Vermont Coronavirus Updates For Friday, March 13
VPR reporters provide a quick round-up of ongoing, local coverage of coronavirus for Friday, March 13.
Vermont Supreme Court postpones some jury trials
The Vermont Supreme Court has postponed all jury trials in cases that do not yet have a jury selected until at least April 14.
The court issued the order in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which it said “presents unprecedented challenges” to the administration of jury trials in Vermont.The justices noted that many Vermonters are following health professionals’ guidance to practice “social distancing."
“For that reason, compulsory jury service could be particularly burdensome to certain Vermonters, especially those with heightened vulnerability to the virus,” the court said.
Superior judges retain the discretion to postpone jury draws in cases that are listed as exceptions in the directive. Any case in which a jury has already been selected may proceed at the discretion of the superior judge.
- John Dillon
Vermont Statehouse closes for 10 days
Vermont lawmakers are voting today to adjourn until March 24 so legislators can vacate the Statehouse due to concerns over COVID-19. Senate President Pro Tem Tim Ashe said the decision is a precautionary measure.
"I think we need to make sure that we’re providing a safe place for the workforce here, that we have a calm process of legislating, and I think right now, taking a one-week pause to monitor the situation makes a lot of sense," he said during a joint interview with House Speaker Mitzi Johnson.
Both said the statehouse will be shut down and closed to the public during the adjournment.
Ashe said he hopes some committees will continue to work remotely during the 10-day pause. But, he said, no votes will be taken until lawmakers reopen the building.
House and Senate leadership issued a joint statement, writing that the Joint Rules Committee "will reassess based on public health information," following the closure.
- Pete Hirschfeld
Dan & Whit's general store brings back delivery
Dan & Whit's general store in Norwich is now offering curbside and delivery services for customers trying to avoid potential exposure to coronavirus.
"We’re noticing some of the people aren’t coming out as often," said night manager James Reed, "so we decided to just do this for peace of mind for some of our customers."
After Dan Fraser and Whit Hicks bought the general store in the 1950s, they briefly offered delivery to customers.
"We're just reinventing it now, with the coronavirus epidemic coming on," Reed said.
Reed added Dan & Whit's takes the orders by email, and delivers within 48 hours. Delivery is limited to a five-mile radius from the store, and costs $10. Employees will pack goods for curbside pickup for no additional fee.
- Emily Corwin
Twin Valley Elementary School closes for second time this week
After closing on Monday, the Twin Valley Elementary School in Wilmington closed again Friday in what the district called "an abundance of caution" as a student was tested for COVID-19.
In an email and a notice posted on the school's website, the Windham Southwest Supervisory Union wrote the school was shuttered for a thorough cleaning and disinfection.
It also stated the results of the test would be released as soon as they were known.
- Sam Gale Rosen
Dartmouth-Hitchcock recommends fewer people come to the emergency department
Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center has released a set of recommendations in response to an increase in the number of patients being sent directly to their emergency department.
The recommendations state that if a patient does not show symptoms that would warrant an emergency department evaluation or immediate hospital admission, they should wear a mask and self-quarantine at home, not be sent to the emergency department as a first step.
The recommendations emphasize that people with flu-like symptoms or a coronavirus exposure history that concerns them should first contact their primary care provider or the Vermont or New Hampshire health departments.
- Sam Gale Rosen
Sanders suggests idea of delaying primary elections
Sen. Bernie Sanders said there may be a need to postpone next Tuesday's primary elections because of COVID-19. Primaries are scheduled in Ohio, Florida, Arizona, and Illinois.
Sanders said governors need to consult with health and election officials to consider how the possible closing of schools and day care centers could affect a person's ability to vote.
“Rescheduling elections is not something we do lightly, or should do lightly,” Sanders said. “On the other hand, at this particular moment, it is absolutely appropriate that public officials, governors, etc., listen to public health officials to make sure that everybody who wants to vote has the right to vote, and that may not be the case today.”
Louisiana has become the first state to change its primary election due to the coronavirus. State officials have decided to delay their April 4 primary for two months.
- Bob Kinzel
Vermont arts community responding to COVID-19
The Vermont Symphony Orchestra is postponing all March events over concerns the potential spread of COVID-19, and the Flynn in Burlington has cancelled the remainder of its season, through May 31.
They are two of several organizations to cancel events in recent days. Public health officials have advised social distancing and avoiding large gatherings to mitigate the spread of the new coronavirus.
VSO is looking at options to reschedule this month's performances. It joins the rest of Vermont’s creative economy sector is scrambling to respond to COVID-19.
Vermont Arts Council executive director Karen Mittleman said the organization is reaching out to its current grantees.
“If they are using a grant to support an upcoming performance and that performance gets canceled, they can still use our grant funds to pay the artists or presenters,” she said.
Mittelman said the Council has also created an online clearing house for information about the ongoing impact of COVID-19 on the arts community.
In a press release, Flynn officials said the status of the Burlington Discover Jazz Festival and its summer camps would be reevaluated in April. It is also asking ticket-holders to consider donating tickets as a tax-deductible contribution instead of requesting a refund.
- Liam Elder-Connors, Betty Smith and Emily Corwin
Department of Corrections suspends visits
The Vermont Department of Corrections has cancelled in-person visitations at all six Vermont correctional facilities. In a press release, the department said it is "taking all necessary precautions to limit any potential exposure to this virus."
The announcement noted that the video visitation provider for the DOC would provide one free video visitation per week to each inmate.
The new policy, which includes unspecificied "enhanced recreational opportunities" for inmates, is effective for the next two weeks.