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Vermont Officials Restrict Recreational Sports To In-State Activities

A sign reading for your safety and reminding people to wear masks and physically distance
Abagael Giles
/
VPR File
The Vermont Book Shop in downtown Middlebury provides COVID reminders for passerby.

Vermont reporters provide a roundup of top news takeaways about the coronavirus, a new homeless shelter in Burlington and more for Tuesday, Oct. 27.

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The latest coronavirus data:

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1. 29 new COVID-19 cases

The Vermont Department of Health reported 29 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday across eight counties. Another 1,039 people tested negative for the coronavirus, and 186,291 people total have been tested so far.

Four people are hospitalized with the disease, and 399 travelers are currently being monitored. Some 58 people have died to date – the latest death was reported in July.

- Elodie Reed

Vermont sees highest one-week new case count since April

Over the last week, Vermont has experienced its highest COVID-19 case counts since early April. Health officials say multiple outbreaks across the state are contributing to the spike.

Gov. Phil Scott said investigations into the outbreaks have identified a concerning trend.

"Getting together without taking precautions, including mask wearing and distancing, or not following travel guidance, appear to be a common denominator in what we've been seeing over the last few weeks," he said.

Commissioner of Health Mark Levine said multiple coronavirus outbreaks across Vermont should serve as a "wake up call for us all."

Levine said the threat of community spread is real.

"What we've been experiencing recently are different outbreaks among relatively unrelated groups and individuals, spreading from the original cases to their contacts and contacts of those contacts," he said.

Levine said contact tracing teams at the Department of Health have linked the spike in cases to small gatherings among families and friends.

Meanwhile, new modeling from the Department of Financial Regulation projects average daily case counts to triple in the coming weeks. Scott said Vermonters can avoid that outcome by adhering to public health protocols, such as mask wearing and distancing.

Commissioner of Financial Regulation Michael Pieciak said Vermonters can bend that curve by strictly adhering to travel guidance, mask wearing and other public health protocols.

"Just as quickly as that trajectory went up, we can get it to go down again, based on our own individual actions that we partake in over the next few weeks," he said Tuesday. "We certainly have control over this in Vermont. It's in our hands to make that forecast not a reality."

As of Monday evening, only three people were hospitalized with the disease in the state. He said no one has died of COVID-19 in Vermont since July 28.

- Peter Hirschfeld

COVID-19 cases are on the rise in public schools

Confirmed cases of COVID-19 in public schools in Vermont are on the rise.

K-12 schools reported 12 new cases of COVID-19 over the last week.

Health Commissioner Mark Levine said that's almost the same number of cases as in the previous seven weeks combined.

"I'm particularly concerned about the schools, because providing our kids with the education and related school experiences they need has been a steep challenge," he said.

Levine said increased case counts in schools have been tied to multiple coronavirus outbreaks across Vermont. Gov. Phil Scott said complacency in following public health protocols has led to the increase in cases.

- Peter Hirschfeld

More from VPR: 'Very, Very Cautious': Vt. Teachers Union President On How The School Year Is Going

Additional cases linked to Cambridge wedding

Health officials have now linked 18 positive coronavirus cases to an early October wedding in Cambridge.

Some 77 people gathered at the Barn at Boyden Farm on Oct. 10 for an outdoor wedding that was forced inside by a lightning storm.

Health officials say the venue followed health guidance around socially-distanced seating and mask wearing. Despite precautions, the first positive case was reported eight days later.

By last week there were seven cases linked to the event, and an unknown number of out-of-state cases.

On Tuesday, health officials identified 11 additional infections.

- Matthew Smith

Quarantine-free inter-state travel severely restricted

Earlier this month, the Scott administration instituted travel guidance that allows tourists to visit Vermont without having to quarantine.

But rising case counts across the Northeast have all by restricted interstate travel.

When the Scott administration issued the guidance, more than 17 million people from 14 states were eligible to come to Vermont without quarantining when they arrive.

Commissioner of Financial Regulation Michael Pieciak said Tuesday, "Now only 880,000 people are eligible to travel to Vermont. Nine states don't have a single green county in our travel map district."

Scott instituted travel allowances to help boost the state's tourism and hospitality industry.

It allows out-of-state residents from counties with low case counts to visit Vermont without quarantining.

Find the updated travel map and guidance, here.

- Pete Hirschfeld

COVID detected in St. Lawrence University wastewater

Hundreds of students at St. Lawrence University are in a precautionary quarantine after traces of the coronavirus were found in the school’s wastewater.

Officials at the Canton, New York university say the virus was found in samples from two dorms on campus.

North Country Public Radio reports all 216 students in those dorms were set to be tested for COVID Monday.

The virus can be shed in human waste within days of infection, which means waste water monitoring can offer early detection.

Students are quarantining in two dorm buildings until their test results come back. The school notes that positive traces in the wastewater does not mean there are active, positive cases.

As of Friday there was one active coronavirus case on campus.

- Matthew Smith

2. New homeless shelter in Burlington expected to open Dec. 1

A nonprofit group focused on homelessness is buying a motel in Burlington to create the city’s first permanent low-barrier shelter.

The building will be able to house 50 people and, unlike other shelters, will not have a sobriety requirement.

Anew Place, the organization buying the motel, ran the city’s low-barrier shelter last year, which was only open during the winter. Executive Director Kevin Pounds says they’re getting the building ready as quickly as possible.

“We bought it on Friday, the contractor showed up this morning and so it looks like it’s going to be open and running by Dec. 1, but that’s a month later than we normally would do,” Pounds said.

Anew Place is using $2.5 million in federal coronavirus relief funds to buy and renovate the motel.

Mayor Miro Weinberger says the shelter might decrease homeless encampments in the city.

“We know not everyone is going to want to avail themselves of this type service, but many of the people… would be more than happy to be here at the Champlain Inn if it had existed, and it will exist going forward,” Weinberger said.

- Liam Elder-Connors

3. State officials enact restrictions on recreational sports following outbreak

State officials are putting new restrictions in place for youth league and recreational sports after recent outbreaks of COVID-19 around the Northeast linked to sports leagues.

Effective immediately, Vermont-based youth and adult recreational sports are restricted to playing in-state, between Vermont-based teams.

The state is also putting strict limits on the number of spectators permitted at indoor events— 50% of fire safety capacity, with a maximum of 75 people. Only one spectator per participating family will be allowed. 

The revised guidelines apply to all Vermont-based teams, clubs and leagues that are not directly affiliated with a school. 

More than 40 infections have been linked to a hockey and broomball league in the Montpelier area.

- Karen Anderson

4. COVID relief funds helping landlords rehab apartments and rehouse those experiencing homelessness

Grants targeting small landlords may help families across Vermont who are facing homelessness because of the pandemic.

Melanie Paskevich works with Neighborworks of Western Vermont and says the nonprofit is working with landlords in Bennington, Rutland and Addison counties to renovate 80 units with grants of up to $30,000.

“The program is to take vacant, blighted rental housing and apartments, that have code issues or just have been vacant for a long time, to bring units online to rehouse low-income [tenants] and especially the homeless,” Paskevich said.

The grants are funded with federal COVID relief money, and the program is expected to renovate 230 units in Vermont. Tenants have to move in by December.

Read/hear the full story.

- Nina Keck

5. Leahy criticizes Senate confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett

Sen. Patrick Leahy says the Senate's confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court undermines public confidence in the judicial system.

The Senate voted to confirm Barrett along party lines late Monday night.

Speaking on the Senate floor, Leahy said Republicans rushed the nomination in order to have another justice who will side with President Trump if the president litigates the results of next week's election.

“And my concern grew into alarm when judge Barrett refused to confirm even the most basic tenets of our democracy,” Leahy said. “She would not affirm to me that a president might comply with a court order, and the Supreme Court has the final word, something every one of us learned in law school."    

Barrett was expected to officially join the Court Tuesday.

- Bob Kinzel

6. Pandemic school meal waivers to last into summer

Free breakfast and lunch meals at schools will continue through next summer after pandemic rule changes were extended into 2021.

The Times Argus reports the nationwide waivers were issued in March at the start of the pandemic.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture waivers made the meals free to all students, and allow for meal deliveries and pickups, among other changes.

Now those waivers have been extended through June of next year. The Vermont Agency of Education says children who are not in school can also get food through a school program.

- Matthew Smith

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