Vermont reporters provide a roundup of top news takeaways about the coronavirus and more for Thursday, April 22.
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The latest coronavirus data:
Vermont health officials reported 78 new COVID-19 infections statewide Thursday.
Twelve of Vermont's 14 counties all had new cases in the single digits, save for the 14 infections reported in Chittenden County.
Currently 26 people are hospitalized with the virus in Vermont, including three people in intensive care.
As of this morning, just under 55% of Vermonters 16 and older have gotten at last one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
The state opens vaccination appointments to out-of-state college students and other part-time Vermont residents next week – on Thurs., April 29.
- Matthew Smith
Dartmouth to launch program to treat COVID-19 long-haul symptoms
Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center has started a post COVID-19 program for people experiencing so-called "long haul" COVID symptoms.
In a release, the center says it'll be the first in New England to address symptoms like shortness of breath, fatigue, rapid heartbeat, memory issues and other symptoms that linger more than three months after people get infected.
An infectious disease specialist with a 10-member team will head the program.
Post-Acute COVID-19 Syndrome accounts for 10-30% of those who get the virus.
- The Associated Press
College students, part-time residents can sign up for COVID-19 vaccines April 29
The Vermont Health Department says college students from out-of-state who do not plan to stay in Vermont for the summer, and other part-time residents, can start signing up for COVID-19 vaccines in Vermont in a week, on Thurs., April 29.
The department says the opportunity will be based on the vaccine supply the state receives from the federal government.
The Health Department also announced that Vermonters who made an appointment through the state registration system, that's at least three weeks away, may receive a call asking if they want to be on a standby list for an earlier vaccine appointment.
- Matthew Smith
The news Tuesday that a Minnesota jury convicted ex-police officer Derek Chauvin of the murder of George Floyd has some Vermonters asking what comes next for policing.
Jessica Brown is an attorney in the Chittenden County Public Defender Office. She says police are asked to do things, such as respond to mental health emergencies, that they are often not trained to do.
"For sure, we know in our state that Black people, people of color, get disproportionately pulled over by the police. And that is often, we see nationally, the type of situation that ends up with someone being killed by the police,” Brown said. “So we need to be minimizing those contacts. And the way we do that is by coming up with other responses in those situations."
Following Floyd's death last spring, lawmakers in Montpelier passed some police accountability legislation. Police reform measures have also been considered in communities including Burlington and Brattleboro.
- Emily Aiken
'A gateway to accountability': former Rutland NAACP president calls for systemic change in Vermont
Following the conviction Tuesday of ex-police officer Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd, some racial justice advocates are calling on white Vermonters to step up in the fight for justice for all Black Americans.
Tabitha Moore is a sixth-generation Vermonter and former president of the Rutland Area NAACP. She says white Americans can use their privilege to push for reforms.
“White folks have got to be talking about deep systemic change,” Moore said. “We have to stop trying to arrange the deck chairs on the Titanic and deal with our legislative and structural issues that are preventing true justice from taking shape."
Moore says while some are calling the verdict justice, she characterizes it as a "gateway to accountability."
How much accountability it brings, she says, depends on Chauvin's sentence.
- Brittany Patterson
Although the gap is narrowing, data from the Health Department show there's still a lower rate of COVID-19 vaccination among Vermont's BIPOC communities.
Don Stevens, the chief of the Nulhegan Band of the Coosuck Abenaki Nation, told Vermont Edition Wednesday that it's hard for many Abenaki to trust the state-led vaccination process because the tribe lacks representation in state departments, especially those that deal with health and economic disparities.
“Because they trust the people that are part of their community,” Stevens said. “So the only way to get into that structure to try and uplift it is to be one of them.”
State officials say they are exploring ways to better include the Abenaki Nation in work addressing health and economic disparities.
A COVID-19 vaccine clinic at the Abenaki Tribal Office in Swanton is scheduled for this Sun., April 25. Community members can sign up by calling 855-722-7878.
- Emily Aiken
Advocates want Vermont lawmakers to use federal coronavirus relief funds to improve housing conditions for farmworkers.
Marita Canedo, with the organization Migrant Justice, says many farmworkers are stuck in substandard housing.
“We have to stop thinking that the beautiful landscape of family farms in Vermont is the beautiful things that we see on our products in the supermarkets. It’s not true,” Canedo said. “The people that are bringing the food to your table are living in inhumane conditions.”
Vermont is slated to receive more than $1 billion from the American Rescue Plan Act.
Gov. Phil Scott has asked lawmakers to allocate 25% of that money for affordable housing.
- Peter Hirschfeld
Westminster Elementary is leaving the Windham Northeast Union Elementary School District. That’s after the Vermont State Board of Education voted unanimously to approve the withdrawal on Wednesday.
The board also considered a request from Ripton, but they tabled that decision until their next meeting.
Westminster will now be reconstituted as a town district, responsible for its own K-8 students. The withdrawal will be effective next summer.
Meanwhile, Ripton residents want to withdraw from the Addison Central School District, which merged in 2016, in order to preserve their local elementary school.
But some members of the state board of education questioned the proposal.
The state board tabled the discussion, and will take up Ripton’s request again in May.
Last fall, the board allowed Halifax and Readsboro to split their merged district.
That was the first, and so far only, dissolution of schools that had merged under Act 46.
- Anna Van Dine
The state of Vermont is making public the details of how $1.25 billion in federal coronavirus relief funds were spent in the state.
The Department of Finance and Management announced the Vermont Coronavirus Relief Fund Transparency Dashboards, which can be found online at: spotlight.vermont.gov.
The dashboards will display the many ways relief funds were spent, including grants, contracts, direct payments and other information.
The appropriations include initial emergency spending requested by Gov. Phil Scott, and authorized by the Legislature.
The dashboard will also show funds appropriated in various bills and acts passed by the Legislature and signed into law by the governor.
The information reflects spending through Jan. 31, and will be updated quarterly.
- The Associated Press
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