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Are Vermonters' fears about out-of-staters irrational?

(WCAX)
Published: May. 14, 2020 at 6:00 PM EDT
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Many people took advantage of the sun on Thursday, and some took a trip to the Green Mountains to soak it up.

He had New York plates on his car. He was allegedly told to leave and that Governor Scott didn't want him here either.

Our Dom Amato spoke with a psychiatrist to learn more about some people's fears of out-of-staters during the pandemic.

"I think initially there was some concern, right, as things were unfolding. There's always the fear of the unknown," Stowe Town Manager Charles Safford said.

Safford says around two-thirds of homes in Stowe are second homes. In an area that's normally flooded with out-of-state license plates this time of year, even one during the pandemic can cause concern for many.

"We chose to focus on asking everyone to be community-minded and follow the governor's guidelines than the color of the license plates," Safford said.

Jennifer Lindsley and her family are visiting the area from New York.

"Honestly, to get the kids out of the house," she said.

Lindsley says the family doesn't plan on quarantining here for the recommended 14 days.

"I don't think so, we really haven't had any contact with anyone besides ourselves," she said. "On the trails, if we see people we do kind of spread apart and do stay 6 feet away from people to keep everyone safe."

"I think for some, they really feel like they're doing their best and they really aren't a risk on an individual basis," said Dr. David Rettew, a child psychiatrist at the UVM Medical Center.

Rettew says some Vermonters may feel that out-of-staters are taking advantage of the slow progression of COVID-19 cases in the state, and if they're following the rules, others should, too.

"This probably comes from a combination of fear and also people have a tendency to have a very acute sense of fairness," Rettew explained.

He says these are not completely irrational fears, as Gov. Phil Scott has asked out-of-staters to not visit. But those fears can easily become irrational.

"Certainly if there were a flood of people with COVID-19 that came into towns, that would be a problem," Rettew said. "I think where it becomes a little bit more irrational is taking this big leap from that situation to a single person who very likely may be following the rules."

And Rettew believes we can be better at trusting each other.

"As a society, I think we're better if we try to assume the best in people and try to trust, and not just assume others are breaking the rules and out to take what little resources we have," he said.

Rettew says there isn't one reason people would resent an out-of-state resident or guest, strong emotions could come from those with anxiety or who are at a high risk of infection.

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