Vermont Coronavirus Updates For Monday, March 30
Vermont reporters provide a round-up of ongoing local coverage of coronavirus for Monday, March 30.
Gov. Scott warns Stay Home, Stay Safe order will be extended
Gov. Phil Scott said he expects his stay-at-home order to be extended beyond mid-April.
Scott issued the order last week and has since updated it with new restrictions on out-of-state visitors. The order was supposed to expire on April 15, 2020, but Scott said that will likely change.
"In terms of how long, that's a good question," he said Monday. "I think it's up to all of us to make sure that we implement all the measures that we put in place in the executive order, and all the ammendments since. The sooner we do that, the sooner we'll get through this."
Scott said he will soon release modeling on how long experts expect the coronavirus to spread in Vermont. He said he expects the virus will peak sometime in April.
Legislature establishes taskforce to help Vermonters navigate federal aid
A legislative task force has been created to help individuals and small businesses understand the benefits available from the $2 trillion federal stimulus package.
Vermont will receive roughly $2 billion, including expanded unemployment benefits and a variety of grants and loans to help small businesses avoid bankruptcy.
Senate President Pro Tem Tim Ashe said he and House Speaker Mitzi Johnson have established a special six-person committee to make sense of the new resources.
"The Speaker and I are particularly sensitive to the issue of people's ability to sign up for either conventional unemployment [insurance] or this new program through the feds, and the problem for many small businesses who have to find a way to navigate all of these potential relief tools," Ashe said.
The committee will include three members of the House and three from the Senate.
- Bob Kinzel
State to stockpile, among other supplies, refrigerated trucks
Among the supplies the state is stockpiling for the COVID-19 crisis are refrigerated trucks that may be needed to store dead bodies.
Gov. Phil Scott confirmed on Monday, March 30 that officials are looking for the trucks in case funeral homes get overwhelmed.
"We hope it doesn't come to that, but considering the number of people who are morticians in Vermont, we have to be prepared for most anything," Scott said.
"The state is also looking to secure supplies of ventilators and personal protective equipment used by health care workers.
- John Dillon
Attorney General warns he will enforce executive orders
State officials hope businesses will voluntarily follow Gov. Phil Scott's latest order to shut down hotels, motels and Airbnb's for all but essential travelers.
If they don't, Attorney General TJ Donovan said there could be consequences.
"The governor's executive order does carry penalties," Donovan said. "There are civil penalties that range from $1,000 to up to $10,000 per violation. There is also a criminal penalty that carries a $500 fine and a maximum penalty of six months' imprisonment."
This past week, state and local police checked more than 300 hotels and motels to see if they were following the order. Public Safety Commissioner Michael Schirling said 44 businesses were not in compliance.
- John Dillon
Dozens of bills remain in limbo amid COVID-19
The futures of dozens of bills at the Statehouse are directly tied to the intensity of the coronavirus in Vermont, according to House Speaker Mitzi Johnson.
Lawmakers were working on a variety of bills before the COVID-19 health crisis emerged, including plans to ammend Act 250, a tax and regulate marijuana proposal and several gun control measures.
Johnson said her top priority is coronavirus-related legislation, and that other bills will be considered only if the spread of the virus slows down.
"Then we might be able to pick up other issues more effectively," Johnson said. "We're not taking anything off the table at the moment, but really focusing our attention on what's in front of us."
Johnson said the House Appropriations committee is also dealing with a projected $100 million revenue shortfall in the current fiscal year.
- Bob Kinzel
Legislators work to develop a plan for voting, debating remotely
Legislative leaders are developing a plan to allow state lawmakers to vote remotely.
The concern is that voting in person could be a health risk, particularly in the 150-member House.
House Speaker Mitzi Johnson said the most critical issue isn't voting — it's figuring out how to have debates and discussions.
"My focus is really to make sure that we are building a comfort level and a very good process, and a way to make sure that everybody can effectively use the technologies," Johnson said. "It's not the voting that is going to be the big hurdle; it's going to be effective debate and participation."
Johnson said she hopes to have a proposal in the next two weeks.
- Bob Kinzel
New outbreak of COVID-19 at an Essex senior living facility
The state Health Department is monitoring a new outbreak of COVID-19 at a senior housing community in Essex.
Health Commissioner Mark Levine said two deaths are associated with the facility. One person who died was the partner of someone who works there; the second was a resident.
Levine said the health department is tracing the contacts of residents who may have been exposed.
"We're currently aware of and have been in communication with 10, who we believe had the intense exposure," Levine said.
The commissioner said the Pinecrest senior living community in Essex is a housing complex for people 55 and over, and is not a health care facility.
Seven people have died from COVID-19 at the Burlington Health and Rehabilitation Center.
- John Dillon
Snowbirds and second-home owners must quarantine
On Monday, Gov. Phil Scott ordered people coming into Vermont to self-quarantine for 14 days and discouraged people living or staying in COVID-19 “hotspots” from coming at all, saying visitors have an obligation to “protect those already here.”
The new executive order applies to residents and non-residents, though specifically targets people arriving from “hotspots” like New York City and Florida, where many Vermont residents spend their winters. It does not apply to people who come to Vermont to perform essential work or to grocery shop.
Scott also suspended online booking for lodging on Monday, and clarified a prior order closing hotels and short-term rentals like Air B&B and camping facilities. Lodging facilities can only offer rooms for essential work, including caring for the homeless and sheltering essential workers. Read the full story.
-Mark Davis and Abagael Giles
Health Department tracks new outbreak in Essex senior housing
There now have been a total of 256 positive tests for COVID-19 in Vermont. The number of deaths still stands at 12.
Health commissioner Dr. Mark Levine gave the update at a press conference today. He noted 7 of the state’s 12 deaths from COVID-19 stem from the outbreak at Burlington Health and Rehabilitation.
Commissioner Levine said the Health Department is also tracking another outbreak at a senior housing complex in Essex Junction. There are two deaths reported from that facility: one resident and one partner of a facility employee.
New Hampshire Governor asks long-term visitors to self-quarantine
The governor of New Hampshire is urging some out of state visitors to self quarantine for 14 days.
Gov. Chris Sununu's request does not apply to people who come to New Hampshire to work, shop, or make a quick visit.
But Sununu wants vacationers, second home owners, and others who plan on longer stays in New Hampshire to voluntarily isolate themselves in hopes of slowing the spread of the coronavirus.
Neighbors give beloved Grafton resident a birthday parade
Because of coronavirus, people near and far are going to work, attending church services and even going to weddings using apps on computers and phones.
But on Sunday, March 29, the residents of Grafton pushed aside their screens, left their homes, and gathered together to celebrate the 90th birthday of their beloved neighbor, Joan Lake.
In keeping with proper social distancing practices, the residents of Grafton held a car parade in honor of Lake. Listen to the story here.