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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 Sunday, April 26

Social Distancing Poster at Skatepark
Abagael Giles
/
VPR
At Burlington's A-Dog Skatepark, signs encourage skaters to practice social distancing.

Vermont reporters provide a round-up of ongoing local coverage of coronavirus for Sunday, April 26.

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Growth rate of new COVID-19 cases continues to decline

Updated numbers from the Department of Health show that 851 people have now tested positive for COVID-19 in Vermont, and 11 people are currently hospitalized with the disease.

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases grew by less than 1 percent from Saturday to Sunday, and public health officials say they expect that growth rate to continue to decline in the coming weeks.

On April 17, Commissioner of Financial Regulation Michael Pieciak said Vermont had likely passed its peak of new COVID-19 cases. On Friday, he said the state has also “likely reached our peak regarding the demand on hospital resources.”

Gov. Phil Scott credits the decrease in new COVID-19 cases to Vermonters’ adherence to social distancing guidelines.

The Department of Health reported no new deaths from COVID-19 Sunday.

Forty-six people have died of COVID-19 in Vermont. Thirty of those deaths were in Chittenden County.

Peter Hirschfeld

Budget shortfall looms

Under normal circumstances, Vermont lawmakers would be putting the finishing touches on next year’s state budget right about now.

Instead, elected officials are wrestling anew with the spending plan they passed last year.

The current fiscal year ends on June 30. But an anticipated dive in state revenues means the state likely won’t have the funds to pay for the budget lawmakers passed last May.

“We are going to have tremendous … holes in our budget … on the state side, the local side, and all throughout state government, so we’re going to have to make some tough decisions in the coming months,” Gov. Phil Scott said Friday.

More from VPR: As COVID Numbers Decline, Scott Eases Restrictions On Construction, Manufacturing

Administration Secretary Susanne Young said her agency has asked department heads to submit cost-cutting proposals. 

“And we are collecting those submissions this week and formulating a proposal for another budget adjustment,” Young said.

Vermont has received more than $1 billion in federal coronavirus aid. But elected officials are not allowed to use that money to offset revenue losses related to COVID-19.

Young said the administration will present a revised budget proposal to lawmakers in May. Scott sid he hasn’t decided yet whether he’ll propose new taxes or fees to offset a portion of the revenue shortfalls.

Peter Hirschfeld

Coalition pushes for voting by mail

A coalition of prominent businesses and nonprofit organizations wants to make it easier for Vermonters to vote by mail in the 2020 elections.

Companies including Ben & Jerry’s, Burton Snowboards and Seventh Generation are asking the governor and secretary of state to send ballots to every registered voter in Vermont.

Proponents of the vote-by-mail system, including the American Civil Liberties Union of Vermont and the Vermont Public Interest Research Group, say it would minimize in-person voting during the coronavirus pandemic.

It is our belief that no one should have to choose between staying safe and exercising their right to vote,” the coalition wrote in a letter to Gov. Phil Scott and Secretary of State Jim Condos. “Yet, we know that in-person voting during a pandemic can be dangerous for voters and poll workers alike.”

More from VPR: Could Vermont Hold Elections Entirely By Mail? Sec. Condos Weighs In

The group has launched a petition calling for a universal vote-by-mail system, and says more than 1,000 Vermonters have signed on so far.

Five states already send ballots to all registered voters, and Secretary of State Jim Condos says he’s considering instituting a similar system in Vermont.

Legislation approved by Vermont lawmakers earlier this year authorizes the governor and secretary of state to institute a universal vote-by-mail program.

Peter Hirschfeld

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