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The home for VPR's coverage of health and health industry issues affecting the state of Vermont.

Vermont Coronavirus Updates For Monday, March 16

Brittany Lyman peers at nearly empty shelves in a South Burlington grocery store.
Emily Corwin
Brittany Lyman of Burlington surveys the few remaining canned goods at Price Chopper in South Burlington.

VPR reporters provide a quick round-up of ongoing, local coverage of coronavirus for Monday, March 16.


State bans sit-down service in bars and restaurants

Shortly after Vermont's largest city said it would shut down bars and sit-down restaurants for at least 24 hours beginning on Tuesday — and St. Patrick's Day — Gov. Phil Scott followed suit statewide, restricting establishments to take-out and delivery until April 6. Read the full report.

Governor announces more cases, new restrictions

At a Monday press conference, Gov. Phil Scott banned gatherings of 50 people or more with some exceptions. Health Commissioner Mark Levine also announced the total number of Vermont cases of COVID-19 had risen to 12, including eight Vermonters and four people from other states. Read the full report.

Find a list of FAQs about the new coronavirus, plus resources, here.

UVMMC pop-up offers testing from cars

Patients referred by a doctor can now be tested for coronavirus without having to leave their cars. The University of Vermont Medical Center opened a pop-up COVID-19 testing facility on Monday at the fair grounds in Essex Junction.

"This is a tool we're using to help alleviate some of that stress, and to get people to go through and get tested a little bit quicker than they could at the medical center or at urgent care," said Mike Conti, a UVMMC program manager who was at the site.

Conti said it takes five to 10 minutes to collect a sample from each patient, and that 18 people had been tested at the site by Monday afternoon.

- Liam Elder-Connors

Canada closes its borders

Canada will close its borders to people who are not Canadian citizens or permanent residents, in an effort to combat the spread of COVID-19.

The travel ban includes an exception for U.S. citizens for now, according to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
The CBC reports exceptions will also be made for airline crews, diplomats and immediate family members of Canadian citizens.

All incoming travelers  will be asked to self-isolate for 14 days.

There are currently 375 cases of the disease in Canada.

-Henry Epp

Leahy urges colleagues to take up bill

Sen. Patrick Leahy is urging Republican leaders in the U.S. Senate to take up legislation to reduce the spread of the coronavirus. The House passed the bill over the weekend.

It includes testing for all people, expands unemployment benefits, and provides paid leave time for workers who become sick or who need to take time off in order to care for sick family members.

A number of GOP Senators object to aspects of the bill that could be seen as creating a new federal program. But Leahy said quick action is needed for the proposal to be effective in helping contain the virus.

"If people say well then I'm not feeling well but I can't miss a paycheck and I've got to go to work, you know what happens they infect everybody else," he said.

- Bob Kinzel

Labor commissioner anticipates slowdown

Vermont's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate held at 2.4% in January, according to the Department of Labor. However, acting Labor Commissioner Michael Harrington said the COVID-19 pandemic will likely disrupt the state's economy, with slowdowns in sales and wages.

He said his department is committed to ensuring affected employees have access to benefits.
- Amy Kolb Noyes

School staff prepare for closures

Remote learning plans for students will vary by region after Vermont schools close on Wednesday.

Jeanne Collins, superintendent of Rutland Northeast Supervisory Union and president of the Vermont Superintendents’ Association, spoke to Mitch Wertlieb for Morning EditionRead the full report.


Weekend roundup

UVM Medical Center restricts access:

The University of Vermont Medial Center is restricting access to slow the spread of coronavirus.

Patients are now limited to two designated visitors. The hospital is banning children under 16, people with flu-like symptoms, and those who have traveled to high risk countries from visiting. Additionally, the hospital is barring people who have had contact with people who are undergoing testing or have been confirmed for COVID-19.

- Mark Davis

Weinberger to reassign some Burlington city employees:

Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger said city employees will be reassigned later this week to help deal with the impact of school closures in Burlington. Weinberger said he had already planned to temporarily suspend many city services, to slow the spread of COVID-19.  Now, he said, he will deploy free workers up to help with issues related to school closures.

Weinberger said his office is especially concerned about getting food to low-income students, and caring for students with special needs. “I expect to deploy city staff from non-essential city services to assist in this effort, and the coordination for that effort has already begun."

- Pete Hirschfeld

Additional ski area closures:

Stowe, Okemo and Mount Snow ski areas will be closed for one week starting Sunday, their parent company announced.

Vail Resorts said the decision to close all of its North American resorts is a "pause," as they evaluate the impact of the coronavirus. 

All employees will still be paid for the week. The announcement comes a day after Jay Peak Resorts said it was closing its slopes for the season.

Questions, comments, concerns or experiences you want to share about the new coronavirus? Fill out VPR's brief survey here.

Killington Resort and Pico Mountain also announced closures through March 22. Ticketing, lodging, and reservation departments will remain open "to serve the guests who are on site," the company said Sunday in a press release. 

Bolton Valley has also suspended its operations until further notice.

Smugglers Notch announced Monday it will also suspend operations.

- Mark Davis and Emily Corwin

Religious congregations turn to technology:

Places of worship around Vermont are heeding the call to avoid in-person gatherings due to COVID-19.

The Jewish Community of Greater Stowe livestreamed its Shabbat service, even though Jews observing Shabbat usually avoid technology. "We made an exception in this particular situation," said the congregation's president, Emily Rosenbaum, "because, of course, it’s very important to provide people an opportunity to come together as a community and to worship, to say Mourner’s Kaddish, all of the things that we need to do."

Saint John’s in the Mountains, an Episcopal church in Stowe, streamed its weekend service online for the first time.

Father Rick Swanson said 60% to 70% of his parishioners are high risk. “They’re over 65, and often with underlying health conditions. So we felt this was the best, most pastoral way to respond to our parishioners. We don’t want folks getting sick.”

- Amy Kolb Noyes

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