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Federal Broadband Funding To Bring High-Speed Internet To 10,000 Vermont Addresses

Vermont Strong sign in front of white farmhouse
Elodie Reed
/
VPR
A home along Route 7 in St. Albans sets out a Vermont Strong sign.

Vermont reporters provide a roundup of top news takeaways about coronavirus, new broadband access and more for Wednesday, Oct. 7.

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The latest coronavirus data:

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1. Six new cases of COVID-19

The Vermont Department of Health reported six new cases of COVID-19 Wednesday. Two of the new cases are in Chittenden County, two are in Bennington County, and there is one each in Windsor and Windham Counties.

To date, the health department has identified more than 1,800 cases of the disease in Vermont. In Addison County, 27 recent cases are linked to an outbreak at an orchard in Shoreham, which state health officials say is contained.

To the north, COVID-19 cases continue to rise in Quebec Province, with 900 new cases reported today.

Tuesday marked the highest single-day increase ever in the province, with more than 1,300 new cases reported. 

Provincial health officals are urging Quebecers to limit contact with grandparents, as a growing number of cases are in people over age 65. 

Health officials say parents who rely on older relatives for childcare should make alternative arrangements and refrain from family get-togethers.

While most new cases are Montrealers between the ages of 18 and 34, people over 65 make up 12-to-15% of new daily cases.

- Anna Van Dine and Karen Anderson

More from VPR: Testing, Guidance, An Outbreak In Addison County: Checking In With Health Commissioner Mark Levine
 

2. Remote learning presents challenges for students in special education

While some schools in Vermont have transitioned back to in-person learning, there are still many students and teachers working remotely.

Remote learning can be a challenge, especially for some students in special education. Vermont Family Network's Co-Director of Family Support Karen Price told Vermont Edition she's seen many families leave public schools to accommodate their child's needs.

“We have received a number of calls where families are looking at other avenues, home schooling is suddenly one as well as alternative educational placement, hoping that will provide an environment that will be more suitable,” Price said

Price said related services, such as physical and occupational therapy, have also been very challenging for families enrolled in remote learning.

Listen to the full interview.

- Emily Aiken

3. Developer aims to create senior living at former College of St. Joseph campus

A Florida developer wants to create 175 senior apartments at the former College of St Joseph in Rutland. The college closed last year.

Heartland Communities of America operates faith-based senior care communities with independent living and assisted care.

Managing partner Stuart Mills says they’ve entered into a sales agreement for 98 acres of the campus, and plan to invest about $50 million in the project.

"Certainly there's construction jobs that are numerous on a on a project of this size and scale. But the more important part is the long-term job creation will probably employ 80 to 90 full-time people from the area,” Mills said.

The project has not begun the Act 250 process.

Listen to the full story.

- Nina Keck

4. COVID relief funds to bring high-speed internet to 10,000 Vt. addresses

The state has completed the final round of federally funded grants aimed at bringing high speed Internet to unserved areas by the end of the year. In total about 10,000 addresses will be reached.

The federal COVID relief money came to Vermont with big caveats. The funds had to go for projects related to the pandemic – and the money had to be spent by the end of the year.

State Telecommunications Director Clay Purvis said the tight timeline meant that big projects – such as fiber optic service planned by new community startups – couldn't qualify. But he says the $12 million dollars in federal funds meet an important need.

“We're going to get really good broadband to places in Vermont that I think probably would have been the last places to receive broadband if they were to get them at all,” Purvis said.

For example, Purvis says a $970,000 grant to the tiny Topsham Telephone Company will reach 350 addresses.

“You know that project's a big deal, because that's a really hard area to serve,” Purvis said.

About 70,000 addresses in Vermont don't have access to what the federal government defines as broadband service. 

- John Dillon

5. Smart Artist Vermont offers free digital skill building for artists

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and the closings of theaters and other venues, it's been a challenge for performance artists to present their work. Many are turning to the Internet.

With that in mind, Thursday evening, Smart Artist Vermont is offering two back-to-back workshops on how to present online.

Topics range from production basics like lighting and sound, to the pros and cons of uploading or live-streaming content.

James Lockridge is executive director of Big Heavy World, one of the project collaborators.

“Smart Artist as an organization is guided by people who are responsible to the theater community, the dance community, the music community, and director and programmer of a performing arts space. So it's as inclusive as can be. And everybody's welcome,” Lockridge said.

The workshops are free.

- Betty Smith

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