Vermont Coronavirus Updates For Thursday, May 14
Vermont reporters provide a round-up of ongoing local coverage of coronavirus for Thursday, May 14.
Vermont identifies three new cases of COVID-19
The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Vermont and the number of people who have died from the disease barely changed in the past week.
Five people are hospitalized and there have been 53 fatalities.
Since the coronavirus was detected in Vermont in early March, the state has confirmed 932 cases - up three since yesterday's report.
So far, 792 people have recovered from COVID-19.
The Department of Health has conducted over 22,500 tests. Nearly 20% of those tests occured in the last week.
- Amy Kolb Noyes
Senate advances bill allowing select boards, trustees to pass budgets by July 1
The Vermont Senate has advanced legislation that allows certain communities to pass a budget before July without a full town meeting.
Some towns and villages in Vermont use a representative form of government or do not hold their annual meeting in March, but meet later in the year. The bill says the select board or trustees in these municipalities can pass a budget on their own before July 1.
Rutland Senator Brian Collamore said the goal is to allow towns to avoid public gatherings during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Not all towns were able to pass budgets,” he said. “Some use a representative town meeting and simply ran out of time before the stay-at-home order was issued.”
The communities covered by the bill include Barre Town, Johnson Village, the village of Woodstock, Essex Junction, Brattleboro, and Bellows Falls.
- John Dillon
Sec. of State says vote by mail will necessary in November
Secretary of State Jim Condos said he's optimistic that he'll soon be able to reach an agreement with governor Phil Scott over a vote by mail plan for the November election.
Condos said the system is needed because of health concerns posed by the coronavirus. But the governor wants to postpone a decision about implementing it until after the Aug. 11 primary.
Condos said there's an enormous amount of work to be done to set this system up and that waiting until August will create significant problems at both the state and the local level.
"We believe that we can come to an agreement with the governor," Condos said. "The conversations between the governor's office and our office has been really about trying to address any concerns that he has.
Condos said he'd like to have this issue resolved by the weekend.
- Bob Kinzel
Jury trials in Vermont courts will likely be postponed until September
The Vermont Judiciary announced Thursday that jury trials in criminal cases will be postponed until September and in civil cases until January 2021, due to concerns over COVID-19.
Court officials said they need to develop ways to hold jury trials while adhering to social distancing and public health guidelines.
However, the judiciary does plan to expand operations in courthouses in June, including holding non-emergency hearings.
People entering courthouses will be screened for COVID-19 symptoms and required to wear a mask.
The judiciary is also recommending that court hearings be conducted remotely "as much as possible."
- Liam Elder-Connors
Gov. Scott pushes for revote on school budgets
The Scott administration wants school boards to tear up budgets that local voters approved on Town Meeting Day and present pared down spending plans to residents later this summer.
State fiscal analysts are projecting a $167 million shortfall in next year's education fund. An administration official told lawmakers today that if school districts don't reduce spending, the state will have to raise property taxes by as much as 14%
Commissioner of Finance Adam Greshin said districts will need to reduce budgets accordingly.
"I'm confident that Vermonters will understand the challenges we face and I think they'll appreciate the initiative to let them participate in the solution," Greshin said.
Lawmakers expressed skepticism about the administration's plan.
Calais Representative Janey Ancel said the coronavirus pandemic has only increased needs at public schools.
"And for me, anyway, to talk about something which may leave schools with insufficient resources to do the job that we've asked them to, is just unacceptable," Ancel said.
- Amy Kolb Noyes and Peter Hirschfeld
University of Vermont staff, faculty, students protest wage cuts
University of Vermont staff, faculty and students gathered in their cars on Thursday to protest wage cuts for some faculty members.
Non-tenure track faculty in the College of Arts and Sciences face a 25% pay cut next year, along with a 25% reduction in course loads.
- Henry Epp
Department for Children and Families sees 46% decrease in call volume
The number of calls to Vermont's child protection line have plummeted in recent weeks and child advocates are worried.
In April, calls were down 46% from the same period last year, according to the Department for Children and Families.
Christine Johnson is a DCF deputy commissioner. She said the drop in calls is tied to Gov. Scott's stay-at-home order. As a result, children aren't being seen by teachers, health care professionals and others who are mandated by law to report suspected abuse cases.
"The call volume is no indication that there is less child abuse going on," Johnson said. "It could likely be the opposite."
According to the department, 83% of calls come from mandated reporters.
Vermont's child protection line is 1 (800) 649-5285.
- Anna Van Dine
Antibodies from llamas shown to neutralize the virus that causes COVID-19
Antibodies from llamas have been shown to neutralize the virus that causes COVID-19.
Daniel Wrapp, a graduate student at Dartmouth and the University of Texas at Austin, co-authored the new study. He said the key is the antibodies' size.
"In the early '90s, it was discovered that camelids, which is a group that includes llamas, alpacas, camels and a couple other animals, produce a specialized class of antibodies which are called 'nano-bodies,'" Wrapp said.
"The reason they're called that is because they're abou half the size of the conventional antibodies that you and I would produce. And because of that smaller size, they have enhanced stability and they're also able to wedge themselves into crevices that larger antibodies wouldn't otherwise be able to access," Wrapp added.
For more about the research findings and what they mean for COVID-19 in humans, read the full story or listen to Wrapp's conversation with Mitch Wertlieb, here.
- Sam Gale Rosen
New York's governor: North Country region can begin reopening Friday
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that the state's North Country region has met the criteria to gradually restart economic activity beginning Friday.
North Country Public Radio reports that Cuomo made the announcement in Watertown Wednesday.
The first phase of reopening includes manufacturing, construction, curbside retail, greenhouses and nurseries and other agriculture, forestry and hunting-related businesses.
It does not include bars or sit-down restaurants. State and public health officials emphasize that orders requiring social distancing, wearing masks and washing hands will remain in place.
All businesses will require a health and safety plan before reopening.
- Sam Gale Rosen