Burlington's Wastewater Surveillance Program Detects Localized Uptick In COVID-19

Nov 9, 2020

Vermont reporters provide a roundup of top news takeaways about the coronavirus and more for Monday, Nov. 9.

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1. State health officials report 23 new cases of COVID-19 Monday

As COVID-19 cases continue to increase across Vermont, state health officials urge caution – and strict adherence to state guidelines.

On Monday, the Vermont Department of Health reported 23 new cases of COVID-19. Across the state, eight people are currently hospitalized with the disease, and four people are being treated in intensive care units. Health officials are now monitoring 221 people as close contacts of confirmed cases.

Of the new cases, four were identified each in Chittenden, Washington and Lamoille counties. Windham, Franklin and Bennington counties each saw two new cases, and Grand Isle County saw one new case.

- Abagael Giles

Vermont saw 43 new cases Sunday

The Vermont Department of Health reported 88 new COVID-19 cases over the weekend, including Friday.

This weekend saw Vermont's largest single-day increase in COVID-19 cases – 43 on Sunday – since the spring, and the first death from the disease since July. In all, 59 people have now died from COVID-19, and the department says it's currently investigating more COVID outbreaks than at any other time.

In new guidance yesterday Sunday, health officials said many of the case and outbreaks are due to masking and physical distancing breaking down.

State officials are asking everyone to avoid unnecessary travel, including for the upcoming holidays. Officials say gatherings should be limited to 10 people within a social circle, and anyone who attends events beyond that trusted circle should get a COVID test now, and again in a week, due to the possibility of pre-symptomatic transmission.

- Anna Van Dine

Burlington detects uptick in COVID-19 in New North End wastewater

COVID-19 cases are on the rise in Chittenden County, and the mayor of Burlington is urging extra caution.

Burlington's wastewater surveillance program has detected an increase of COVID-19 in the city's New North End. With nearly 10,000 residents, it's the largest neighborhood in Burlington.

In a press release Monday, Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger urged residents of the neighborhood to limit gathering sizes. And he said those who have traveled or seen people outside their normal social circles should seek testing.

Weinberger also echoed guidance from the Vermont Department of Health for all city residents. Namely: limit gatherings to 10 people or fewer within trusted households, avoid unnecessary travel, and get tested immediately if you've been with individuals outside a trusted circle.

In the past two weeks, Chittenden County has seen 134 positive cases of COVID-19.

- Anna Van Dine

2. Gov. Scott proposes stipends for Vermonters asked to self-quarantine

Governor Phil Scott is proposing small stipends for Vermonters who are asked to self-quarantine.

Sarah Clark, with the Agency of Human Services, said for many individuals, quarantining requires unpaid time off from work.

“I think it’s designed to provide them with the financial stability so that if they can’t go to work over that quarantine period, they are still receiving funds to support their livelihood,” Clark said.

The Scott administration is asking lawmakers to allocate $700,000 for the quarantine stipend program.

Clark said stipends of up to $1,000 would be awarded based on individual need.

- Peter Hirschfeld

3. Vermont received most federal COVID-19 relief per capita of any state

Vermont has received more money per-capita in federal coronavirus relief than any state in the nation.

Tom Kavet, an economist for the Legislature, said Vermont has taken in nearly $5 billion in COVID-related funding.

He said Vermont’s small size is one of the reasons for its high per-capita award.

“But even other states with low populations didn’t collect as much in other areas as Vermont did, so it’s a good position to be in,” Kavet said.

Kavet, however, said the funding still hasn’t been enough to offset economic losses due to the pandemic.

Lawmakers and the Scott administration are currently in negotiations over how to use the remainder of Vermont’s coronavirus relief funds.

Scott Administration calls for additional relief for businesses

The Scott Administration is calling on lawmakers to allocate another $75 million for businesses affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

Commissioner of Economic Development Joan Goldstein said previous rounds of COVID relief didn't come close to covering economic losses in the private sector. She told lawmakers Monday that businesses need liquidity now to avoid closing their businesses for good.

"We view this grant as doing that, because we know we have a long winter ahead," Goldstein said. "We may have a new president, but a new stimulus package probably won't be here until February. So what are we going to do in the meantime?"

Lawmakers though aren't ready to sign off on the administration's request. They say state colleges and the unemployment trust fund are also in precarious positions.

A key legislative panel will reconvene on Saturday to consider whether to grant the administration's request.

Vermont's unemployment trust is in better shape than most other states'

Vermont’s unemployment trust is in better shape than those in other states.

And Commissioner of Labor Michael Harrington says that, based on current unemployment rates, Vermont has enough money to pay claims through the end of 2021.

“However, if we do see another surge, depending on the magnitude of that surge, we could see those funds be depleted much more quickly,” Harrington said.

12,000 Vermonters are currently drawing down tradition unemployment benefits.

But Harrington said if that figure doubles over the winter, the unemployment trust fund could be in the red by 2022.

Lawmakers are considering using federal coronavirus relief funds to bolster unemployment reserves.

- Peter Hirschfeld

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