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News Roundup: Health Dept. Asks Those Who Traveled To Provincetown, Mass. In July To Get COVID Tested

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Elodie Reed
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VPR

Vermont reporters provide a roundup of top news takeaways about drought, breakthrough cases of COVID-19 in vaccinated individuals and more for Friday, July 23.

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As Vermont's pandemic state of emergency has ended and coronavirus restrictions lifted statewide, we will no longer be reporting daily case numbers at the top of this newsletter. Click here for the latest on new cases, and find the latest vaccination data online any time.

1. State health officials advise that anyone who has visited Provincetown, Mass. in July get tested for COVID-19

Anyone who's visited Provincetown, Mass. recently should get tested for COVID-19.

That's the latest word from the Vermont Department of Health, which says there have been over 250 cases of the virus in Provincetown this month.

Vermonters make up less than a dozen of those cases, and the majority are among Massachusetts residents.

Still, the health department is urging those who have traveled to the popular vacation town — or are associated with people who have traveled there — to get tested for the coronavirus, regardless of vaccination status.

Anna Van Dine

Deputy health commissioner says delta variant is leading Vermonters to change their travel plans

It appears that a fair number of Vermonters are changing their summer vacation plans because of growing concerns of the Delta variant of the coronavirus.

That's according to Deputy Health Commissioner Tracy Dolan.

New surges of the virus have been reported in a number of states including an outbreak this week on Cape Cod.

Speaking this week on Vermont Edition, Dolan said many travelers are taking extra precautions to protect themselves against the delta variant.

"Their plans now are to go to other states but stick mostly with their family," Dolan said. "They won't be going to large gatherings; they're going to be mostly outside if they are with other people and they are checking in advance to see if the people they're visiting are vaccinated. So these numbers are changing some behaviors, for sure."

Dolan says roughly 17% of all Vermonters, 12 and older, have yet to receive a vaccine.

Bob Kinzel

About 100,000 Vermonters have not yet been vaccinated against COVID-19

The state of Vermont is continuing its COVID-19 vaccination outreach efforts as concerns about the delta variant rise.

Deputy Health Commissioner Tracy Dolan says roughly 83% of all eligible Vermonters have received at least one dose of the vaccine — that's Vermonters 12 and older.

Dolan says the best way to protect oneself from variant is to get vaccinated.

"Sometimes it all comes together and then you tie that in with an increased level of concern about this new variant and that might be enough to move some people forward," Dolan said. "So we continue to get out there, to offer vaccines in all kinds of environments in Vermont, because there are still plenty of opportunities to get vaccinated."

Dolan estimates that there are roughly 100,000 Vermonters who have not yet been vaccinated.

Bob Kinzel

2. Marlboro Music Festival secures deal to purchase Marlboro College campus

A decades-old classical music program says it has a deal in place to purchase the former Marlboro College campus in Windham County.

The Marlboro Music Festival has been renting space on the more than 500-acre campus since 1951.

And while the program had a 99-year lease in place, it’s future was threatened by an ongoing ownership dispute. A court hearing was held last month to figure out who held the title to the property.

Now, the music festival says it has an agreement in place with both parties that have been laying claim to the campus.

In a press release Marlboro Music president Christopher Serkin said he would ask his board to shut down all campus activities in the fall and work with constituents, including town residents, to chart a path forward.

— Howard Weiss-Tisman

3. Vermont could receive $60 million under new opioid settlement

Vermont could receive $60 million under a new major opioid settlement with four pharmaceutical companies.

The agreement, announced this week, would distribute $26 billion to states and municipalities around the country.

Peter Espenshade is the president of Recovery Vermont, an organization that works with people in recovery from substance use disorder.

He says the settlement is not a solution to the opioid epidemic, but it is important.

"It’s a step in the right direction, but it is just that. It’s a step. And we still have a lot of work to do and a long way to go," he said.

It's not yet clear how Vermont's share could impact substance use programs.

"We don’t know what funding is going where or how it’s going to impact our organization," Espenshade said. "What we do know is that it’s going to impact Vermonters in a helpful way."

Vermont has 30 days to join or reject the deal.

Local governments will have 150 days to sign on to the agreement.

Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger said in a statement [on Thursday] that he was “encouraged” by the settlement and that the funding could be significant if funneled toward local recovery efforts.

Reed Nye

4. It could be spring before Northern Vermont's aquifers recover from prolonged drought

As of Thursday, more than 314,000 people in Vermont are estimated to live in areas affected by drought.

And, while much of Southern Vermont has recovered in terms of rainfall, state officials say they are still concerned about below-average conditions in Vermont’s aquifers.

Periods of heavy rain brought higher than normal stream flows to parts of southern and central Vermont this week. That comes as northern Vermont continues to see an unprecedented drought.

Erica Bornemann is director of Vermont Emergency Management and co-chairs the state Drought Taskforce. She says so far, they aren’t seeing major impacts to drinking water sources.

“Vermont Emergency Management has not received any reports of dry wells, or anybody looking for, you know, resources as it relates to dry wells,” she said.

Bornemann says deeper water sources like wells tend to be more resilient to short periods of drought than surface water sources. But, they also take longer to recover.

“It takes much longer for groundwater sources in hydrologic drought to be replenished. So what that requires is, long term, at normal levels, or above normal levels of precipitation," Bornemann said.

An estimated 60% of Vermonters rely on groundwater for drinking water.

Southern Vermont could see a quicker recovery. State Climatologist Dr. Lesley-Ann Dupigny-Giroux says the region's groundwater was not as severely impacted.

Abagael Giles

5. Canadian travelers will have to wait at least another month before traveling to Vermont by car

Canadian travelers will need to wait at least another month to enter the United States by car.

That's despite Canada loosening its restrictions to allow vaccinated Americans to enter the country starting on August 9.

CBC reporter Verity Stevenson says some Canadians were disappointed and surprised by the move.

"Given that it seemed like it was mostly Canada that was pushing for all those months for the border to stay closed, and so then for it to be seemingly the U.S. pushing to keep it closed for another month, that was a disappointment for people who were hoping, or some people who had planned, maybe even booked some accommodations," Stevenson said.

Canadians can still travel to the U.S. by plane, which has been allowed throughout the pandemic.

Listen to the full conversation.

Henry Epp

6. Fatal traffic accidents reach highest level since 2016

Vermont Highway Safety officials say they are surprised that the number of fatal traffic accidents this year are at their highest level since 2016 — and there are concerns that things will get worse in the coming months.

Bill Jenkins is the Southern Law Enforcement Liaison in the Vermont State Highway Office.

Speaking on Vermont Edition Thursday, he said the rise in fatalities is troubling because the number of miles driven by Vermonters during the pandemic has decreased by almost 20%.

"Initially we thought that maybe when the vehicle miles traveled per mile went down because of COVID-19, that with less people traveling, the fatalities would go down," Jenkins said. "But that hasn't been the case. Unfortunately, they actually trended upwards."

Jenkins notes that many highway-based law enforcement efforts were scaled back during the pandemic.

He thinks this gave some drivers the impression that they could get away with speeding.

Listen to the full conversation.

Bob Kinzel

Abagael Giles compiled and edited this post.

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