News Roundup: Vermont Only State With No COVID Deaths In Past 2 Weeks

Jun 2, 2021

Vermont reporters provide a roundup of top news takeaways about the coronavirus, Juneteenth and more for Wednesday, June 2.

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The latest coronavirus data:

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1.8,700 more people need to get vaccinated to reach 80% reopening benchmark

The state Health Department reported nine new COVID cases on Wednesday. The positivity rate over the last seven days has now dropped below 1%. Four people are currently hospitalized with the virus, with one person in the ICU.

According to the state’s reopening website, about 8,700 more people need to get vaccinated to reach Gov. Phil Scott’s threshold when he will drop all remaining COVID restrictions.

- Henry Epp

No deaths in Vermont in past 2 weeks

The state has not reported any new deaths from the virus in over two weeks.

Vermont is the only state in the country that hasn’t had a COVID-19 death in the past two weeks.

That’s according to Finance Commissioner Mike Pieciak, who gave an update at the Scott administration's press conference Tuesday.

“With the country’s lowest new case rate, the lowest hospitalization rate, the lowest fatality rate and the highest vaccination rate, Vermont is again the safest state in the country from the risks of COVID-19,” Pieciak said.

The state’s seven-day infection rate has fallen 93% since April 1.

There were six deaths in May from COVID-19, and Pieciak expects that number to drop lower in June.

- Howard Weiss-Tisman

Canadian prime minister wants 75% eligible population vaccinated before opening border

It may still be a while before the international border reopens.

The Canadian press reported this week that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wants 75% of eligible residents to be vaccinated before opening the border.

Gov. Phil Scott says there’s a lot of interest in the Northeast to allow travel between the two countries, and he's hoping to expedite the process.

”We sent a letter as New England governors to see what we can do to share any excess vaccines that we might have,” Scott said. “And maybe to be able to vaccinate our friends to the north when we have extra supply."

The Public Health Agency of Canada reports that about 50% of the population has received at least one dose of the vaccine.

- Howard Weiss-Tisman

Tracking data show people are getting out of their houses a lot more

As the state loosens its COVID-19 travel restrictions, people have been getting out of their houses more.

Finance Commissioner Michael Pieciak says tracking data collected by tech giant Google show that visits to retail and grocery stores and recreation facilities are all up since the beginning of the year.

“Vermonters are spending less time at home now compared to any other point during the past 14 months,” he said.

Pieciak says the movement has pretty much reached pre-pandemic levels.

The Scott administration says Google tracks movement across the state and has been providing movement data throughout the pandemic.

- Howard Weiss-Tisman

2. Gov. Phil Scott vetoes bills for non-citizen voting in Winooski, Montpelier elections

Gov. Phil Scott has vetoed two bills that would have allowed non-citizens to vote in municipal elections in Winooski and Montpelier.

But Senate President Becca Balint says lawmakers will reconvene later this month to try to override Scott’s vetoes.

“I believe that residents from these towns can decide how they want residents in their town to have their voices heard,” Balint said.

Lawmakers passed the bills after residents of both Winooski and Montpelier approved charter changes that would allow non-citizens to vote.

Both lawmakers and the governor, however, need to sign off on those charter changes before they go into effect.

And Scott says he wants Vermont to adopt a statewide policy on non-citizen voting, rather leaving that decision to individual towns.

- Peter Hirschfeld

Gov. signs bills for Dr. Dynasaur expansion, buprenorphine decriminalization

Gov. Phil Scott signed a flurry of bills into law on Tuesday.

Of note, Scott put his signature on a bill that would expand the state's Dr. Dynasaur program to all eligible children and pregnant women regardless of their immigration status.

Scott also signed a bill that would decriminalize the possession of small amounts of buprenorphine, a prescription opioid used to treat opioid dependence.

But in a letter to lawmakers attached to his signature, Scott also put forward an executive order that creates a task force charged with collecting data to assess the effectiveness of decriminalization.

Proponents of the bill say it is a lifesaving alternative to heroin and fentanyl.

- Brittany Patterson

3. Burlington to hold first Juneteenth celebration

The city of Burlington will hold its first Juneteenth celebration later this month.

The city's office of Racial Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging is hosting a day-long festival with free food and events in multiple locations around Burlington on Saturday, June 19.

Juneteenth commemorates the date in 1865 when the last remaining enslaved people in the U.S. learned of their liberation — which occurred two years earlier, with the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation.

- Anna Van Dine

4. F-15 training to take place over southern Vermont this month

In the next few weeks, Chittenden County won’t be the only part of the state with fighter jets regularly flying overhead. F-15s will be whizzing over southern Vermont in training exercises throughout the month of June.

The jets are based at the Barnes Air National Guard base in Westfield, Massachusetts. The guard says the flights will be between about 8:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m.

- Henry Epp

5. State authorities fine Glover assisted living facility for failing to monitor drinking water

State regulators have fined an assisted living facility in Glover for failing to monitor their drinking water system for contaminants.

The Agency of Natural Resources says that between 2018 and 2021, it sent numerous warnings to the Union Nursing Home describing violations and suggesting corrective action.

The nursing home agreed to pay a fine of more than $11,000 and bring the system to compliance.

- Mark Davis

6. Annette Gordon-Reed to deliver Dartmouth commencement address

A Pulitzer Prize-winning historian will deliver the commencement address at Dartmouth College this year.

Annette Gordon-Reed, a Dartmouth alum, is best known for her book "The Hemingses of Monticello,'' about an enslaved family under the control of Thomas Jefferson.

Several people will receive honorary degrees at the June 13 commencement ceremony, including poet and essayist Louise Gluck, who won the Nobel Prize for literature in 2020.

- Mark Davis

7. Turtles out and about to breed

Turtles are on the move in Vermont.

That’s according to Jim Andrews, a herpetologist and coordinator for the Vermont Reptile and Amphibian Atlas. For the next month, female snapping turtles and painted turtles will be out and in search of open, sunny lawns, gardens and road edges to dig their nests and lay eggs.

If you encounter a turtle in the road, Andrews says to check for traffic first, then move it in the direction it was already heading. Fair warning: snapping turtles can reach around to bite, so make sure to only move it from its back end, and keep its head pointed away from you.]

- Elodie Reed

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