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Vermont Coronavirus Updates For Friday, April 17

Two people wearing masks put paper bags on a table as a car pulls up beside them.
Sarah Priestap
School nurse Susan Schuhmann, left, and paraeducator Janet Turner put out bagged breakfast and lunches for contact-less pickup at White River Valley School on April 14. "I've really been enjoying the social aspect of this work," Turner said.

Vermont reporters provide a round-up of ongoing local coverage of coronavirus for Friday, April 17.


Gov. allowing some business to resume Monday

Gov. Phil Scott is allowing some Vermont businesses to resume operations next week.

But he said COVID-19 will limit economic activity in the state for the foreseeable future.

“Because the reality is, until we do have the vaccine, we’re still going to have this virus among us,” he said.

Scott said one- to two-person crews in construction or other trades can go back to work starting Monday. The governor is also lifting the Stay Home, Stay Safe order for businesses that require minimal human contact, like attorneys and realtors.

Scott said he plans to lift the closure order for other sectors in the coming weeks.

- Peter Hirschfeld 

For more about what the Scott administration announced Friday about business resuming, including farmers markets opening in modified form on May 1, head here.

Two more inmates test positive for COVID-19

Two more inmates have tested positive for COVID-19 at Northwest State Correctional Facility in Franklin County.

They are the 36th and 37th inmates to test positive at that facility so far. Another inmate at the facility is isolated with a test pending.

Northwest became the only one of Vermont's six prisons to test all its inmates and staff last week after its first inmate tested positive.

More than 30 of its COVID-positive inmates have now been relocated to a quarantine unit at the Northeast Correctional Complex in St. Johnsbury.

However, facilities Executive Al Cormier has said Northwest will designate space within that facility to quarantine additional inmates should the outbreak continue.

- Emily Corwin

To learn more about how Vermont's prisons are handling COVID-19, check out the latest Brave Little State.

Scott authorizes state treasury to write unemployment checks

Gov. Phil Scott said Friday relief is on the way for the tens of thousands of jobless Vermonters who still haven’t received their unemployment benefits.

“Beginning on Sunday, I’ve authorized the treasury to start writing $1,200 checks to send to anyone who is still in need, who are on that list,” he said.

More than 30,000 Vermonters have pending unemployment claims. Many have been waiting for weeks to receive benefits.

Scott said the unprecedented number of new filings has overwhelmed the unemployment system. He added the state has decided to sidestep federal regulations to expedite claims processing. Read more here.

- Peter Hirschfeld

Trustees to vote on state college closures

Three Vermont State College campuses could be shuttered next year under a proposal released by Chancellor Jeb Spaulding.

Spaulding recommends closing down Northern Vermont University, which has campuses in both Johnson and Lyndon. NVU students would be transferred to Castleton University.

Spaulding also advocates closing the Randolph campus of Vermont Technical College. Its programs would be offered through distance learning and low-residency models out of the Williston campus and other regional locations.

Spaulding said drastic cuts are needed to make up for declining enrollment and revenue losses in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Vermont State Colleges Board of Trustees will vote on the proposal on Monday. Read the full story.

- Amy Kolb Noyes

Essential workers continue to cross U.S.-Canada border

It's been nearly a month since the U.S.-Canada border closed to non-essential travel. But some workers are still crossing the border regularly for work.

One of them is Jennifer Lavelle. She's an emergency department nurse at a hospital in the Northeast Kingdom, but she lives near Sherbrooke, Quebec with her husband and son.

In the first few days after the border closed, Lavelle said the border crossing was tense.

"It was really nerve wracking. It's starting to feel a lot better, as they're getting more familiar with me,” she said. “But I had this fear every day that I was going to work, that I might not be able to get back into Canada and see my husband and son, and then that my husband, who is not a U.S. citizen or permanent resident yet, would not be able to get into the U.S."

On Thursday, Canada Border Services cut back its operating hours at some of its U.S. crossings, including three connected to Vermont. Read the full interview with Jennifer Lavelle here.

- Henry Epp 

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