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

30 COVID-19 Cases Now Connected To Central Vt. Hockey, Broomball Outbreak

Downtown Montpelier in fall
Denis Tangney Jr.
/
iStock
According to state health officials, there are now 30 cases of coronavirus linked to hockey and broomball teams that practiced at Central Vermont Memorial Civic Center in Montpelier.

Vermont reporters provide a roundup of top news takeaways about the coronavirus, homelessness and more for Monday, Oct. 19.

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1. 30 cases of COVID-19 now linked to Central Vermont outbreak

The Health Department says there are now 30 cases of COVID-19 connected to hockey and broomball leagues in central Vermont.

Each of the teams practiced or played at Central Vermont Memorial Civic Center in Montpelier. The health department says it’s recommending testing for people with quote “direct links to the teams and their close contacts.” Health officials are not recommending testing for the broader Montpelier community.

The health department will hold a pop-up testing clinic at Barre Auditorium on Thursday. Central Vermont Medical Center also offer special testing starting Tuesday and going through Friday. Those clinics are 2- 4 p.m. and appointments are required.

Nine new cases announced Monday

The Vermont Department of Health reported nine new cases of COVID-19 Monday. The cases are in Chittenden, Orange, Washington, Windsor and Orleans and counties.

To date, over 179,000 people in Vermont have been tested for COVID-19 and more than 1,940 people have tested positive.

No additional cases so far at Northeastern Vermont Regional Hospital

No additional coronavirus cases have been identified as a result of the nursing facility and St. Johnsbury hospital employee who tested positive for COVID-19 last week, according to state health officials. 

The Caledonian Record reports the Northeastern Vermont Regional Hospital announced the positive case last week of an employee who also works at a skilled nursing facility in Caledonia County. 

The first round of testing was completed last week, and no new positive cases were reported.

A second round of testing occurred Sunday, and results are expected later Monday.

New case identified at Burlington Public Works

Burlington Public Works has suspended in-person services this week after a second case of COVID-19 was identified. 

According to WCAX, health officials say there is no risk to people who have visited the Pine Street office.

Burlington Public Works plans to resume in-person services next Monday. 

- Karen Anderson and Liam Elder-Connors

2. Quebec experiencing second wave of COVID-19 infections

Quebec is experiencing a second wave of COVID-19 infections, but so far hospitals in the Montreal area have not been overwhelmed.

Aaron Derfel is a reporter with The Montreal Gazette. He says Quebec City's hospitals are in a tougher position.

"In the provincial capital, which is Quebec City, it's rapidly losing that capacity. There have been outbreaks in a cardiac hospital, so that's a big concern,” Derfel said.

The province reported over 1,000 COVID-19 cases on Monday. Cases have gone up steadily since early September.

Border to remain closed

The US-Canada border will remain closed to non-essential travel for at least another month.

Canada's public safety minister announced the extension on Twitter today Monday. The border will be closed until Nov. 21. It's been shut since March, in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The closure has been extended monthly ever since.

Restrictions for cross-border couples and families have changed somewhat in recent months. Family members or long-term partners of Canadians can visit the country, but must fill out an application and get written approval from the Canadian government before traveling.

- Henry Epp

3. A record number of Vermonters have already voted by mail

Two weeks before the election, a record number of Vermonters have already voted by mail.

Secretary of State Jim Condos says roughly 150 thousand ballots have been received by town clerks, and if this trend continues, as many as 90 percent of all voters could cast their ballot by mail this year.

“The response has been very, very good,” Condos said. “We've been focused on two premises: one being to protect every eligible Vermonter's right to vote and two, to protect the health and safety of not only the voters but also the town clerks and our poll workers as well." 

Condos said people who want to vote by mail should do so no later than Saturday.

Vermonters prepare to mobilize post-election

As President Donald Trump continues to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the upcoming election, groups in Vermont are joining a nationwide effort to uphold the outcome of the vote.

Ben Walsh is with the Vermont Public Interest Research Group. He said Vermonters are ready to mobilize, if Trump either challenges the legitimacy of the election results, or declares victory before votes are tallied.

“We believe strongly that people safely being out in the streets to make abundantly clear that subverting our democracy is not acceptable to the American people can be a critical part in protecting the results of our election,” Walsh said.

Walsh said VPIRG has already secured permits for post-Election Day rallies at the Statehouse.

- Peter Hirschfeld and Bob Kinzel

More from VPR: A Guide To Voting In Vermont For The 202 General Election

4. Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor clarifies policy positions

The Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor says Vermont needs to invest in infrastructure for its small towns — or they could cease to exist.

Molly Gray says preserving Vermont’s rural character is important— but investments like broadband are needed if small towns are to survive.

She told Vermont Edition it’s something sees firsthand on the family farm in Newbury:

“I can get in the truck with my brother, for example, we can drive around, and he will point out empty house, empty house, empty house, empty house … There will be no more Newbury, and I think there will be no more rural communities with great schools and, if we don’t make some of these strategic investments,” Gray said.

Gray faces Republican nominee Scott Milne and Progressive Party nominee Cris Erickson in the election for lieutenant governor.

Gray is also calling for tighter gun laws.

She says firearms are an important part of many Vermonters’ livelihoods. She also says the state must close the so-called Charleston loophole – the sale of a gun before a background check is complete, or avoidance of one altogether.

Gray told Vermont Edition “Our challenge now is to figure out how to close the Charleston loophole, to expand universal background checks and 24-hour waiting periods, which I would absolutely support,” she said.

Listen to the full conversation.

 - Matthew Smith

5. Sen. Leahy pledges to vote against Coney Barrett's Supreme Court confirmation

Senator Patrick Leahy says he will vote against the confirmation of judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court in part because Barrett refuses to excuse herself from cases arising from the upcoming presidential election.

Leahy said it's a critical question because it's possible that voting irregularities could occur in a number of states and that lawsuits would then be sent immediately to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“She said she wouldn't agree to that – that hurts the integrity of the Court – this is making a mockery of the Supreme Court,” Leahy said.

Leahy said Republican leaders are quote "ramming this nomination through the Congressional process."

- Bob Kinzel

6. Community Health Centers of Burlington to bring healthcare to unhoused Vermonters

A non-profit health organization in Chittenden County is using federal coronavirus relief funds to buy a van to help people experiencing homelessness.

Community Health Centers of Burlington has the only designated homeless healthcare program in the state. The organization says the van will allow them to bring medical services to people who might have trouble getting to one of the C-H-C-B’s physical locations.

Kerry Goulette is the lead clinician for homeless healthcare program.

“It’s like going to the doctor’s officer. We do medical visits for folks, we do vital signs and we do histories and physical exams and labs and we’re working on getting additional equipment like ultrasound,” Goulette said.

Goulette said the van will make regular stops to shelters in the area as well as motels where Vermont houses some homeless individuals.

- Liam Elder-Connors

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