope so.