Vermont Coronavirus Updates For Sunday, March 22
Vermont reporters provide a quick round-up of ongoing local coverage of coronavirus for Sunday, March 22.
Fifty-two people have tested positive in Vermont so far
Three additional positive test results of COVID-19 were announced in Vermont on Sunday, a more modest increase after Saturday's surge of 20 cases.
Chittenden County, the state's most populous county, has 22 cases. Lamoille, Orleans, Essex and Caledonia Counties have seen none so far.
Lawmakers plan to assist the newly unemployed
The COVID-19 crisis has forced restaurants and other businesses to lay off thousands of workers in Vermont. When lawmakers return to Montpelier on Tuesday, they plan to pass legislation to help people suddenly out of work.
During a legislative call, chair of the Economic Development Committee, Sen. Michael Sirotkin D-Chittenden, said the relief package would expand eligibility both to those laid off directly, and to those who cannot work because they may have been exposed to the virus.
“If you have reasonable fears that your going to work, is going to spread the disease to others; or that you’re going to contract the disease, you can legitimately quit your job and land on the side of safety,” he said.
Additionally, Sirotkin said, the relief package will waive a requirement that people search for other jobs before receiving payments.
Lawmakers to cut red tape for health providers
When lawmakers return to Montpelier on Tuesday, many said their top priority is to help health care providers deal with the financial and logistical challenges posed by the COVID-19 crisis.
The Senate Health Committee has been drafting emergency legislation, as well. Committee chair Sen. Ginny Lyons (D-Chittenden) said one provision would allow nurses and other health care professionals who are licensed in another state to work in Vermont without getting licensed in Vermont.
“We are trying to do the very best we can to have some flexibility for our health care environment," she said, "so we can get more people into the system to take care of the patients who will be showing up."
The legislation would also waive permit requirements so hospitals could add new capacity without going through a lengthy regulatory review.
Hardship forbearance available for some student loans
Students with college loans through the Vermont Student Assistance Corporation will not have to make payments immediately if their economic circumstances have changed due to COVID-19. Senate President Tim Ashe said he heard from VSAC about its policy on loan forbearance during an economic crisis. “Their general policy is up to 24 months of economic hardship forbearance,” Ashe said, and “they encourage anyone with a VSAC loan to contact them.”
Hospital asks volunteers to sew and donate masks
Fearing a shortage of face masks, Dartmouth Hitchcock has asked healthy volunteers to sew and donate them. On its website, the hospital shared a pattern and instructional video with steps for making cotton face masks with elastic straps. It is accepting the donations at drop-off locations in Lebanon and Manchester.
The request follows new guidance from the federal government saying that although the effectiveness of homemade masks is unknown, health care personnel may use them as a last resort.