Burlington residents concerned with out-of-state students returning
College students are moving into apartments across the Queen City this week, leaving many residents worried the influx of out-of-staters could lead to a COVID-19 outbreak.
As hundreds of college kids began returning to Burlington this past weekend, some residents say the city, the University of Vermont, and Champlain College should immediately start knocking on doors in the New North End, impressing upon returning students the importance of following the guidelines set forth by Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger.
The schools and the city's current plan is called "Box it in." The pilot program entails testing all returning students and isolating any who test positive for coronavirus. It also includes increasing police patrols in places populated by students, which started this past weekend.
But many residents say they're anticipating more problems, regardless. "We don't know exactly where they're coming from, what hotspots they're coming from. I'd like to presume that everyone is healthy, but we know that this is how outbreaks start -- kids, people going on vacations during Spring Break or Winter Break and then coming back to their communities," said Kirstin DiPietro-Worden, a Burlington resident.
The Worden family has lived in the Old North End for more than two decades. And they say while most students are respectful of the people who live here, they've seen and heard huge college parties almost every single night since the local graduations. They hope the returning students will take Governor Phil Scott's and the mayor's guidelines of social-distancing and mask wearing seriously, but they aren't very confident that'll happen.
"I just hope that folks who are moving to the city during this time tune into that and are aware and considerate for the neighbors and everyone that lives here year-round," said Kevin Worden from Burlington.
Others say they wish the students would just stay away for a little while longer. "It'd be nice if they stayed away until the fall. I wasn't expecting too many people would show up over the summer, honestly, so I'm not sure how many are going to come in. But if there's a couple more students on the street, I don't think it'll make that much of a difference," said Paul Hobbs, a Burlington resident.
But not knowing how many people plan to move back to Burlington, he anticipates it will make a big difference. Hobbs has lived with his family in the Old North End for years and says he's seen it transform from a party-ridden street to a responsible neighborhood. He says college kids have learned to respect the individuals who live there year-round and he hopes it stays that way.
"Vermont's doing better than anyone thought, that the hospital projected. There's fewer people up there, but then we get an influx of tourists and visitors and students, and it could change things," said Hobbs.
COVID-19 testing shows very few recent cases of the virus in Vermont, encouraging officials to ease many restrictions. Governor Phil Scott last week expanded social gathering limits from 10 to 25-person.
City officials say they are doing what they can to keep citizens safe. The "Box it in" plan protocols kick off on Wednesday, where students are asked to get tested at a pop-up National Guard site in the parking lot of UVM's Waterman Building.