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Vermont Sees 68 New Cases Of COVID-19, Two Deaths

Two women in black vests and shirts assemble meals on wheels in a food service kitchen
Nina Keck
/
VPR
Sherry Merrill and Linda Davis help assemble meals for seniors in Rutland. Their efforts are part of the Rutland County Meals on Wheels program which has seen a huge surge in demand since the start of the pandemic.

Vermont reporters provide a roundup of top news takeaways about the coronavirus and more for Monday, Nov. 30.Want VPR's daily news in podcast form? Get up to speed in under 15 minutes with The Frequency every weekday morning. How about an email newsletter? Add our daily email briefing to your morning routine.

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1. State officials report two new COVID-related deaths Monday

Vermont health officials reported two new COVID-related deaths and 68 new infections Monday.

The two new deaths are the 10th and 11th in November alone, following months of no virus-related deaths in Vermont over the summer. The state has now seen 69 deaths from the coronavirus since March.

Among today's new cases, 15 were in Chittenden County and 11 were in Franklin County.

There are currently 21 people who are hospitalized with the disease in Vermont, including five in intensive care.

Cases continue to rise in Quebec

Quebec continues to see more deaths as the coronavirus spreads in the province.

Last week, Quebec saw, on average, 22 COVID-related deaths per day, and more than 1,000 cases added daily.

Quebec is the hardest-hit province in Canada when it comes to the virus, with more than 141,000 cases and more than 7,000 deaths since the pandemic began.

- Matthew Smith

Residents and staff at St. Albans Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center test positive

Several residents and staff at a St. Albans long-term care facility have tested positive for COVID-19.

The St. Albans Messenger reports the St. Albans Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center had six residents and two staff test positive Friday evening, according to a statement from owners Genesis Healthcare.

State officials on Friday said they were aware of a staffer who tested positive, adding the worker likely picked up the virus from the wider community and returned to work in the facility while asymptomatic.

Genesis HealthCare owns several such facilities, including a Rutland facility which saw a recent outbreak that's left 41 infected and resulted in the death of five residents.

As of Friday, there were at least eight known COVID-19 outbreaks in long-term care centers across Vermont.

- Matthew Smith

Bennington schools go remote

The Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union is going fully remote this week, over concerns about the potential spread of the coronavirus during the Thanksgiving holiday.

The Bennington Banner reports a notice on the SVSU district website late Sunday afternoon states the last-minute change is to comply with the governor's executive orders prohibiting multi-household social gatherings.

The week of remote learning will help the district determine if there's been any increase in COVID-19 in the community after the holiday.

The district says the change also aims to preserve staffing for in-person instruction later in the term.

Officials say the change is not related to any active COVID-19 cases in the district.

- Matthew Smith

St. Michael's College to test students weekly during spring semester

When students return to St. Michael's campus in the spring, they'll be tested weekly for COVID-19.

The small Colchester college kept the virus at bay for almost two months this fall, with students tested upon arrival and once every three weeks.

But by mid-October, an outbreak of cases linked to a Montpelier ice rink more than 40 miles away had spread to campus, shifting students to all-remote learning and closing the campus to visitors.

By November, the school says a total of 76 of the roughly 1,400 students on campus had tested positive.

In addition to testing students weekly in the spring, St. Michael's says the college may also require students move to a separate residence hall when told to quarantine.

- The Associated Press

2. Neighbors object as farm facing environmental violations seeks to expand

Agriculture Secretary Anson Tebbetts wants to improve relationsh between an Addison County dairy farm and its neighbors, who oppose the farm's expansion.

Tebbetts will meet Monday with people who live near the Vorsteveld farm, which operates in Panton and Ferrisburgh. The farm milks about 1,500 cows and wants to add another 150 mature animals.

Neighbors hope to block the expansion, and they cite a history of water quality problems at the farm.

Conservation Law Foundation weighs in

Further, an environmental group wants a court to levy a heavy fine against the farm, for violating state laws.

The Agency of Natural Resources cited the Vorsteveld farm for dredging and filling wetlands, and for allowing farm waste to flow off the farm and toward Lake Champlain. The state recommends nearly a $22,000 fine.

But the Conservation Law Foundation says the fine should be much stiffer; around $500,000.

CLF lawyer Elena Mihaly said the fine needs to be high enough to prevent future pollution.

"Farmers are partners in environmental protection, and really critical to the health of our communities," Mihaly said. "But when ANR fails to fully enforce environmental protections against farmers who violate the law, it hurts those that are trying to do the right thing to protect water quality and be good stewards of the land."

The violations date back to 2016. The environmental court will now review the penalty proposals.

- John Dillon

3. Celebrated yogurt maker, local food movement pioneer has died

A Vermont dairy farmer credited with helping start the "locavore" movement has died.

Jack Lazor ran Butterworks Farm with his wife Anne in Westfield since 1976.

Agriculture Secretary Anson Tebbetts said Lazor was one of the first dairy farmers with a processing facility on his farm.

He said Lazor's yogurt and other dairy products encouraged customers to buy and eat locally.

"He would take that product and he would take it into co-ops and supermarkets, and just tell his story," Tebbetts said. "And that's an important part that I think he's left as well. Other farmers have taken his lead. They've made a wonderful world-class product, and then they tell their story."

Lazor was also an author who shared his grain raising knowledge in a 2013 book The Organic Grain Grower.

Read or listen to the full story.

- Mitch Wertlieb

4. Northern Vermont University receives $3.5 million donation

Northern Vermont University has received the largest private gift in the history of the Vermont State College System.

Carhartt CEO and NVU alumnus Mark Valade is donating $3.5 million to the university.

Vermont State Colleges Chancellor Sophie Zdatny said the money will fund a work program for students.

"By making work experience available to students throughout the university and within the curriculum, students will be able to earn while they learn, thereby reducing the cost of earning a college degree," Zdatny said.

Severe financial challenges in the state college system nearly led to the closure of NVU's Johnson campus earlier this year.

Zdatny said the $3.5 million gift will not solve the college system's ongoing revenue shortfalls.

- Pete Hirschfeld

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