Vermont reporters provide a roundup of top news takeaways about the coronavirus and more for Tuesday, April 6.
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The latest coronavirus data:
Vermont health officials reported 106 new COVID-19 infections Tuesday.
Chittenden County was home to 44 of those cases.
Another 11 were in Rutland County, which has seen nearly 350 cases over the last two weeks.
Hospitalizations due to the virus now number 25, including five people in the ICU.
As of Tuesday, more than 42% of Vermonters over the age of 16 – in all, some 231,000 people – have gotten at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
- Matthew Smith
At UVM, cases rise among students living in off-campus housing
Cases of COVID-19 are rising sharply in Chittenden County with almost 870 new infections reported in the past two weeks — 20% of those cases are among students at the University of Vermont.
UVM announced Monday that there were 94 new infections last week.
Monday’s new case numbers bring UVM’s two-week case count to 174. About 60% of those are among students living off campus.
Gary Derr, vice president for operations and public safety at UVM, says contract tracing shows large parties are not causing the spread.
“We’ll get a test positive on one person and if they’re in a four-person apartment, within days everybody in that apartment ends up testing positive,” Derr said. “… And then maybe one of them has a partner that’s in another apartment and then it next moves to that apartment.”
The university tests all students twice a week – a practice Derr says will continue through the end of the semester.
- Liam Elder-Connors
New York State opens vaccine eligibility to all residents 16 and older
All residents of New York 16 and older can sign up for COVID-19 vaccinations starting today.
Eligibility was extended to those 30 and older last week, and now the final age band – New Yorkers between the ages of 16 and 29 – is open to sign-ups.
Teens aged 16 and 17 will only be able to get the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, the only one authorized for use by people under 18.
In Vermont, residents 40 and older became eligible Monday. Those 30 and older are eligible this coming Monday, April 12.
Vermonters 16 and older will be able to sign up for a shot in about two weeks, starting on Monday April 19.
- Matthew Smith
Gov. Phil Scott is condemning the "racist response" to his administration’s decision to open COVID-19 vaccines to all Black, indigenous and people of color of any age before residents of other races.
On April 1, Vermont opened vaccinations to BIPOC communities and anyone living in their households.
About 20% of the state’s BIPOC population has received at least one dose of the vaccine, compared with roughly 33% of the state's non-Hispanic white residents – a disparity Scott called unacceptable.
In a statement Monday, Scott said his office, the Health Department and those administering vaccinations have been subjected to "vitriolic and inappropriate comments" on social media and other forums about the decision.
The governor's statement adds the reaction proves "many Americans, and many Vermonters, still have a lot to learn about the impacts of racism in our country and how it has influenced public policy over the years."
Vermonters 40 or older are now eligible to sign up for a vaccine. Those 30 and over can sign up starting this coming Monday, April 12.
- The Associated Press
Vermont needs to spend more money on domestic and sexual violence prevention programs across the state: that's one of the conclusions from a new report from the Vermont Network Against Domestic and Sexual Violence.
The report found that over $100 million a year is currently spent on public programs.
This includes $58 million for the Corrections Department and $35 million providing health care services to roughly 41,000 individuals affected by domestic or sexual violence.
Report spokesperson Amanda Cochrane hopes more money can be directed to prevention programs in the future.
“And really what we need to focus on is how as a community we can work together to really find enduring solutions to this major problem that we have as a society,” Cochrane said.
According to the report, the domestic and sexual violence hotlines received more than 19,000 calls last year.
- Bob Kinzel
Fifty Vermont towns that delayed their town meetings in March are readying to hold their annual exercises in direct democracy this spring.
VTDigger reports Marshfield, Plainfield, St. Johnsbury and Vershire will start Tuesday April 6, with other towns gradually gathering through May, June and some as late as July.
St. Johnsbury is the only community with more than 5,000 residents. The town mailed all voters a ballot for today's meeting, where residents will decide on filling offices, voting on taxes and deciding on 27 articles, including a question to allow retail cannabis sales in town.
Next week the town of Essex will again hold a vote on whether or not to merge with the village of Essex Junction, a measure that narrowly failed in March.
The delayed meetings will still lack many of the trappings of Town Meeting Days of yore: crowds will be limited to half the buildings fire capacity, face coverings will be required and no extras like potlucks or bake sales are allowed.
- Matthew Smith
Cities and towns across Vermont are learning how much they’ll receive from the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan.
Rutland will get $4.4 million of the federal aid to help in pandemic recovery.
Rutland City Alderwoman Sharon Davis says there are a number of areas where the funds could be spent.
"Whether it’s to help our local businesses, to do some needed infrastructure, whether that’s roads or sidewalks or pipes … we’ll put it to good use,” Davis said.
Congressman Peter Welch told city lawmakers the money will come in two allotments – the first arriving within weeks. He said guidelines will also be forthcoming on how the funds can be used.
- Nina Keck
High winds and dry conditions spread a brush fire in New Hampshire Monday that closed a stretch of Route 12A and threatened at least one home.
The Valley News reports the fire in Cornish, near the Claremont town line, blackened the east side the Route 12A before firefighters from several towns contained the flames.
The National Weather Service has red flag warnings in effect for much of Vermont and New Hampshire, noting "critical fire weather conditions" are occurring now, or will shortly.
Weather officials say a combination of strong winds, low relative humidity, and warm temperatures can all lead to extreme fire behavior.
- Matthew Smith
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