News Roundup: Just Over 50% Of Vermonters 16 And Older Are Now Fully Vaccinated

May 17, 2021

Vermont reporters provide a roundup of top news takeaways about the coronavirus and more for Monday, May 17.

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The latest coronavirus data:

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1. Vermont Dept. of Health reports 29 new COVID-19 cases

State health officials reported 29 new COVID-19 infections statewide Monday.

That's after the weekend saw fewer than 100 new cases.

No county had more than five new cases. More than half of Vermont's 14 counties reported just a single new case today, or none at all.

Eleven people are hospitalized due to the virus. Only one person is in intensive care.

That latest data show nearly 71% of Vermonters 16 and older have gotten at least one vaccine dose. Just under 53% are fully vaccinated.

- Matthew Smith

Disparities persist in Vermont's vaccination data, by race and geography

The Vermont department of health reported 93 new cases of COVID-19 over the weekend – 65 on Saturday and 28 on Sunday.

Nearly 71% of eligible Vermonters have received at least one vaccine dose, and almost 53% are fully vaccinated.

But, there are some persistent disparities in distribution.

The vaccination rate for Essex County is still significantly lower than the rest of the state. At 53.1%, it's nearly 18 percentage points behind the state average.

And the vaccination rate for white Vermonters remains ahead of that of BIPOC Vermonters – by six percentage points.

Meanwhile, 18-29 year olds have the lowest vaccination rate of any eligible age group, at about 44%. Gov. Phil Scott said Friday that if the vaccination rate for this age group improves, the state may lift pandemic restrictions before the original goal of July 4.

More from VPR: ‘Building The Plane While We Fly It’: BIPOC Community Organizers Shrink The Gap On Vaccine Equity

- Anna Van Dine

Protesters decry pandemic health restrictions at rally

Dozens of Vermonters protested pandemic-related restrictions in Montpelier Saturday.

WCAX reported between 50 and 100 unmasked Vermonters were on the steps of the Statehouse Saturday for a rally they called "COVID versus the Constitution."

The protestors decried health restrictions imposed by the Biden and Scott administrations, and said they violated their civil liberties. They criticized the closing of businesses, schools and houses of worship during the pandemic.

Gov. Scott hopes to lift virtually all virus-related health restrictions by July 4.

- Matthew Smith

Dartmouth College eases some pandemic restrictions

Dartmouth College is planning to ease some of its restrictions related to the coronavirus as of June 1.

The college announced Friday there will still be COVID-19 screenings, mask-wearing and 6-feet distancing when dining with others or when taking part in athletic activities and performances.

Visitors to indoor spaces must have a Dartmouth faculty or staff sponsor who would complete a registration form for them.

Events can have more than 25 attendees in pre-approved locations, but can't exceed 100 people indoors or 200 people outdoors.

Informal gatherings will continue to be limited to nine or fewer people.

Dartmouth’s goal is to have full access to campus by August 1. All students will be required to be fully vaccinated.

- Matthew Smith

2. New rental assistance program could help thousands stay housed

More than 1,500 Vermonters so far have applied for rental assistance funds through a new statewide program.

The Vermont State Housing Authority got $110 million to run the program. The funds are from the coronavirus relief package passed in December. VSHA ran a similar program last year.

Tyler Maas at VSHA says the new program has more eligibility requirements than the first one. Tenants are required to show that the pandemic hurt their finances, and that their housing is at risk. Maas says there are also income restrictions.

“This, the emergency rental assistance, requires that the tenant applicant be at or below 80% of area median income,” Maas said.

People can apply for money to cover back-rent and future rent payments.

Applications are currently only available online at VSHA.org.

Read or listen to the full story.

- Liam Elder-Connors

3. $15,000 grant will fund public art project in St. Johnsbury

A $15,000 grant has been awarded to Catamount Arts for a project to illuminate and beautify a tunnel linking downtown St. Johnsbury to the riverfront.

The Vermont Arts Council announced the award to "support the design and installation of a vibrant light and art-filled passage/tunnel."

Signs, a new pavilion and a recreation path along the Passumpsic River will guide users of the Lamoille Valley Rail Trail to downtown St. Johnsbury, but getting there means passing through the tunnel, The Caledonian Record reported.

The tunnel beneath railroad tracks is dark with graffiti on stone walls and only for one-way use for vehicles, with a concrete sidewalk leading through it.

The goal of the project will be to better light the underutilized passage and make it more inviting to pedestrians.

- Matthew Smith

4. State Board of Education to review Ripton's proposed exodus from ACSD Wednesday

Ripton Elementary School will get one more shot to withdraw from its Act 46 merged school district.

Ripton went before the State Board of Education last month to seek approval to leave the Addison Central School District.

Voters in Ripton, as well as in the other six towns in the district, already approved the move but the State Board said it wanted more information before it signs off on the withdrawal.

The board, which meets on Wednesday, wants to make sure that Ripton has options for its kids if the small elementary school is forced to close at some point due to financial challenges.

Ripton was facing the possible closure of its school if it remained in Addison Central.

Supporters of the withdrawal hope they can keep their school open if they operate independently.

- Howard Weiss-Tisman

More from VPR: In Battle Over Act 46 Merger, Ripton Tries To Save Its School

5. Rutland High School hosts vaccine clinic Monday-Tuesday

Gov. Phil Scott and state health officials are concerned about the low rate of COVID-19 vaccination rates among young Vermonters. That’s part of the reason Rutland High School is hosting a two day vaccination clinic.

On Monday, Rutland high School’s Gymnasium looked a bit like it was hosting a blood drive. But the tables, chairs, snacks, juice and medical personnel were on hand to vaccinate 12-to-19-year olds – and whomever else walked in.

Rutland Regional Medical Center is overseeing the Monday-Tuesday clinic and hospital officials said they could administer up to 300 doses of vaccine each day.

Rutland High School Principal Greg Schillinger said they hoped the location would make getting the shot easier and less frightening for kids and their families.

“We’re at the center of the community, so people are used to coming to school to watch a game … So even if I’m, maybe 25-years-old, I know where Rutland High School is so I can get there easily,” he said. “And it’s very accessible.”

Tuesday’s clinic runs 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Walk-ins are welcome.

- Nina Keck

6. Fair Haven to explore possible hydro project

The town of Fair Haven is exploring the possibility of using a local dam for hydropower.

The Rutland Herald reports the town's energy committee is exploring the idea of turning a dam near Depot Street into a facility that can generate electricity.

A 2014 study showed potential for the project. Select board members now say it could be viable with renewed interest in carbon-free power and billions in federal coronavirus relief flowing into the stare.

The 2014 study concluded a 500 kilowatt project was feasible at the dam, about the same output of a modest-sized array of solar panels.

- Matthew Smith

Correction 8:05 a.m. 5/18/2021: This post has been updated with the correct spelling of photographer Josh Kuckens' name. 

Correction 4:38 p.m. 5/20/2021: This story has been updated to reflect that Catamount Arts received a $15,000 grant, not a $1,500 grant, as reported in a prior version of this post.

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