Vermont Coronavirus Updates For Friday, May 15
Vermont reporters provide a round-up of ongoing local coverage of coronavirus for Friday, May 15.
Of 700 more tests, one positive for COVID-19
Vermont has tested another 700 people for COVID-19, and just one new case was reported.
Two patients diagnosed with COVID-19 have been discharged from hospital care, leaving the state with just three people hospitalized. The state reports 796 people have recovered from the illness.
In total, more than 23,000 coronavirus tests have been administered in Vermont and 933 people have tested positive. A total of 53 people have died.
- Amy Kolb Noyes
Lowest growth rate in the nation
Vermont now has the lowest coronavirus growth rate in the country. Governor Phil Scott said the credit goes to everyone who has followed his guidelines over the past eight weeks.
“From the beginning you followed our guidance, kept the health care system from being overwhelmed. Your efforts have saved hundreds and hundreds of lives,” he said.
New modeling by the state shows the number of COVID-19 cases will double in Vermont over 40 weeks. That's significantly better than was forecast at the beginning of the pandemic.
- John Dillon
Lodging industry to reopen with limited capacity
The state will allow more businesses to re-open as Vermont continues to see positive results with efforts to control the COVID-19 pandemic.
Starting next Friday, hotels, campgrounds, and marinas may open on a limited basis. But Commerce Secretary Lindsay Kurrle said lodging establishments may only book at 25% capacity. Customers must also certify they are symptom free and – if coming from out of state – that they have been quarantined or self-isolated for 14 days.
“Vermont residents and those who have met the quarantine requirement will be required to complete a health questionnaire and certification confirming that they meet the quarantine requirement and that they have not had symptoms,” she said.
Governor Phil Scott said if the disease continues to slow, he will allow more businesses, such as hair salons and restaurants with outdoor dining, to open in June.
- John Dillon
All negative test results for incarcerated women
All 76 inmates checked for COVID-19 in the women's prison in South Burlington have tested negative.
The facility-wide testing took place after a staff member took a voluntary test which came back positive.
While people incarcerated in the state’s prisons will only get tested after a resident or staff person tests positive at their facility, staff at all of the states’ prisons can volunteer to get tested.
Next, the Saint Johnsbury prison’s kitchen crew -- 24 inmates who cook for the facility's COVID-19 medical isolation unit -- will undergo testing.
- Emily Corwin
Feds to pass $3 trillion stimulus
Congressman Peter Welch said the country could fall into a depression if the federal government doesn't provide states with billions of dollars in unrestricted funds.
The U.S. House late Friday is set to approvea new $3 trillion stimulus package.
The bill, known as the HEROES Act, includes $1 trillion dollars to help state and local governments them meet budget pressures caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
The bill also includes new money to boost the salaries of many workers who have performed "essential" services during the pandemic.
- Bob Kinzel
State sues gym for flouting executive order
The Vermont Attorney General's Office is suing a Rutland gym owner for allegedly opening in defiance of COVID-19 restrictions.
In a statement, attorney General T.J. Donovan said that Club Fitness welcomed customers despite Governor Phil Scott's order on March 23 that closed fitness clubs and similar facilities.
Donovan said his office tried to persuade the gym's owner to close the facility in recent weeks, before filing the lawsuit.
- Mark Davis
Long-term care facility administrators may request facility-wide testing
Vermont now has tens of thousands of COVID-19 tests on hand and is encouraging anyone who wants to make an appointment to be tested. These tests, however, are not accessible to people residing in facilities like prisons and nursing homes.
At a Friday press conference, Health Secretary Mike Smith announced that long-term care facility administrators may now request facility-wide testing.
“This has been evolving,” Smith said.
Health Commissioner Mark Levine also elaborated on a pilot program Vermont is participating in with the Centers for Disease Control, which requires all new residents of long-term care facilities and prisons to be quarantined on arrival and repeatedly tested for COVID-19.
- Emily Corwin
Gov. extends state of emergency until June 15
Gov. Phil Scott has extended Vermont's state of emergency until June 15, but is relaxing the state's Stay Home, Stay Safe order.
In a press conference today, Scott said Vermonters should continue social distancing measures, but can begin to see others in small groups. Those over 65, or with conditions that increase their risk to COVID-19, should continue to stay home.
The governor says he still doesn't support a mandate to wear masks, but he will allow municipalities to take steps within their own communities, if they want to make their own mandates.
Scott also said that Vermont has the lowest three-day and seven-day COVID-19 growth rate in the country.
- Sam Gale Rosen
Vermonters leave food give-away empty handed
Organizers of a food give-away in Berlin had to turn away people today.
More than 1,900 people showed up at the state airport in Berlin to receive boxes of food from the Vermont Foodbank and Vermont National Guard. Demand for the food exceeded the supply, and the foodbank said some people went home with nothing.
The organizations had offered “Farmers to Family Kits” to anyone who came to the airport before 2 o'clock.
The kits included milk, meat, produce, butter and cheese as well as nonperishable food.
- Mark Davis and Amy Kolb Noyes
UVMMC resumes elective procedures
Elective surgeries are ramping back up at the UVM Medical Center.
Three people underwent elective outpatient procedures Wednesday at the UVM Medical Center's Fanny Allen campus in Colchester.
Hospital President Dr. Stephen Leffler says a lot of people have been patiently waiting to get procedures that they really need.
Leffler said the hospital's goal is to get back to doing 60% of the procedures they were doing pre-COVID-19. The 60% reopening within six weeks will allow for patients to be socially distant and for the cleaning of operating rooms.
- Associated Press