News Roundup: Starting Thursday, All BIPOC Vermonters Are Eligible For Vaccines

Mar 30, 2021

Vermont reporters provide a roundup of top news takeaways about the coronavirus and more for Tuesday, March 30.

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1. Vermont Dept. of Health reports 73 new COVID-19 cases

There were 73 new COVID-19 infections across Vermont on Tuesday.

Rutland County was the hub of most of the new infections, with 27. Chittenden County wasn't far behind, with 23.

There are currently 25 people hospitalized due to the virus, including two in intensive care.

Nearly 37% of Vermont adults – just over 202,000 people – have so far gotten at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine.

- Matthew Smith

UVM reports 80 new cases this week

Coronavirus infections at the University of Vermont ticked down over the last week after a concerning mid-March spike.

The university's latest round of testing reported on Monday found 55 off-campus infections and 25 on-campus cases.

There were no cases among faculty or staff.

UVM's COVID-19 cases surged last week, with more than 90 new cases between on- and off-campus students and staff. The campus also reported several confirmed cases of the B117 variant from the UK.

- Matthew Smith

Vermonters aged 50 and up can sign up for vaccine appointments

Vermonters aged 50 and over are now eligible for make appointments to be vaccinated against the virus that causes COVID-19.

The Vermont Health Department website began accepting appointments for the 50-and-up age band yesterday morning, and by the afternoon, more than 19,000 people had signed up.

Over the next three weeks, the age will drop for people eligible to make appointments to receive the vaccine. On April 19, all adult Vermonters will be eligible to be vaccinated.

To date, over 35% of Vermont adults 16 or older are fully or partially vaccinated.

- Matthew Smith

New York State opens vaccines to those 30 and older

New York state residents over the age of 30 are now eligible to register for a COVID-19 vaccination.

And in one week, all New Yorkers 16 and older will be eligible.

Vaccines state had previously been restricted to New York residents over 50, and those in certain jobs or with specific health conditions.

About 9 million vaccine doses have been administered across New York since December. To date, more than 110,000 North Country residents have been fully vaccinated.

Judge orders New York State to make vaccines available to incarcerated New Yorkers

A judge has ordered New York State to make coronavirus vaccines available immediately for everyone incarcerated in the state.

Previously, only inmates 65 years or older were eligible for the shot.

North Country Public Radio reports the North Country has seen some of the state's most severe COVID outbreaks.

More than 1,700 inmates of the region's roughly 8-thousand incarcerated have tested positive for the virus. Five have died.

The region's nearly 6,000 corrections officers have been eligible to get vaccinated since January.

- Matthew Smith

Quebec reports nearly 2,000 new COVID-19 cases over the weekend

Quebec reported nearly 2,000 new COVID-19 infections over the weekend, as concerns grow that the province faces a third wave of the pandemic.

Overall, Quebec's coronavirus infections, hospitalizations and deaths have been trending down since January, but the Montreal Gazette reports new cases have ticked up since mid-March.

Province health officials are closely watching the number of COVID-19 variants across Quebec, including about 700 confirmed cases and more than 5,000 presumed cases.

Nearly half of the province's coronavirus variant cases — both presumed and confirmed — are in Montreal.

Premier François Legault says he'll decide early this week whether to tighten health restrictions as the province faces when he acknowledges is a third wave of the virus.

- Matthew Smith

2. BIPOC Vermonters of all ages can sign up for vaccines Thursday

All Vermonters 16 and older who are Black, Indigenous and people of color — and their entire households — will be eligible to sign up for a COVID-19 vaccine starting Thursday.

Health Department data show that BIPOC Vermonters, except those identifying as American Indian or Alaska Native, have the highest COVID-19 infection rates in the state.  But only 21% of the population has received the first vaccination shot, compared to 34% of white Vermonters.

Health Commissioner Mark Levine says BIPOC residents tend to work jobs that put them at a higher risk of catching the virus and are more likely to be hospitalized.

Levine says the population is also younger – which means they’ve mostly been left out of the state’s vaccination plan, which prioritizes older Vermonters.

"We really do not feel that this rate for vaccination of this community is something we can ignore," he said.

State officials say that by April 19, any resident 16 and older will be able to sign up for a shot. 

Make a vaccine appointment here.

- Liam Elder-Connors

3. Coalition of students, faculty and alumni call for resignation of UVM President Suresh Garimella

A coalition of students, faculty and alumni at the University of Vermont is calling for the resignation of UVM president Suresh Garimella.

This comes in response to a proposal late last year to cut several majors, minors, and programs [from the college of arts and sciences], which administrators say is necessary due to budget concerns.

At a press conference Monday, Meaghan Emery, an associate professor of French, alleged that Garimella's leadership is flawed.

“The fact that these cuts fall in line with a vision and under a framework of institutional restructuring during a period of institutional crisis, precipitated by the pandemic, suggests that all of this – all of this – is a strategic and blatant corporate tactic initiated by the UVM president,” Emery said.

A spokesperson for the university told VPR that structural changes are necessary for the sustainability of UVM.

- Anna Van Dine

4. Vermont Senate weighs one-year freeze on unemployment tax rates

The Vermont Senate is set to consider legislation that freezes unemployment tax rates for businesses for a year and offers some new weekly benefits for people with children.

The legislation has been strongly opposed by many members of the state's business community who believe that the plan could eventually lead to higher tax rates.

Economic Development chair Michael Sirotkin says the bill is a way to help address income inequality in the state.

“The pandemic has only made the problem worse it has been especially hard on women, who have disproportionately lost their jobs and livelihood due to COVID,” Sirotkin said.

But Grand Isle senator Dick Mazza is worried that bill will discourage some people from returning to the workforce.

"Don't get it to the point where you have to make a choice of either working or receiving benefits, [and deciding] which one has a greater value,” Mazza said.

A vote on the bill is expected to be close.

- Bob Kinzel

Correction 5 p.m.: This post was updated with correct statistical information about COVID infection and vaccination demographics from the Department of Health.

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