The spread of COVID-19 is a crisis, and it will take many of us working together to respond appropriately, effectively, and fairly. The ACLU of Vermont will be monitoring the situation to ensure a response that is scientifically justified, proportional, and that respects Vermonters' civil liberties. In particular, we will provide guidance to our elected officials on crafting a response that protects the populations most vulnerable to harm, including working people, immigrants, and those involved in the criminal justice system.
Here you will find information about the ACLU’s response to COVID-19, including news updates, blog posts, guidelines, and letters to public officials—as well as other resources. Above all, the ACLU of Vermont believes:
- Any measures taken to limit the spread of the virus are grounded in science, proportional to the threat, and no more intrusive on civil liberties than absolutely necessary.
- Public officials should be trusted messengers of vital public health information, grounded in scientific evidence, and should keep the public informed with accurate, timely information.
- It is the responsibility of government to ensure that those who are most vulnerable, especially those under its care, are protected. Those residing in close living quarters—including mental health facilities, prisons, homeless shelters, and nursing homes—are particularly vulnerable. All people, especially vulnerable populations, should have access to care, regardless of ability to pay, health insurance coverage, or citizenship status.
Criminal Justice System
People in prisons are highly vulnerable to outbreaks of contagious illnesses. They are housed in close quarters and often have complex medical needs and serious health conditions. Without the active engagement of the prison administration, people in prison have little ability to inform themselves about or take preventive measures. Having an appropriate, coordinated, and evidence-based plan in place can help prevent an outbreak and minimize its impact if one does occur. Not having one may cost lives.
It is also essential to reduce, to the greatest extent possible, the number of people in our prisons to decrease the threat of rapid transmission. Vermont is making progress toward that goal, but more work remains to be done.
The ACLU of Vermont is calling on Governor Scott, the judiciary, prosecutors, and other law enforcement officials to continue reducing new prison admissions and decreasing the sentenced population in order to protect people living and working in our prisons, their families, and our communities.
COVID-19 is a global pandemic, and public health experts have repeatedly warned that people detained in immigrant detention are at particularly high risk due to conditions that are often overcrowded and unsanitary.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) should halt enforcement actions and release immigrants from detention to limit the spread of the virus in jails and detentions centers.
ICE has stated that it does not conduct enforcement operations at medical facilities, except under extraordinary circumstances. Nobody should be afraid to seek medical care for fear of immigration enforcement.
The ACLU is pursuing advocacy and litigation nationwide in an urgent effort to protect the lives of immigrants, particularly detained immigrants, who are especially vulnerable to this virus.
Vermont must support people who cannot afford to miss work or who lack paid leave. The state must work with employers to ensure all workers are supported in staying home when sick. Further, we must support children who are home because schools have closed. All students must have equal access to an education, regardless of whether they have access to the internet or other resources.
Additionally, in order to encourage all people to cooperate with health officials and public health guidelines, state government and employers must ensure that people are protected from job loss and economic hardship. Government and employers must provide social and economic protections for people who live, work, and go to school in Vermont.
The ACLU of Vermont is currently reaching out to community leaders and organizational partners to assess the extent of economic hardship and impact of the Coronavirus in communities across the state.
Other Marginalized Communities
People who are unsheltered, have a disability, elderly, overpoliced, or are otherwise at higher risk of detrimental impact by COVID-19 must be supported in the least restrictive way and have equal access to protections that maintain their health and safety.
The ACLU of Vermont is currently reaching out to community leaders and organizational partners to coordinate responses to the unmet needs of marginalized communities.
ACLU Statements & Releases
(the below list is not an exhaustive list of resources and we will continue to add resources)
- Contact your State's Attorney
- Contact Governor Scott
- Vermont Legislative Commitee Schedule and listening information during COVID-19
- Vermont Department of Health information on COVID-19, including translated materials
Office of the Health Care Advocate – a free resource available to all Vermonters who are in need assistance with health care issues
Vermont Department of Labor – Unemployment claims can be filed through the Department of Labor website