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Vermont Coronavirus Updates For Saturday, April 4

An image of two foot prints reminding customers to give two carts of space to others in the check out line.
Nina Keck
/
VPR
Signs in the Rutland Price Chopper remind customers to give each other distance Friday.

Vermont reporters provide a round-up of ongoing local coverage of coronavirus for Saturday, April 4.

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Three additional COVID-19-related deaths

The Vermont Department of Health announced three additional COVID-19-related deaths Saturday.

A total of 20 people have now died from the virus in Vermont, and 461 have tested positive for it.

The number of COVID-19 cases has spiked since state officials ramped up testing capacity last week. Between Friday and Saturday, there were an additional 72 cases reported, the largest single-day jump since testing began. That number includes positive results added from late March.

- Elodie Reed

Vermont National Guard sets up Essex "surge" site

The Vermont National Guard says a 400-bed hospital “surge” unit in Essex will be ready for its first patients Sunday.

Dozens of Guard members used saws, nail guns and other equipment on Saturday afternoon to transform the Champlain Valley Exposition into a makeshift hospital.

Lt. Col. Chris Gookin, deputy state surgeon for the Vermont National Guard, said the beds will relieve pressure on hospitals that could soon be overwhelmed by patients with COVID-19.

“Ideally, this whole initiative will be based on slips, trips and falls, to provide some relief to the area medical centers so those individuals will not need to go to the hospital, they’ll be able to come here,” Gookin said.

Guard members, including physician’s assistants, surgeons and nurses, will provide medical care at the Essex site.

The facility in Essex is one of seven surge sites across the state that will eventually be able to hold 900 patients.

- Peter Hirschfeld

Volunteers sew face masks

New guidance from the Vermont Department of Health has increased demand for face masks across the state. And volunteer sewers are trying to boost supplies.

Pam Cross is a retired nurse who lives in St. Albans. She started a facemask sewing group on Facebook about two weeks ago.

“I put it together and I just kind of sent it out to a few people, and all of a sudden it mushroomed,” she said.

Cross and her volunteer sewers have distributed 600 homemade masks so far, mostly to local nursing homes and grocery store workers.

Vermont health officials are now advising all residents to wear face masks in public areas.

- Peter Hirschfeld

To read more about volunteers making both face masks and isolation gowns, and for ways you can help, head here.

UVM designs, models 'Vermontilator'

The University of Vermont has developed a design and working model of a ventilator that can be produced cheaply and in large quantities.

Called the “Vermontilator,” the machines are simple and inexpensive according to University of Vermont lung expert Jason Bates. He said they can be produced in large numbers for a few hundred dollars each.

UVM announced the design on Friday, a day after state officials released computer models that showed, in the likeliest scenario, Vermont running out of ventilators at the peak of COVID-19 cases.

UVM said it is about to submit its ventilator design to the FDA for emergency review.

- Elodie Reed

More COVID-19 cases at Birchwood Terrace

An outbreak of COVID-19 at a nursing home in Burlington has infected another 12 residents of the facility.

That’s according to the executive director of Birchwood Terrace, a 144-bed nursing home in Burlington’s North End.

A total of 26 residents at Birchwood Terrace have now tested positive for COVID-19. Hospital staff from the University of Vermont Medical Center are on site at the nursing home to help treat patients.

Birchwood Terrace is in the process of testing all residents and staff for COVID-19.

- Peter Hirschfeld 

Burlington reduces parks access

The city of Burlington is restricting access to some parks to discourage large group gatherings during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The measures in Vermont’s largest city include removing basketball hoops, locking dog parks and tennis courts and roping off playgrounds.

Burlington Parks, Recreation and Waterfront Director Cindi Wright said while most residents were following social distancing guidelines, more restrictions are needed.

“So there’s a lot more touching of items that we realized,” she said. “For that larger common good at this time in our life, we are closing some things down. But Burlington, you did it, you guys are really doing well. I want to make sure that this is not a punishment that we’re giving to you, but something more for the larger common good.”

The city also plans to collect more data on park usage during this time.

- Liam Elder-Connors

AG issues stay-at-home enforcement guidance

The state has not issued any penalties related to the governor’s stay-at-home order, but law enforcement officials aren’t ruling it out.

The Vermont Attorney General’s Office will handle all enforcement. Guidance released Friday says local law enforcement should first seek voluntary compliance before contacting the AG’s office, which will determine whether to bring charges.

Charges could include civil fines up to $1,000 a day as long as the violations continue. The AG’s office says criminal enforcement will be a “last resort” and could include a fine up to $500 or up to six months in prison.

- Liam Elder-Connors 

UVM cancels in-person commencement

The University of Vermont will officially not hold an in-person commencement next month.

In a letter to students on Friday, UVM President Suresh Garimella said the school will soon release details on a "re-envisioned commencement."

Meanwhile, two more Vermont colleges have called off in-person classes for the remainder of the semester.

Champlain College and Middlebury College both made the call Thursday, also canceling in-person commencement ceremonies.

Middlebury said approximately 120 students are still on campus, and they will be allowed to stay until the end of the semester, unless federal or state policies change.

- Henry Epp and Amy Kolb Noyes

Long Trail closed

The Long Trail, Appalachian Trail and side trails on state lands are now closed. The Green Mountain Club said it did not make the decision lightly, but feels it's in the best interest of protecting public health. 

GMC does not have the authority to close trails on other lands, but said trail conditions are generally poor this time of year. 

Currently, state parks, forests and wildlife management areas remain open, though most facilities, like restrooms, are closed.

- Sarah Ashworth

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