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The home for VPR's coverage of health and health industry issues affecting the state of Vermont.

Vermont News Updates For Thursday, July 9

Sign in village of Fairlee
Sarah Priestap
One of the many signs of encouragement scattered around Fairlee in front of the town office building.

Vermont reporters provide a roundup of ongoing local coverage of the coronavirus, efforts to develop a new statutory code of ethics, and more for Thursday, July 9.

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The latest coronavirus data:


Vermont Department of Health reports 16 new cases of COVID-19

The Vermont Department of Health on Thursday reported 16 new cases of COVID-19. Of those new cases, 11 were identified as being in Chittenden County, one in Windham County, one in Bennington County, two in Lamoille County and one in Essex County.

Several of the new cases are part of a family cluster in Chittenden County, but a spokesperson for the health department said in an email that there wasn't a single event or outbreak that drove up Thursday's numbers.

Three people are currently hospitalized with the disease, and 12 people remain hospitalized with symptoms under investigation.

To date, the state reports that 1,272 people have tested positive in Vermont since March, and 1,054 people have recovered from known cases of the illness. Health officials have tested 72,749 people.

The health department is currently monitoring 1,731 travelers who are quarantining voluntarily upon arrival in Vermont, along with 54 close contacts of confirmed cases.

According to data from the department of health, nonwhite patients now account for 17.4% of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Vermont for which the race of the patient was known, though nonwhite Vermonters are just 5.9% of the state's population.

- Abagael Giles and Liam Elder-Connors

More from VPR: Race, COVID-19 And Health Disparities In Vermont

State police ID five Rutland City officers present at shooting

Vermont State Police have released the names of the five Rutland City Police officers present during a shooting on Wednesday that wounded one man.

State police say that only one officer, Tyler Billings, fired his weapon during the encounter. Billings has been with the Rutland City Police for three years.

The shooting took place early Wednesday morning while Rutland authorities were conducting a narcotics investigation involving a vehicle and the two men inside it, according to state police. Billings reportedly fired on the vehicle, and then a half-mile pursuit ensued until the vehicle crashed into a tree.

Police say the driver, who was shot, was taken to the hospital and was in stable condition on Wednesday.

Another officer, Nate Harvey, was struck by the car during the incident. His injuries were described as minor.

State police say they’re still investigating the full timeline and sequence of events.

- Liam Elder-Connors

Vermont K-12 schools race to improve indoor air quality ahead of fall

The race is on to improve indoor air quality in every Vermont school before fall classes begin.

Federal coronavirus relief funds will be used to improve heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems in Vermont's K-12 public and approved independent schools.

The project will be managed by Efficiency Vermont.

Program Director Jody Lesko said Efficiency Vermont is working closely with schools to get the most out of the grant program.

"Part of our ongoing conversation with them is, 'How do we access this grant program? How do we help them with their indoor air quality? How do we help them move through this grant process as quickly as possible?' I said yesterday that the thing I want is for us to have the most impact in the shortest amount of time," Lesko said.

Ventilation and filtration systems are key factors in controlling the transmission of infectious diseases like COVID-19.

- Betty Smith

Nearly 400 out-of-state campers currently housed at over-capacity Rutland hotel

Officials in Rutland are concerned that nearly 400 teenagers from the New Jersey area have overcrowded a local hotel.

The teens arrived in Rutland Sunday to take part in a multi-week religious camp.

Joshua Terenzini, who chairs the Rutland Town Select Board, said the Holiday Inn where they are staying has exceeded 50% capacity with the group.

"To have 400 people, mostly youth, not social distancing in one facility for three weeks also poses health dangers if one or two people have it," Terenzini said. "Gosh, the spread could be really dangerous down there."

State officials say they are working with the camp director, who says that all the children were tested for the coroanvirus just before leaving for camp, and plan to quarantine in place. The group has until Friday to find other accomodations for 50 or 60 of the campers.

- Nina Keck

Dartmouth College joins MIT, Harvard in lawsuit opposing student immigration rule

Dartmouth College has joined Harvard and MIT in a lawsuit opposing new federal rules that limit international students' access to online courses while studying in the United States on a visa program.

The college argues that this inhibits the free exchange of talent and ideas at the heart of the college's mission.

It further criticizes the administration for making the rule at a time when the continuing pandemic remains a threat to the health and safety of the entire academic community.

- Betty Smith

Small Baptist college in Bennington proposes new student housing complex

A small Baptist college in Bennington wants to build a complex of family and student housing in town.

The Bennington Banner reports Northeast Baptist College is proposing a cluster of nine buildings on a roughly six-acre parcel of land.

The development review board began considering the project this week. The paper said the board heard from a number of Bennington residents who raised concerns - including about the impact of increased traffic and water runoff from paved areas.

Northeast Baptist College has about 100 students and has classroom and office space in a former Ramada Inn in Bennington.

- Steve Zind

Woodstock requires face masks in public areas, local businesses

Village trustees in Woodstock voted unanimously this week to require people to wear face masks in public areas and local businesses.

The Valley News reports that the mandate comes as the popular tourist destination is seeing an influx of seasonal visitors. The paper said the Woodstock town selectboard took similar action following the trustees' vote.

There is no penalty for violating the mask requirement, and there are exceptions for those dining at restaurants or engaging in strenuous activity.

The mandate went into effect Thursday. Woodstock joins a number of other Vermont municipalities in requiring masks.

- Steve Zind

Prep schools await clarification regarding international student visas

Private secondary schools planning to reopen this fall have been disrupted by news that international students on F-1 visas will lose them if they take a full course load online.

St. Johnsbury Academy has students enrolled from nearly 30 countries.

The school had been preparing to provide both live and online instruction.

Then came the announcement from the Trump administration that international students have to take at least one course in-person, or lose their visas. For some students, travel restrictions will prevent them from returning to take their classes in-person.

Jack Cummings is associate headmaster.

"They came out with this ruling but they have not published the official guidelines," he said. "So nobody really knows how it's going to be interpreted and implemented."

The school has requested clarification, but until such guidance is available, Cummings said preparation for the new school year will continue as planned.

- Betty Smith

Shelburne Museum to reopen at end of July

Shelburne Museum will reopen at the end of the month.

The museum said in early May that for the first time in its 73-year history, it would remain closed all summer.

In Thursday's announcement, the museum said that beginning July 30, the grounds and some buildings will reopen to the public. Capacity is limited and visitors must reserve tickets online and wear masks on site.

The museum will be open Thursday through Sunday through mid-October, and admission will be free through Sept. 6.

- Anna Van Dine

Health Commissioner urges public to follow safe swimming, boating practices

Vermont's health commissioner is urging people to practice swimming and boating safety this summer, following a number of recent drownings.

On Tuesday, Dr. Levine reminded Vermonters to always wear a life jacket on a boat, be aware of local weather patterns, swimm with a buddy or group and not use alcohol while swimming or boating.

Levine urged adults to provide constant supervision of children and teens while swimming or boating.

- The Associated Press

St. Albans hospital to end addition recovery program

Northwestern Medical Center in St. Albans will end it's addiction recovery program.

VTDigger reports the hospital announced the decision Tuesday as part of a sustainability plan. The program, which provided medication-assisted treatment to about 400 people, will cease at the end of this month. The Burlington-based Howard Center will expand its services in the area to fill the gap.

NMC spokesperson Jonathan Billings said, "Closing the program will save NMC about $500,000 a year."

- Karen Anderson

More from VPR: Reporter Debrief: As COVID-19 Spreads, Hospitals Face Financial Woes

Vermont sees more than 8,000 power outages

Nearly 200 Vermonters were still without power Thursday morning after severe thunderstorms hit the region Wednesday.

Vermont Outages reported more than 150 Chittenden County residents were without power this morning, while 20 residences in Washington County remained without power.

More than 8,000 outages occured throughout the state Wednesday.

- Karen Anderson

Montgomery voters approve $11.7 million wastewater project, $7 million streetscape project

Montgomery residents will see improved sidewalks, roadways and new wastewater systems.

The St. Albans Messenger reports that voters in the northern Vermont town voted Tuesday in a special election to approve an $11.7 million wastewater project, 75% of which will be covered by a grant.

Voters also approved a $7 million streetscape project to improve sidewalks and roads in Montgomery.

- Karen Anderson

Vermont State Ethics Commission seeks input for statutory code of ethics

The Vermont State Ethics Commission is looking for suggestions for a draft statutory code of ethics that it will submit to the Legislature later this year.

Until now the commission has had little power, and Vermont is considered among the weakest states in the country in terms of ethics oversight of state employees and lawmakers.

The effort to write and pass a statute is seen as a way to clarify ethics standards and give the commission, or another body, the power to enforce them.

The commission is soliciting written comments from the public. It will also hold a virtual public hearing on a draft proposal on Aug. 12.

- Steve Zind

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