Vermont Reports 87 New COVID-19 Cases, 2 New Deaths
Vermont reporters provide a roundup of top news takeaways about the coronavirus and more for Monday, Dec. 28.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.
The latest coronavirus data:
1. Vermont reports 87 new COVID-19 cases, 2 new deaths
The Vermont Department of Health reported 87 new COVID-19 cases today.
Of the new cases announced Monday, 41 were in Chittenden County. Bennington County saw 15 new cases, and six Vermont counties saw no new cases.
Two more Vermonters have died, bringing the statewide death toll to 129.
In total, 18 people are currently hospitalized with the disease, including five in ICUs.
Over the weekend, the state saw 142 new cases of COVID-19, with 79 new infections on Saturday and 63 new infections Sunday.
- Abagael Giles and Anna Van Dine
Did you gather with another household? Vt. Department of Health says ‘Get tested’
The Department of Health is urging all Vermonters who gathered with other households over the Christmas holiday to get tested for the coronavirus.
Officials say Vermonters who visited with others should get a COVID-19 test after seven days, and avoid seeing anyone who's high-risk.
If you hosted out-of-state visitors, health officials say you should quarantine and stay away from others for 14 days.
- Matthew Smith
Quebec has recorded more than 100 COVID-19 deaths since Christmas Eve
Quebec recorded 110 COVID-19 deaths since Christmas Eve. The latest deaths means the province passed a grim milestone of 8,000 virus-related deaths since the pandemic began.
Quebec also tallied more than 6,700 new coronavirus infections since the holiday.
The Montreal Gazette reports more than 1,000 people were hospitalized as of Sunday with the virus – the highest yet during the second wave this winter.
The province has administered more than 27,000 doses of the new COVID-19 vaccine as of Saturday.
- Matthew Smith
Burlington’s airport sees more than 80% reduction in Christmas traffic
Vermont's largest airport saw a significant drop in holiday traffic this year.
The number of travelers last week going through Burlington International Airport was down more than two-thirds from 2019.
Gene Richards is director of aviation at the airport. During Christmas week last year, the airport saw about 11,000 travelers. This year: closer to 3,000.
"Which we at the airport consider a win, since we have the governor's initiative to have less. We are doing just that," Richards said.
He said the reduction in air travel is financially "terrible," but he said public health comes before business.
- Anna Van Dine
2. Vt. minimum wage to increase by 79 cents per hour
Vermont's lowest-paid workers are set to get a slight raise later this week, as the minimum wage increases by 79 cents per hour.
Back in February, lawmakers overrode Gov. Phil Scott's veto and put Vermont on track to boost its minimum wage. With the new year, the hourly wage goes up from $10.96 to $11.75. It's set to rise even further in 2022, to $12.55 per hour.
The minimum wage for employees who also earn tips is half that of the standard wage, so starting Jan. 1, 2021, tipped workers must be paid $5.88 an hour.
Vermont's minimum wage stands in stark contrast with neighboring New Hampshire, where the lowest legal wage is $7.25 per hour.
But it's lower than in Massachusetts, where the minimum wage will be $13.50 in the new year.
- Henry Epp
3. Vermont lost 58 dairy farms in 2020
Vermont lost 58 dairy farms last year, as farmers struggled to survive when demand for milk plummeted during the pandemic.
The drop in demand forced some farmers to dump milk and cut production. It also caused wholesale milk prices to fall, just when farmers were expecting a rebound after four years of low prices.
The latest figures from the state Agency of Agriculture show the state now has 619 dairy farms, down from 677 at the end of 2019. By comparison, Vermont had 996 dairy operations in 2011.
Despite the decade-long decline, Gov. Phil Scott says he remains optimistic about the future of dairy.
"I think things are leveling out," he said. "I think they may be a little bit healthier at this point in the pandemic, and hopefully when we get out of the pandemic, they'll begin to thrive again."
Scott said the dairy industry will remain an essential piece of the Vermont economy and character for years to come.
Despite declining numbers, Vermont dairy farms produce about the same amount of milk as they did a decade ago.
- John Dillon
4. Census data shows Vermont saw population decrease in 2020
Vermont experienced a small population decrease in 2020, according to new estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau. The findings come despite anecdotal evidence of an influx of new residents during the pandemic.
The Census report says that Vermont's population declined 0.1% between July 2019 and July 2020.
Vermont has lost population in each of the past three years, and has had more deaths than births.
Maine and New Hampshire are also experiencing more deaths than births. However, unlike Vermont, those two states saw their populations rise this year, thanks to in-migration.
Vermont's population stands just above 623,000 residents. That is fewer than the state had in 2010.
- Anna Van Dine
5. New federal relief package includes funds for Vt. theater and music industries
The new federal coronavirus relief package includes money for Vermont's live music and theater industries.
Karen Dillon is the director of the Chandler Center for the Arts in Randolph, and said the pandemic has been very hard on groups like hers that put on live shows.
"We lost half of our projected income, and our earned income was almost nill," Dillon said.
Vermont Congressman Peter Welch introduced the so-called Save Our Stages Act in the House.
Welch said the money will help organizations like the Chandler survive the winter and hopefully be able to get back to offering live performances when it is safe to do so.
- Howard Weiss-Tisman
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