Vermont reporters provide a roundup of top news takeaways about the coronavirus and more for Friday, May 28.
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The latest coronavirus data:
Vermont health officials reported just eight new cases of COVID-19 Friday.
The state's pandemic-related death toll remains at 255.
Eight people are hospitalized with the virus, including two in intensive care.
- Brittany Patterson
Curfew lifted for bars, clubs and restaurants
Late-night bar hopping will return to the menu of social options for Vermonters starting on Saturday.
Gov. Phil Scott announced at his COVID-19 media briefing Friday that he’s lifting the 10 p.m. curfew on bars, clubs and restaurants.
“This is a time when we think we’re within a week or two of lifting all restrictions, so we felt, with Dr. Levine, Dr. Kelso, that it was safe to do so at this point in time,” Scott said.
The governor has said he’ll lift all COVID-related public health orders when 80% of eligible Vermonters have received at least one dose of the COVID vaccine.
The state was three percentage points shy of that threshold as of Friday morning.
- Peter Hirschfeld
Schools to keep COVID protocols in place through end of school year
Gov. Phil Scott is expected to lift all COVID-related public health orders as soon as next week. But Education Secretary Dan French is asking Vermont school districts to keep COVID mitigation protocols in place until the end of the school year.
“The majority of our students in the K-12 system will not be fully vaccinated before the end of the school year,” French said. “We believe our current mitigation measures are necessary to ensure their safety.”
School districts are required to follow those COVID guidelines so long as the governor’s orders are in place.But the mitigation guidelines will become voluntary once Scott lifts those orders.
French says he doesn’t think schools will need to follow any COVID mitigation protocols when students return to the classroom after the summer break.
- Peter Hirschfeld
Another COVID-19 variant confirmed in Vermont
Public health officials say they’ve confirmed the arrival of another COVID-19 variant in Vermont.
Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine says the B. 1.3.5. variant was first detected in South Africa.
“This is a variant that does still respond to the vaccine, but in variable ways,” Levine said. “Fortunately we have only one report.”
Levine says low daily case counts of COVID-19 in Vermont suggest that the variant isn’t having a significant impact on transmission rates. But he says the arrival of the variant underscores the need for all eligible Vermonters to get vaccinated against the disease.
- Peter Hirschfeld
Burlington to hold series of free walk-in vaccine clinics
Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger announced this week that the city will host a series of new free, walk-in clinics that use the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
Health Department data shows Chittenden County has the highest vaccination rate in the state with just over 80% of residents aged 12 and older having received at least one dose.
Despite that success, Weinberger says Burlington will continue to provide opportunities to get the vaccine.
Clinics will be located at Burlington’s farmers market this Saturday, and the Discover Jazz Festival and the city’s Juneteenth Celebration later in June.
Weinberger says educating and persuading Vermonters to get the vaccine is essential to ending the pandemic.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Vermont is the most vaccinated state in the country.
- Reed Nye
Dartmouth, Colby College announce new COVID-19 vaccination requirements
Two Upper Valley colleges say they'll require both students and employees to get a COVID-19 vaccine before returning to campus for the fall semester.
The college had previously announced its requirement that students get vaccinated by the fall term.
Also this week, Colby-Sawyer College announced the school will require students and employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by Aug. 1.
- Matthew Smith
Governor’s press briefings to go down to one a week
The Scott administration is scaling back its public press briefing schedule to once a week.
Beginning in March of 2020, the governor and most members of his cabinet held a virtual news conference three times a week to update Vermonters about the state's response to the coronavirus.
In recent months, press conferences were held twice a week, on Tuesdays and Fridays.
The briefing, open to any member of the media, provided a level of transparency that was seen in few other states.
Scott says it's good news that there's less of a need to hold these briefings.
"We've come a long way, when you think about it,” Scott said. “We went from three a week in the beginning to two a week, and now we're transitioning to just one. This is our 142nd briefing since the state of emergency began."
The press briefing will be held every Tuesday for the foreseeable future.
- Bob Kinzel
A new survey from the University of Vermont shows the number of Vermonters who are telecommuting to work increased dramatically during the pandemic, and many hope to continue to work remotely in the future.
The survey was conducted earlier this month by the Center for Research on Vermont.
Richard Watts leads the center, and he says prior to the pandemic, many employees and employers were skeptical about tele-working. But the survey showed 14 months of remote work has boosted support for it.
"People have learned that they enjoy it, and employers have learned that it works,” Watts said. “People are productive, and I think that this is here to stay."
Watts expects that a number of businesses will adopt a "hybrid" model where some employees only come into the office a few days a week.
- Bob Kinzel
Starting Friday, all of Vermont's 55 state parks are expected to be open for visitors.
WCAX reports Vermont State Parks will be following the state's universal guidance. That means masks and social distancing are required for those not fully vaccinated.
Director Nate McKeen says he expects it to be a busy year, in part due to a surge in visitors last year who sought out outdoor spaces during the pandemic and are now acquainted with the state's parks.
- Brittany Patterson
GMC anticipates large number of people on trails this year
A Vermont-based nonprofit that maintains the Long Trail and others saw an 80% increase at its overnight shelters last year.
Keegan Tierney is with the Green Mountain Club, and says the group is expecting a busy summer again this year.
“Now with the state borders open, and with COVID on the decline, I think we’re anticipating really, really large numbers on the trail system this year."
Tierney says for now, he feels like the club can handle the additional impact to the trails and facilities. The trails are officially open this weekend, after being closed during mud season.
- Howard Weiss-Tisman
Sen. Patrick Leahy says he's disappointed that Senate Republican leaders have blocked the creation of a special commission to investigate the attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
Democrats fell short of getting 10 Republicans to help them break a filibuster over this issue.
Leahy says the commission is needed to provide Congress with the information it needs to ensure that such an attack doesn't happen again.
"I would be for having this commission, whether the mob was responding to a Democratic president or Republican president,” Leahy said. “We've not had an incident of storming the Capitol like this since the war of 1812."
Leahy says it will be difficult to lift the tight security measures around the Capitol until more is known about origins of the Jan. 6 attack.
- Bob Kinzel
Koffee Kup Bakery, which closed suddenly in April, has a buyer.
New Brunswick-based Mrs. Dunster's Bakery announced Thursday that it would purchase Koffee Kup's properties in Burlington and Brattleboro.
The new company will be called the North Atlantic Baking Company. The company has also applied for a Vermont Economic Growth Incentive award.
- Henry Epp
The Vermont Lake Monsters will play ball in Burlington this weekend for the first time since 2019. And they'll do so in a new league and with new owners.
The team now plays in the Futures Collegiate Baseball League, after it was one of 40 teams to lose its affiliation with Minor League Baseball earlier this year. And in March, a new owner bought the team: Chris English. He says the team's following made it a worthwhile investment.
"The Burlington market, rabid fans, they love their baseball, they love being out,” English said. “Centennial Field is a jewel, and we're doing a lot of renovations to the park to make it even better than it was before."
The Lake Monsters hold their home opener at Centennial Field Saturday at 6:05 p.m.
- Henry Epp
Update 9 a.m. 5/29/2021: The photo for this post was changed due to the original photo showing Arkham, a Brattleboro bar that has since closed.
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