News Roundup: Vermont Dept. Of Health Reports 34 New COVID-19 Cases, 2 New Deaths

May 18, 2021

Vermont reporters provide a roundup of top news takeaways about the coronavirus and more for Tuesday, May 18.

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The latest coronavirus data:

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1. Vermont Department of Health reports 34 new COVID-19 cases

State health officials reported two more COVID-19 deaths and 34 new coronavirus infections across Vermont today.

The two most recent virus-linked deaths bring Vermont's pandemic death toll to 254.

Most counties saw four or fewer cases, except Rutland and Washington Counties, which had seven and six new infections, respectively.

Just nine people are in the hospital today because of the virus, including one person in the ICU.

Updates to the state's vaccination data are delayed today due to technical issues, but the most recent figures show more than 288,000 Vermonters 16 and older – nearly 53% – are now fully vaccinated.

- Matthew Smith

Burlington to keep its mask mandate for at least another three weeks

The City of Burlington's mask mandate remains in place for at least another three weeks.

That's as state and federal health guidance has eased masking rules, both indoors and out.

Seven Days reports the Burlington City Council opted at Monday's special meeting to wait until early June to vote on the future of the city-wide masking requirements. That means masks will still be required indoors, like in shops and municipal buildings.

City Councilors cited concerns about retailer workers, and low vaccination rates among younger Vermonters, as reasons for the delay.

- Matthew Smith

New Hampshire to hold vaccination clinic designed for individuals who are deaf or have hearing loss on Saturday

New Hampshire has scheduled a COVID-19 vaccination clinic specifically for individuals who are deaf or have hearing loss, as well as their families and caregivers.

Granite State health officials will hold the clinic this coming Saturday at Elliott Health System in Manchester.

American Sign Language interpreters will be provided.

- Matthew Smith

Gov. Scott calls on Vermonters to show appreciation for EMS workers by getting vaccinated

Gov. Phil Scott is asking all Vermonters to show their appreciation for emergency medical service workers by getting vaccinated against COVID-19.

Scott has declared this week as EMS week, and notes that more than 100,000 requests for EMS response are answered yearly across Vermont.

More than 30 EMS-led vaccination clinics are planned around Vermont this coming weekend, providing the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to anyone at least 18-years-old. Walk-in clinics are also planned.

- The Associated Press

2. New food box program will run from June through September

A food box program created during the COVID-19 pandemic will continue into September under a new name and with one major change.

The Rutland Herald reports the new Full Plates Vermont program will be similar to the Farmers to Families food box program that started last year, which offered families a box of fresh produce and pantry staples.

But the Vermont Foodbank says the new Full Plates food box initiative has one big change: participants will only have to self-certify they meet the program's income requirements. They won't need to verify eligibility with records like pay stubs.

The new program will run from June to September.

- Matthew Smith

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3. Northern Vermont University president will step down later this summer

The head of Northern Vermont University says she will leave her post later this summer.

Elaine Collins has served as president of NVU since its founding in 2018.

Previously, she served as the president of Johnson State College, which merged with Lyndon State College to become Northern Vermont University.

The Vermont State Colleges System Board of Trustees will meet Tuesday morning to consider the appointment of an interim president.

NVU is one of three Vermont colleges that are set to merge into a new consolidated entity, tentatively to be called Vermont State University.

- Brittany Patterson

4. Welch calls for special commission to investigate Jan. 6 insurrection

Congressman Peter Welch says it's critical for Congress to create a special commission to fully investigate the events leading to the attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6.

Welch was in the House Gallery during the attack and was led, with other members, to a safe spot inside the Capitol building.

A member of the House Oversight Committee, Welch said he disagrees with Georgia Republican Andrew Clyde's characterization of the day as "a normal tourist visit."

“I literally couldn't believe that he was comparing it to tourist visits, but that's what's a threat to our democracy, when we are literally refusing to acknowledge that there was a mob that invaded the Capitol; that they destroyed property, that people were killed,” Welch said.

The House is expected to vote on the bill creating the commission later this week.

- Bob Kinzel

5. Congressman Welch voices support for COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act

Congressman Peter Welch says he strongly supports the passage of the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, as a way to reduce the escalating violence against Asian Americans in the U.S.

Welch says the bill would increase penalties for hate crimes, stand up a national hot line to report them and establish a database to track such incidents.

Welch says he thinks the violence is directly linked to former President Donald Trump inaccurately referring to COVID pandemic as "the China Virus."

“And of course, many people listened to what he had to say and many of the statements that people attacking Asian Americans have made embody that 'Go home, go back to where you came from, you're making us sick, you're threatening my health…” Welch said. “All of these things are clearly related to that."

The House is expected to vote on the bill in the next week.

- Bob Kinzel

6. University of Vermont Health Network says its recovering from pandemic losses

The state's largest health care provider says it’s making progress recovering from the steep financial losses it suffered during the pandemic.

The UVM Health Network, which runs six hospitals in Vermont and New York, says it operated in the black this quarter, after announcing earlier this year that it lost more than $21 million.

In a press release, the organization's president and CEO, John Brumsted, said the network received about $83 million in one-time federal and state COVID relief aid.

Without that help, the health system would have lost more money this year, he said.

The hospital system says patient visits are up and they’ve also managed to shave about $38 million from the budget.

- Howard Weiss-Tisman

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