Concerned Plainfield residents can rest easy tonight following an announcement from AHS that the state has scrapped its controversial plan to lease Goddard College for use as a COVID-19 recovery facility. In an interview earlier this week, AHS Deputy Secretary Kerry Sleeper told The Bridge the state was close to finalizing a contract with Goddard to lease a large portion of the campus as housing for vulnerable patients recovering from COVID-19. Some Plainfield residents openly opposed the plan, citing increased health and safety risks to the community and criticizing the state’s failure to include community members in the decision-making process. “I wanted to share the news I just received from Kerry Sleeper relating to the Wellness and Recovery Campus at Goddard College,” Plainfield Emergency Management Director Sasha Thayer posted on Facebook page Plainfield People earlier today. In the social media post, Thayer relayed an email from Sleeper explaining why the state decided not to pursue the contract. Thayer provided The Bridge with a copy of the email.“As a result of reviewing the very latest COVID-19 caseload and related modeling, I have determined that the State does not require the bed capacity that Goddard offered as a potential site,” Sleeper said. “All our decisions to identify potential surge sites were premised on ensuring we could meet the isolation needs of recovering Vermonters given the projected worst-case scenario.” Sleeper said data including case numbers and new modeling reviewed by the state earlier this week suggested Vermont was “beginning to fall into a more moderate rate of infection.” The new data provided reason for “cautious optimism in the crisis management process,” he said. “Based on the data I am currently seeing, I have asked Building and General Services not to engage in a contract with Goddard,”
Sleeper wrote. “Good crisis management also requires that we constantly reexamine the available data and reevaluate in order not to waste resources.”
Despite the state’s decision, Sleeper cautioned citizens against assuming the COVID-19 crisis is coming to an end.
“I want to be careful not to project the idea that we have resolved this health crisis,” he said. “We all have a lot of work to do over the next several weeks.”
Sleeper thanked the citizens of Plainfield for their “thoughtful feedback” regarding the issue, and Thayer for her “stewardship and advocacy.”
“I am pleased that while it appears the Goddard facility is not necessary, our mission to protect Vermonters continues on,” he said.
But some residents are struggling to accept the deep ideological divide between neighbors they formerly viewed as members of the same team.
“The ugliness that I saw in my neighbors is not something I will soon forget,” said Dawn Fancher. “It seems it doesn’t take much to push some people to dangerously stigmatize others. The reaction of some in the community was pretty chilling.”
“I appreciate the care and thoughtfulness that seems evident across this state in sorting out how to adequately care for and serve those who are directly affected by the COVID-19 virus,” said Thayer. “There are rarely easy answers to the problems that arise in such times.”