Vermont reporters provide a roundup of top news takeaways about the coronavirus, 82 people arrested and charged with drug and gun trafficking and more for Thursday, Oct. 15.
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The latest coronavirus data:
The Vermont Department of Health has now confirmed over 1,900 cases of COVID-19 in the state.
The department reported 14 new cases Thursday. Those cases are in Chittenden, Addison, Windsor, Washington, Lamoille, and Orleans Counties. Chittenden County saw the largest uptick, with six new cases reported there. Addison County saw one new case, Windsor County saw one new case, Washington and Lamoille Counties each saw two new cases and Orleans County saw two new cases.
Almost 176,000 people in Vermont have been tested for COVID-19. To date, 58 people have died. The most recent death was at the end of July.
According to the Department of Health, 15 cases are now associated with hockey programs in the Montpelier area. No additional cases have been linked to outbreaks at the Vermont Air National Guard and an orchard in Addison County.
Additionally, a new testing site for the coronavirus has opened at the Burlington International Airport.
Garnet Health opened the new site, which provides PCR and rapid antigen testing for COVID-19, as well as rapid flu tests. Results of the PCR tests are available in 36-to-48 hours, while results of the antigen and flu tests will come back the same day.
Garnet officials say the airport testing facility is also open to people who have not traveled recently.
- The Associated Press and Anna Van Dine
Federal authorities announced Thursday the seizure of more than 100 firearms and large amounts of heroin and cocaine as part of an 18-month multi-agency operation.
82 people now face federal drug and firearms charges.
U.S. Attorney Christina Nolan said the effort, dubbed ‘Operation Fury Road’ involved federal, state and local law enforcement agencies from Vermont and Massachusetts. Federal officials say the operation, which spanned from Oct. 2018 to Feb. 2020, was aimed at stopping gun and drug trafficking along Interstate 91.
The operation focused three surges on communities hit hard by the opioid crisis – Brattleboro, the Northeast Kingdom and Rutland.
Over the course of the effort, law enforcement officials seized 128 guns, including several AR-15 style rifles, a kilogram of heroin and a kilogram of cocaine.
- Liam Elder-Connors
Gov. Phil Scott has extended the State of Emergency to respond to the continuing COVID-19 pandemic.
Scott announced today Thursday the State of Emergency will be in place until at least November 15th. It was first put in place on March 13.
In a statement, Scott said while Vermont has led the nation in responding to the virus, residents "cannot become complacent."
Scott's emergency powers have allowed him to limit gathering sizes, close schools and certain businesses throughout the course of the pandemic.
Meanwhile, in Quebec, health officials reported nearly 1,000 COVID-19 cases Thursday, as the province continues to experience a second wave of the virus. Thirty more deaths were reported.
Quebec Premier Francois Legault said today that infection numbers appear to have reached a plateau, the CBC reports.
Legault said areas that are considered "red zones" will likely have closures in place for longer than anticipated.
- Henry Epp
The Agency of Education says school buildings can be used for the upcoming November 3 election.
In an August directive the state said the public could use school grounds, but that the insides of buildings were off limits.
This week the education agency set guidelines for the November election, which include making sure poll workers and the public don’t come within six feet of students or school staff.
The state also said election officials will be responsible for cleaning the communal space after the polls close.
School boards must approve requests to allow voting in their buildings.
- Howard Weiss-Tisman
Doctors at health clinics serving Vermont’s most vulnerable say they’re running up against the limitations of telemedicine during the pandemic.
Doctor Allan Ramsay with the People's Health and Wellness Clinic in Barre said telemedicine has been critical for keeping staff and patients safe.
But he told Vermont Edition that for some—it hasn't been enough.
“I calculated that anywhere between 25% and sometimes 30% of my visits would benefit from an actual in-person exam,” he said.
Ramsay said a lack of broadband — and even limited minutes for cell phone plans — have also been hurdles for telemedicine.
However, Heidi Sulis, director of the Open Door Clinic in Middlebury, one of nine free clinics serving uninsured or underinsured Vermonters, told Vermont Edition that patients are still hesitant to seek medical attention due to the coronavirus.
She said getting patients to come in remains a challenge.
“We continue to see more than traces of that reluctance,” she said. “We still accompany people over to the hospital, to help people get their labs, et cetera, because they’re scared. They’re scared of getting COVID.”
Sulis said telehealth services have helped, but many clinic patients lack the broadband internet needed for most telehealth.
- Matthew Smith
A familiar voice to generations of VPR listeners has died. Peter Fox Smith, who hosted opera programs for 40 years passed away earlier this month.
For four decades, Peter Fox Smith brought opera to the airwaves every Saturday afternoon on VPR, from the station's beginning until 2017. His program was known in its later years as "A Passion For Opera," and in 2004, Fox Smith wrote a book by the same name, guiding readers through the history of the art form.
Beyond his radio work, Fox Smith was a professor of humanities, classics, philosophy, and opera at several colleges around the Northeast, including at Dartmouth, where he also coached cross country and track and field.
Peter Fox Smith died on Oct. 5 at his home in North Pomfret, at the age of 85. He is survived by his wife, two children, grandchildren and a great-grandchild. According to his obituary, a celebration of his life will be held when it's safe for friends and family to gather.
- Henry Epp
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