Vermont reporters provide a roundup of top news takeaways about the coronavirus and more for Friday, June 11.
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The latest coronavirus data:
There were seven new cases of COVID-19 across Vermont Friday.
State health officials report two people are hospitalized with the virus, including one person in intensive care.
Vaccination data from the CDC – last updated Wednesday – show Vermont is less than 0.5% shy of its inoculation goal.
That leaves about 1,300 more people still needing a shot to hit the target of vaccinating 80% of eligible Vermonters.
- Matthew Smith
Vermont continues towards goal of 80% vaccination rate
Vermont is continuing to make progress toward the goal of vaccinating 80% of the eligible population, the threshold for Gov. Phil Scott to lift all COVID-19 restrictions.
On Thursday, the Health Department reported 79.6% of the population aged 12 and older has been vaccinated.
That figure barely budged Thursday, with just under 300 new doses administered since Wednesday.
About 1,300 more people need their first shot for the state to hit its 80% target.
The current state of emergency that has allowed the state to impose COVID-19 restrictions is scheduled to expire June 15.
Scott spokesperson Jason Maulucci says if the state hits the 80% goal before then, the emergency order would likely be allowed to expire.
If not, it would likely be lifted a few days after 80% is reached.
- The Associated Press
New Hampshire's COVID-19 state of emergency will expire Friday night
New Hampshire’s nearly 15-month coronavirus state of emergency will end Friday night.
Gov. Chris Sununu announced Thursday, the state of emergency first announced on March 13 of last year will expire at midnight tonight, June 11.
New Hampshire will operate under a “public health incident” model, but Sununu says a declared emergency is no longer necessary to manage the pandemic.
The Granite State has been paring down its vaccine orders recently, cutting their orders by half last week and none this week.
To date, about 700,000 people are fully vaccinated in the state. Another 817,000 have received their first dose.
More than 1,300 New Hampshire residents have died from the coronavirus since the pandemic began.
- The Associated Press
About 2,000 more people need to get their first dose of a COVID vaccine to hit the state's 80% target and lift the remaining pandemic restrictions.
And to hit that goal, there will be walk-in vaccine clinics around the state this weekend - including at some state parks.
“Admission is free at all state parks this Saturday and Sunday, and Secretary of Human Services Mike Smith is hoping Vermonters take advantage of the promotion to increase the vaccination rate.
“We will have vaccination crews at many of the state parks to offer COVID-19 vaccines,” Smith said this week. “We will also be back at the Jazz Fest this weekend as well.”
And there’ll be some incentives for those who come get their shot. At one clinic being held at Switchback Brewing in Burlington on Sunday, anyone who gets vaccinated will get a coupon for a free beer and a pickle.
Other vaccination incentives include free creemees, coffee, and tickets to a Montpelier Mountaineers ballgame.
Shelburne Vineyards is offering an incentive of a slightly different vintage. The winery will host a pop-up clinic from 3 to 6 p.m. Friday afternoon. Everyone who gets a vaccine will get a free gift card, which can cover the cost of a wine tasting for those 21 or older.
- Josh Crane
In-person graduations are returning to Vermont high schools after an exhausting year of near-constant adjustments due to the pandemic.
Jay Nichols leads the Vermont Principals’ Association and he says students and faculty are excited to host more traditional commencement ceremonies.
He has been providing assistance to principals around Vermont trying to safely navigate changing pandemic restrictions.
“I know of one school, where they're going to have graduation on their baseball-softball infield area,” he said. “But then, there's a big hill out behind the fence. And so anybody who isn't one of the six people that each kid gets to invite can sit out there, you know, because it's not technically on school grounds – or it's just off the field or something along those lines.”
Nichols says he commends his colleagues for going above and beyond for their students throughout this year. And says many students and educators are looking forward to a much needed summer vacation.
Bob Thibault is the principal of Leland and Gray Union Middle and High School in Townshend.
He says the school’s small class sizes meant they were one of the few schools that were able to hold an in-person graduation ceremony outside last year, in accordance with COVID-19 safety regulations.
He says he is looking forward to holding this year’s graduation in a similar fashion. And he says everyone is ready for the break that comes after.
“Staff is burnt out. And the kids, frankly, are burnt out. So we collectively need summer time,” Thibault said. “It couldn't be better to know that in two weeks, we're all gonna get a break for a period of time [and that it will happen] at the same time that our state is really opening up is pretty, pretty powerful and really important, I think.”
Gov. Phil Scott says he will lift all pandemic restrictions once 80% of eligible Vermonters are vaccinated.
- Marlon Hyde
Congressman Peter Welch says the disclosure this week that some of the richest people in this country have paid little or no federal income taxes should spur Congress to close the loopholes that allow this to happen.
A report by the investigative news outlet ProPublica revealed that Amazon founder, Jeff Bezos, paid no taxes in several years, declared losses in others, and even qualified for a $4,000 tax credit for his two children.
Welch says the report shows that the federal tax system is broken.
“And it is really shocking and completely unacceptable to me a guy likes Bezos and other billionaires can game the system so they don't have to pay,” Welch said. “And they do it legally, so this is up to Congress, to change it.”
Welch says he'd like to dedicate the revenue from a new tax reform plan to help fund a major infrastructure package that's being considered in Congress.
Welch calls mounting cyberattacks a major national security concern
Congressman Peter Welch says a growing number of cyberattacks sanctioned by the Russian Government pose a major national security threat to the United States.
In recent weeks, a key energy pipeline was shut down and an international meat processing plant was forced to close.
Welch is a member of the House Intelligence Committee, which is closely monitoring these attacks.
He said he's very concerned that future attacks could disable the country's electrical grid.
“What's the difference between doing that through a cyberattack, versus dropping a bomb on it?” Welch asked. “The outcome is the same incredible pain, incredible disruption to the security and wellbeing of our country."
Welch says it's critical for the federal government to work together with the private sector, to find ways to strengthen the country's computer security systems.
- Bob Kinzel
World Cup alpine ski racing will continue in Vermont for at least another two years.
Killington Resort has inked a deal with US Ski and Snowboard to host the FIS Ski World Cup for the next two years.
Killington first hosted the event in 2016, when it became the first world cup skiing event in the eastern US since 1991, and the first in Vermont since 1978.
The International Ski Federation world cup secures Killington's spot on the Alpine World Cup calendar during the 2021/22 Olympic qualification season.
The Killington World Cup will take place over the Thanksgiving weekend this year, and will be broadcast in the US and streamed online to more than 60 countries.
- Matthew Smith
Maple syrup production across the country was off just under 17% in the 2021 sugaring season, but in Vermont, the nation’s top maple producer, production was off by just over 21%.
Statistics from the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported Thursday, the drop was due to poor sugaring weather, including a run of 70-degree days during prime sugaring season, and low sugar content in tree sap.
They combined to cause one of the shortest maple seasons in over a decade for producers in Vermont.
Allison Hope, executive director of the Vermont Maple Sugar Makers Association, says producers reported 50-75% of their normal crop.
National statistics show 3.4 million gallons of maple syrup were produced, with 1.5 million made in Vermont.
- The Associated Press
And after a brief reprieve, the area of the state experiencing drought conditions has climbed back up in the last week.
According to the latest data from the US Drought Monitor, 42% of Vermont is in a moderate drought. Those conditions are concentrated in the eastern half of the state – extending from Windsor County up to the Canadian border.
Other parts of the state are classified as “abnormally dry.”
Parts of Windham, Bennington and Rutland counties are the only areas not seeing any kind of dryer-than-usual weather.
- Henry Epp
Dartmouth's medical school is dropping charges of cheating against 10 students the college claimed had violated the school's honor code during an exam this winter.
The medical school cited data about the students' use of the online course software called Canvas to allege they cheated on closed-book exams conducted online during the pandemic.
The school alleged dozens of students accessed web-based course materials during the tests, but only 10 were sanctioned.
Now The Valley News reports the Geisel School of Medicine has dismissed all honor code charges against the students, despite a months-long investigation that recommended three of the students be expelled and others face lesser punishments.
The medical school's dean announced the change in an email to the school community Wednesday.
- Matthew Smith
Update 3:51 p.m. 6/11/2021: A previous version of this story reported that 2,000 more people needed to get vaccinated in order for Vermont to reach its goal of having 80% of its eligible population inocculated against COVID-19. The post has been updated to reflect new data from the Vermont Department of Health.
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