Pandemic Push Back: Vermonters Should Speak Up Now Before It’s Too Late

May 29, 2020

By Aimee Stephenson, Ph.D.

As Vermont begins to re-open, I am hopeful to see more of my friends beginning to relax. Fear is a funny thing. Similar to our perceptions of risk and safety, fear is deeply personal. Getting over fear and moving toward a feeling of safety again is something each individual must reconcile within them self. But what will help us along the path to getting over our fears? For me, there are three things I find helpful. The first is learning more and gathering additional information to rationally and logically assess a situation. The second is knowing I am not alone in the conclusions I draw. The third is doing something with these ideas, which usually entails communicating with others. That is what I am attempting here.

Although it was only a few months ago, it seems like a different world when our political leaders justified their executive orders with phrases like “flatten the curve” and “abundance of caution?” Armed with only erroneous models and absolutely no real data, they declared a state of emergency to grant themselves enormous power with incredible latitude to exercise it. They claimed a “data-based approach” but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Even now, with their models disproven, there is little attention given to the data we actually have from the pandemic. If our political leaders are earnestly taking a “data-based approach,” then why is it okay to ignore this data, and in doing so, subject us to irrational and absurd precautionary measures that continue to strangle the economy and demoralize society?

So what is the real data from the pandemic telling us? As tragic as the situations were in New York and Italy, we now know that 70%–80% of COVID-19 deaths occur among those over 70. This same data also confirms that the risk of death for the population under 50 years of age is close to zero. Yes, I am very aware there are some heart wrenching stories about younger individuals succumbing to COVID-19, but these cases are extremely rare.

The stark reality is that across the board, regardless of age, 93% of all COVID-19 deaths have been in individuals with an average of 2.5 pre-existing medical conditions. This is an incredibly telling statistic! Even with the older population, deaths are predominantly among those who are quite sick already, or at the very least, those who cannot be deemed healthy. If you are under 50 without health issues, you do not need to worry about the coronavirus any more than you worry about getting in in your car every day.

Yet the media and our political leaders would have you believe the opposite – not only is infection both imminent and probable, but if infected, death is almost a certainty. We have the data now to know this is an extremely unlikely scenario for the 71% of Vermonters who are 50 or under. While it is not clear how many Vermonters have pre-existing medical conditions, it is probably safe to assume many are healthy and would be unlikely to die from COVID-19.

There is a whole other side of data from the pandemic that relates, not to COVID-19, but to the economy and society. The unemployment rate has skyrocketed higher than it has been in nearly 100 years, millions of Americans are struggling financially, businesses of all kinds are at risk of closing, and our personal freedoms have been taken away and are severely threatened moving forward. We are at the mercy of a very small number of people hoarding enormous power, and as a result of their policies, suicide and child molestation rates are on the rise. And unlike COVID-19, the economic and societal fallout from the pandemic is both universal and pervasive. No one, not even the very rich, have been able to escape these impacts.

What’s even more horrifying is how little some around me seem to care about what we have lost and the real damages we have suffered as a result of the incredibly disproportionate and inappropriate reaction to the pandemic. I’m astounded by the complacency, and even more so, the willing submission in the hopes that the government will protect us from the coronavirus. Our government can no more protect us from an airborne illness than they could protect us from Hurricane Irene. Vermonters need to realize it is not the virus we need protection from but our own government. The evidence and despair are all around us on a daily basis, and no mask or 6-foot rule will save us from these policies.

Perhaps my situation is incredibly rare, but I don’t know a single individual who has had COVID, much less died from it. But I can say that 100% of my friends, co-workers and acquaintances have been impacted, some staggeringly so, by the economic fallout of the government edicts we are living under. Pointing to the incredible inequality in this country made starkly worse by the pandemic, Margaret Atwood recently warned that a “French Revolution” scenario is inevitable if the American political system does not change. Well I, for one, feel the proverbial heads should roll. Are there other rational and logical Vermonters who feel the same? We need to stand together and make our voices heard by the very few who are currently micromanaging our lives with what seems like an endless stream of dictatorial executive orders and addendums.

Your voice is urgently needed now so we don’t go any further down the “abundance of caution” rabbit hole. The re-opening restrictions are so severe, it’ll be a wonder if businesses of all kinds survive this unnecessary prolonging of the crisis. I am also appalled by the changes being discussed for schools in the fall, all in the name of “accommodating COVID-19 safety precautions.” School in shifts or entirely online, insisting kids wear masks, keeping desks 6 feet apart? These are completely absurd, irrational, and pointless guidelines. And lest us not forget, before it is too late, that these are currently “guidelines,” not outright laws. I fear legislation is right around the corner. Now is the time to speak up.

While I am hopeful my friends are relaxing, I am even more hopeful to see many of them shift toward anger and indignation over the current situation. More and more they are realizing there is little to fear about COVID-19, but there is a lot to be angry about. Our political leaders have perversely taken advantage of the power provided through “state of emergency” statutes. If anything productive comes out of this crisis, let’s hope it is a reform of these laws. Governors in other states are being sued over their stay-at-home orders, and many are losing. Look at Wisconsin. Whether our political leaders honestly believe they are protecting Vermonters or their egos are too big to admit their mistakes, they have painted themselves into a corner and this whole situation is an atrocity. The media and the political class are the ones we truly need to fear and the ones we need to protect ourselves from.

— Aimee Stephenson has a doctorate in Microbiology and Molecular Genetics from the University of Vermont (2001)

{ 29 comments… read them below or add one }

John R Fraser May 29, 2020 at 9:01 pm

I agree with You 100% , And Yes I’m sick of it and have been since the start !. Thank You Aimee Stephenson for taking a stand to get the Blood of this Nation back in motion !!!.

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doug richmond May 30, 2020 at 1:48 pm

This is the best essay, about the biggest danger facing our civilization of free Citizens.

If we act like Sheep, we will be governed forever more – AS SHEEP

Masks, tracking, closures, jobs lost, with huge restrictions on “Life, Liberty and Pursuit of Happiness…
Religion, Assembly, travel, Adequate schools, work and earn……………………….

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michael f williams May 29, 2020 at 9:33 pm

Amen Sister!
I couldn’t agree more. Hopefully more of our fellow Vermonters will wake up to this
government power grab.

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Mike May 30, 2020 at 12:49 pm

Aimee, you are probably too young to remember, but in the late 1930’s through mid 1940′ there was this guy known as Hitler. He had a scheme designed to create what he called the MASTER RACE. His plan centered around exterinating the Jews plus the old and informed. If I understand your logic, you recognize and accept the fact that older folks and those with certain health issues are vulnerable if we open up soonest, but so be it, it’s time to move on. Classic – the end justifies the means.

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Jake Sartwell May 31, 2020 at 11:05 am

Mike, with all due respect you leave a lot of things out! Also you add a few things also. Yes Hitler wanted the Master Race, I agree! His plan centered around exterminating the Jews, yes but do you realize Hitler himself was of Jewish descent? It is my opinion that Hitler hated the Jews because of family difficulties, much more to read here. I have never read anywhere that he wanted to exterminate the old and informed? Maybe you can site the source of this information! He was a genius at war but an idiot in all other ways. Again, in my opinion Hitler and his Germany has absolutely no connection to what is going on here and now! I am 77 years old, have had open heart surgery and I am overweight but I will gladly accept my fate if the rest of my family can be saved from the coming financial collapse and the hunger and starvation that will soon follow! Seems like some of us can’t do anything that would please those who find it so important to be politically correct! But it is my hope that we will keep trying and maybe “we the people” can and will take control of our own destinies, not leave it up to a few who feel they are more qualified to run our lives than we are. We have flattened the curve, even our experts agree or did agree that we can’t stop the virus, we can only slow it down! Alright, we have done that, now we need to move on!

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John Patton May 31, 2020 at 8:30 pm

Jake, The bottom line is that the older we are the more we are at risk of nearing the end of our lives. Hitler, and other despots notwithstanding, I prefer to walk free knowing that our founding fathers built a system of government that, although flawed, is far superior to any other to date. The popular movement today leans toward socialism under a different guise touted as newer and improved which the left is using to gather followers by funding the public and overstating the gravity of this virus. Our civil liberties are being threatened by this movement. I will take my chances in a free society rather than with a government controlled socialist one. The Vermont I grew up in decades ago wouldn’t have followed that sort of thinking. We weren’t sheep, we herded sheep.

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Donna June 2, 2020 at 2:16 am

Agree with you 100%. I am free to assess my personal risk and make my own decisions based on that assessment.

Craig S Majoros May 29, 2020 at 9:43 pm

So well said.. common sense .. the data speaks for itself. The guidelines for schools is truly absurd.. we will be keeping our grandchild home and homeschool. Can you imagine six and seven year olds following the guidelines … the bureaucrats who wrote the guidelines obviously haven’t taken care of children… Thanks for the great article.

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Karen Gallese May 29, 2020 at 10:04 pm

The problem with this pandemic has been the lack of leadership from the top. You really don’t know who to believe. Understanding that health care is often a complicated science, sometimes based on theories and opposing data, what are we all to believe? Personally, this whole affair has seemed like a roller coaster. Then I return to the argument, does anyone want to see your grandma die a horrible death from this virus? How much is life worth in this country? I have referred back to the Spanish Flu of 1918, when people where not aware of the serious of the virus and the government did not announce the death toll because we were in the middle of a war. Like I’ve said before, I don’t mind sitting back and watching what happens to those who do not want to take precautions. Time will tell.

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John Mahaffy May 29, 2020 at 10:15 pm

Aimee, Vermont — and John Klar — have urgent need of a rational voice. Contact John NOW, please.

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bob Earle May 29, 2020 at 10:26 pm

I agree 100%

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Kerri Smith May 29, 2020 at 11:24 pm

We need to vote. We need to vote against progressives and democrats. We can’t let perfect be the enemy of good.

If you’re willing to fight for democracy, then vote! Fighting for democracy is fighting for the right to vote! To fight a war to vote, in a country with the right to vote, would be the utmost in absurdity.

The majority of Vermonters do not vote
Please. Register. Vote.

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James Tailor May 30, 2020 at 10:27 am

We need to vote out Progressives and Democrats? The biggest RINO, Scott, along with the self appointed health czar, Levine, is leading the lock down charge. I wont be voting for Scott or any politician in on this fix.

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J. Norris May 30, 2020 at 1:17 pm

Bravo Aimee Stephenson….and shame on Governor Scott whose draconian lockdowns in the face of minimal threats have done irreparable harm.

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Ronald Peltier May 30, 2020 at 1:21 pm

You are 100% correct. For many years a coalition of Socialist has been operating in our Government (both Democrats and Republicans), and among the elite in our Intelligence Agencies, as well as Philanthropist with the express purpose of overthrowing our Democracy by any means possible. What we are witnessing today is an all out war using every means possible to attain this goal (race riots, pandemic, fake news, fake accusations etc etc). Is anyone willing to connect the dots or will we continue to cower and not fight for what is right, what is our heritage, what is our country under God? We are being duped and dumbed down to accept a Brave New World (read Aldous Huxley book). God save us!

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Barbara Machell May 30, 2020 at 3:29 pm

I totally agree with the previous comments. I said in the very beginning that shutting down our state and country was a horrible idea and totally asinine. I am 78 years old and never once felt fear of the coronavirus. The coronavirus needed to be respected and good health practices followed, but shutting down the country, businesses, schools, our economy??? We’re like sheep, blindly following the leaders over the cliff. Something is very wrong with this picture and it’s way too big for me to figure out, but someone knows the answers and we’d better figure it out before it’s too late.

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Lauren Andrews RN May 30, 2020 at 4:27 pm

” Are there other rational and logical Vermonters who feel the same? ”

So, is the writer saying that unless you agree with her, you are not rational or logical? Her minimization of the lives lost is troubling, and with her background she should have a much better understanding about how viruses spread. The logical and rational need to move forward cautiously in the face of a virus we know very little about is self evident to most people, but not to this writer…too bad. Her condescending tone was evident, too.
By the way, I have a friend in NY that has lost 12 people to this virus.

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robert May 31, 2020 at 10:32 am

The minimization of the lives lost should not stop with the Virus! Do you support smoking cigarettes? Seems like the covid lock down is way overboard when we have so many other things killing people everyday!We should Not be locked down over this virus unless everyone is willing to lock down over every form of death! Wake up and smell what going on around you!

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Holly May 30, 2020 at 4:29 pm

Agree!!! You’re not the only one who feels this way, lots of people do! But what do we need to do to be heard?! Petitions? Letters to government don’t work, they’re ignored.

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Renee June 1, 2020 at 4:03 am

I’ve been writing to ALL state representatives and senators and the governor (who does not respond). Please write your legislators. They are receiving messages to force the wearing of masks and ballot mailing. Wrote the following petition with a friend. Please sign: https://www.change.org/p/governor-phil-scott-we-the-people-demand-to-end-all-restrictions-of-fundamental-rights-and-re-open-vermont

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Maria Javanainen May 30, 2020 at 4:47 pm

Well written! Shared it on my Facebook page too even though I was threatened to lose my job by being a “covid denier”. Covid is real but the mandates going in to place aren’t to keep us safe. They are so we think we are safer at the cost of our economy and freedom. Neighbors tattling on neighbors. This is what we have become :/

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JoAnne McQuade May 30, 2020 at 5:58 pm

I used to live in VT, but now live in Massachusetts, one of the hardest hit states. That said, I feel exactly the same way. More than half of all deaths in MA are long term care facilities. We’ve been in lockdown way too long. Is it worth losing jobs, businesses, people from suicide, victims of domestic abuse, prisoners (sex offenders) being released to protect them?? Enough is enough! It is time to reopen!

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Ted Dobroson May 30, 2020 at 6:36 pm

I don’t agree. I have a business in one of the epicenters where I can no longer go – 611 deaths in a county the size of Lamoille. This thing is no joke in those areas. My own business has been devastated. Obviously the epidemiologists were way off – especially for much of rural America. But if the pandemic of 1918 is an example of what occurred after their own pushback, the cases will explode when people go back indoors for fall and winter. At the same time epidemiologists and mathematicians state that it is impossible that this will not occur due to the increase of vectors of infection.

Aimee Stephenson appears to me to be very cavalier in her attitudes and statements. Let us not forget that a HUGE proportion of businesses (and successful ones) are run by people older than 60. There isn’t some magic line at 70 that maintains that if you’re 65 your good to go. Many of us used to travel for business. Does she think we should hop on a tubelike petri dish and go jetting off to a business meeting?

What we are going thru is horrific. If this is a carousel I’d be asking where the hell do I get off?

Could they be wrong – the scientists? Absolutely. And then it would have been all this economic destruction for nothing. But this experiment isn’t over, and, we are performing it without all the data and good business decisions are driven by data. Therefore, until we have a better grasp of that data, I plan on being part of the control group. There are millions of older business owners that have to be convinced – Aimee Stephenson’s article doesn’t help.

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Jake Sartwell May 31, 2020 at 11:18 am

Ted, I honestly am not trying to be a wise guy but I need to ask you why do you think millions of older business owners need to be convinced? Don’t you agree that they all have minds of their own and also opinions? Why is your our my opinion for that matter any more important than theirs? It has been part of the system of late to always try correct those with different opinions than our own. The term used is that they need to be “educated”! Could it be that you or I are the ones that need the education?

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Susan Dollenmaier May 30, 2020 at 9:51 pm

This never felt right to me from day one. It made no sense. Thank you fir writing these words.

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Mark Bielecki May 31, 2020 at 3:07 am

The author seems overly focused on DEATHS and has pretty much ignored the ongoing discoveries of permanent and major medical damage resulting from COVID-19, INCLUDING BABIES, YOUTH, YOUNG ADULTS, AND THOSE UNDER 65. In the long run this will probably be the major damage caused by the virus.

“Perhaps my situation is incredibly rare, but I don’t know a single individual who has had COVID, much less died from it.” I do; she was screaming in pain for the last few days of her lie, they couldn’t get enough painkillers into her to address the pain so they put her into a medically induced coma to die. “More and more they are realizing there is little to fear about COVID-19”? Are you seriously delusional?

“Yet the media and our political leaders would have you believe the opposite – not only is infection both imminent and probable, but if infected, death is almost a certainty.” I read the mainline media and other online sources and other than the sh*t stirrers I don’t see this info anywhere. Where does the author come up with this stuff from?

“The first is learning more and gathering additional information to rationally and logically assess a situation.” Perhaps the author needs to go back to her self-acknowledged first step and re-educate herself.

Just remember, folks, that having a Ph.D. means NOTHING if you have no common sense, just like having an Ivy League degree (like Donal Trump, who the author seems to be seriously aligned with). DO YOUR OWN RESEARCH< DON'T GET SUCKED IN BY PEOPLE WITH LETTERS AFTER THEIR NAMES!

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Wendy May 31, 2020 at 1:10 pm

I can think of a few more letters WHO, CDC, Fauci who’s models were a mixed bag! The Surgeon General who flip flopped. I also say do your own research educate yourself. But this isn’t the new normal. It’s the old “ABNORMAL” they have been slowly feeding us for years. That’s my common sense. No degree here.

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Renee June 1, 2020 at 4:36 am

The Vermont Department of Health does not have any statistics on the after- effects of having had COVID-19. According to VT Dept of Health statistics very few young people are diagnosed with it. I couldn’t find anything about this on the CDC website, either. If you can share a link on this information, I would appreciate it. I do know someone ended up with asthma after having H1N1, so yes it is possible to have negative long term effects. If someone was screaming in pain the last few days of their life, it sounds like they were not properly treated or cared for, which is horrible.

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SONJA M BLODGETT May 31, 2020 at 4:09 pm

Hi Aimee, I totally agree with you also. I am very disturbed by this whole thing. My daughter doesn’t even want to celebrate her 8th-grade graduation because we have to social distance, wear a mask, and not give her friends a good luck hug, it is all controlled by the Dept of Health and Dept of Education. We live in Orleans County, we have 10 positive cases but no active cases. We have been well down the curve and our schools are being told we need to be treated like the rest of the state. We only have 10 kids graduating and we are not Chittenden County so why do we all need to be treated as such. I have expressed my opinion up the chain of command and get generic replies if they even respond. I have been working in the medical and educational field for 30 years and this is tyranny at its best.

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