Vermont reporters provide a roundup of top news takeaways about the coronavirus, state politics and more for Wednesday, Nov. 11.
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The latest coronavirus data:
On Wednesday, the Vermont Department of Health reported 72 new cases of COVID-19, marking the largest single day increase since the start of the pandemic. In total, 2,535 people have tested positive for the disease in Vermont since March.
The new cases are spread across 13 Vermont counties. Nineteen of the new cases are in Washington County, and Rutland and Chittenden counties each saw 11 new cases.
Currently, there are 14 people hospitalized with the disease in the state. Six people are being treated in intensive care units.
The department of health is currently monitoring 227 people as close contacts of confirmed cases. Vermont's seven-day percent positivity rate rose to 0.8% on Wednesday. To date, 196,281 people have been tested for active cases.
In response to the rising case counts across the state, Gov. Phil Scott said the state will re-deploy field hospitals to prepare for a potential surge.
Vermont has recorded about 200 new cases over the past week, and state modeling predicts infection numbers will continue to rise.
Health Commissioner Mark Levine says Vermonters need to double down on coronavirus prevention efforts.
"I, for one, am completely on board with people who say they are sick and tired of this, and they have pandemic fatigue," Levine said. "But at the same time, I can do the right things."
Levine said people should avoid social gatherings, wear a mask and wash their hands frequently.
- Liam Elder-Connors, Karen Anderson and Abagael Giles
Rutland nursing facility works to contain outbreak
A Rutland nursing facility is grappling with a coronavirus outbreak after eight patients and one staff member tested positive for COVID-19.
The Rutland Herald reports the Rutland Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center, owned by Genesis Healthcare, first identified a positive and asymptomatic patient. It's since tested all patients and staff, as of Sunday.
Local officials say the outbreak appears to be confined to the memory-care unit.
More testing is set for Wednesday, and will continue through mid-November.
Genesis had two positive cases among its staff at another Rutland facility, the Mountain View Center, in September.
- Matthew Smith
Abenaki Chief among Vermont's first vaccine volunteers
An Abenaki Chief is among the first volunteers to participate in a COVID-19 vaccine trial at the University of Vermont.
Chief Don Stevens of the Nulhegan Band of the Coosuk-Abenaki Nation will be among at least 250 local participants in the trial, which includes 30,000 people nationally.
The vaccine was developed by Oxford University and manufactured by AstraZeneca.
In a statement sent out by UVM, Chief Stevens acknowledged that Native Americans are at high risk of complications due to COVID-19. He said he was participating in the trial because, "It is vital that we protect our elders and most vulnerable from this pandemic."
Participants are now receiving the first of two injections.
- Anna Van Dine
Public school teachers to be tested
Testing will be conducted at one-quarter of the state's K-12 schools each week. And while the health department says the testing is not mandatory, they hope all teachers and staff will participate.
Deputy Health Commissioner Tracy Dolan told Vermont Edition this is part of the state's surveillance testing strategy, to get a sense of the level of virus throughout Vermont.
"Teachers are obviously in touch with a great number of students and so it gives us a snapshot as to what's going on and hopefully helps us find more cases, as we see our positivity rate slightly rise," Doaln said. "This allows us another way to find cases early and continue to work on containment."
Testing will begin before Thanksgiving. The health department expects to continue widespread school-based testing for the foreseeable future.
- Jane Lindholm
Gov. Phil Scott announced Tuesday the suspension of rules allowing some people to travel into Vermont without needing to quarantine.
The suspension means Vermonters will only be able to travel outside of the state's borders for very specific reasons if they want to avoid quarantine upon return.
Deputy Health Commissioner Tracy Dolan told Vermont Edition, now some activities that were previously allowed are no longer considered OK.
"Now, we have really limited the cross-border activity," she said Tuesday. "So we're no longer saying, 'Hey, if you do your shopping over there, head on over and do your shopping and come back.' So it's really only for essential travel."
Exceptions to the rule allow cross-boarder travel for work, school or medical appointments. And there's a special carve-out for parents needing to pick up children from college campuses out of state.
- Jane Lindholm
Attorney General TJ Donovan says his office is close to settling a lengthy investigation into charges that the state's largest solid waste district dumped glass for years instead of recycling it, as claimed.
The Chittenden Solid Waste District handles much of northern Vermont's recycling, including tons of glass processed at its Williston facility. In 2018, Vermont's Agency of Natural Resources alleged the district violated environmental laws by not using the crushed glass for recycling.
The case was referred to the AG's office and now, Donovan said, after a delay from the pandemic, he expects a settlement soon.
"Both sides are talking and that's always a positive sign, and I'm hopeful we can get this resolved sooner than later," he said.
The district insists it did nothing wrong. Meanwhile, the agency has drafted two amendments to the district's solid waste permit that would retroactively approve some of the glass disposal practices.
- John Dillon
Former Gov. Howard Dean says moderate and progressive Democrats will need to learn to work together to maintain control of the House of Representatives.
Democrats held their majority in the House, but lost seats in last week's election.
Dean, who's the former chair of the Democratic National Committee, said both factions need to make changes.
"I think that the problem is that moderates need to be less timid about policy, and progressives need to be more timid about slogans..." Dean said. "You can't have a majority without both progressives and moderates. They're going to have to learn to live together, and they better learn how to work together."
Dean led a DNC effort this year to allow Democratic campaigns to share voter data. He said despite the party's disappointing showing in House and Senate races, that program was a success.
- Henry Epp
A St. Albans Town teen has been arrested for possession of a destructive device, after police searched his home for explosives on Monday.
The St. Albans Messenger reports police got a court-ordered warrant to search the home following reports of an individual potentially manufacturing explosives.
State police officers, and federal agents with the FBI, ATF and U.S. Customs and Boarder Protection were involved.
The 17-year-old faces one charge of possession of a destructive device.
- Matthew Smith
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