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Over 55,000 Vermonters Have Now Received At Least One Dose Of A COVID Vaccine

A white sign against a brick building wall in the snow, with mountains in the background reads "Socially Distanced Yet Spiritually United" in Bristol
Abagael Giles
/
VPR
By the town green, St. Ambrose's Catholic Church offered this message to passersby in Bristol.

Vermont reporters provide a roundup of top news takeaways about the coronavirus and more for Tuesday, Feb 2.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:

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1. Vermont reports 108 new COVID-19 cases

Vermont health officials reported 108 new cases of COVID-19 Tuesday, and one new death.

That brings the pandemic death toll to 176.

Rutland County reported 41 new cases, and 21 cases were reported in Chittenden County.

Currently, 54 people are hospitalized with the disease, including 12 in intensive care.

- Brittany Patterson

More than 55,000 Vermonters have received at least one COVID-19 shot

More than 55,000 Vermonters have now received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

And Secretary of Human Services Mike Smith says the state hit a noteworthy milestone this week.

“That means nearly 10% of eligible Vermonters who can receive the vaccine have been administered at least their first dose,” Smith said Tuesday.

Fourteen percent of Vermonters age 75 and over have received at least one dose of the vaccine.

Smith says another 34,000 residents in that age group will be getting their first shots over the next five weeks.

The Scott administration says it plans to begin administering the vaccine to homebound seniors by the end of this week. The administration says it is on the verge of finalizing its implementation plan.

On Tuesday, Smith said the state is receiving guidance from the federal Centers for Disease Control.

“Last night we received preliminary guidance so that by the end of this week, it is our hope to start delivering vaccines to homebound Vermonters,” he said.

Smith said the state will likely use several different methods to distribute the vaccine, including mobile clinics that travel to residents’ homes.

- Peter Hirschfeld

Vermont to see 5% increase in vaccine allocation

Gov. Phil Scott says Vermont will see its allocation of the COVID-19 vaccine jump by 5% for the next three weeks.

And he says the federal government is also starting a pilot program to distribute more vaccines through pharmacies.

“So I would say [there will be] around 900-1,000 doses that will be distributed to the pharmacies to be utilized here in Vermont,” Scott said.

Scott said the Biden administration announced those increases in vaccine supply during a conference call with U.S. governors Tuesday morning.

- Peter Hirschfeld

Local colleges and universities are seeing more COVID-19 cases than in the fall

Commissioner of Health Dr. Mark Levine says colleges and universities in Vermont are seeing more cases of COVID-19 this semester than they did in the fall.

But Levine says stringent testing protocols for returning students should enable schools to control the spread of the virus on campuses.

“This helps us identify cases, ensure they isolate themselves, and ensure that their close contacts quarantine before the semester even begins,” Levine said Tuesday.

A COVID-19 outbreak at Norwich University has now infected 94 people at the school’s Northfield campus.

Norwich, UVM and Castleton have all halted winter sports competition over concerns about coronavirus transmission.

­- Peter Hirschfeld

More from VPR: As Students Return To Vt. Campuses, Colleges Hope Health Measures Will Work Again

State officials promise data-driven decision over public school sports competitions

It’s been two weeks since the Scott administration allowed school sports teams to resume indoor practices.

And Commissioner of Health Dr. Mark Levine says his department will now review COVID data before deciding whether to allow state-sanctioned competitions between public schools.

“We will look at both team cases, impact of cases on teams, and impact of cases on schools,” Levine said Tuesday

Gov. Phil Scott said Tuesday that he anticipates allowing schools to resume some form of competition before the end of the winter sports season.

But he says Vermont will need to proceed cautiously, since college sports competitions have already resulted in coronavirus outbreaks.

- Peter Hirschfeld

2. State officials say out-of-state skiers, geography likely contributing to rising case counts in Bennington County

Active COVID-19 case counts in Vermont continued their downward trend over the last week.

But state health officials say they’re increasingly alarmed by rising case counts in Bennington County.

Commissioner of Financial Regulation Michael Pieciak says the county, which borders on New York State, may be a victim of its own geography.

“Looking at the regional heat map, we continue to see that Bennington is likely influenced by counties to its west, which have a much higher case load than the counties around the other parts of Vermont’s east and southern borders,” Pieciak said Tuesday

State officials say out-of-state visitor traffic to ski areas in Bennington County may also be contributing to the rise in cases there.

Bennington is the only county in Vermont where the number of COVID-related hospitalizations increased last week.

 - Peter Hirschfeld

3. UVM doctor says cancer patients should get vaccinated, ASAP

The Health Department reports more than 55,000 Vermonters have so far received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

The state has prioritized frontline health care workers, residents of long term care facilities and those 75 and older, so far.

But as more Vermonters become eligible for the shot, the University of Vermont's Dr. Shahid Ahmed says those undergoing cancer treatment should get the vaccine as soon as they are able.

He says that's because cancer patients are at an increased risk for having severe COVID-19 infections.

“However, the efficacy of the vaccine is a little bit reduced, because when people are on immuno-suppressive medications, your immune system is reduced,” Ahmed said. “So you're unable to mount a response to the vaccine.”

Speaking to Vermont Edition Tuesday, he said that even though the vaccine may not be as effective for those undergoing cancer treatment, getting the shot is the right call for these patients.

Listen to the full conversation.

- Emily Aiken

4. Vermonters who live in long-term care facilities will soon get to socialize

Vermonters who live in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities will soon get to socialize with their fellow residents again.

Secretary of Human Services Mike Smith says the vast majority of nursing home residents in Vermont have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

“Our seniors living in long-term care facilities have been isolated for far too long, and it is our hope to be able to reestablish those social connections as soon as possible,” Smith said Tuesday.

Smith said the Agency of Human Services will relax public health protocols that previously prevented residents from dining together, or gathering in communal spaces.

Smith says it’s still too early to say when nursing home residents will be able to invite friends and family for in-person visits at their facilities.

- Peter Hirschfeld

5. Vt. vaccination clinics stayed open despite snow storm

Heavy snow continues to fall across parts of the region, as a slow-moving winter storm makes its way through the northeast.

Meteorologist Mark Breen of the Fairbanks Museum says the storm is bringing bands of snow, leaving uneven snowfall amounts.

"Look out your window. If it's snowing hard where you are, and has been, it's likely to continue to do so. If it's not doing much, that's likely to be your forecast over the next several hours,” Breen said.

As of earlier Tuesday, snow totals ranged from a foot in parts of southern Vermont, to just an inch in parts of the north – according to the National Weather Service.

In Burlington, a parking ban is set to go into effect tonight at 10 p.m., in order to allow crews to clear the roads. And more snow is expected, especially in the northern part of the state. Light to moderate snow will continue through tonight, according to the National Weather Service.

 Read or listen to the full conversation.

- Henry Epp and Brittany Patterson

6. Regulators cite multiple issues with Vermont Gas Pipeline Construction

Opponents of the Vermont Gas Addison pipeline say a recent ruling by regulators vindicates their argument that the project was improperly constructed and is potentially unsafe.

A Public Utility Commission hearing officer found that Vermont Gas failed to follow its own construction plans, failed to bury the line to the proper depth in many places, and failed to get regulatory approval for the changes.

Hinesburg resident Rachel Smolker has fought the pipeline for years. She says it's clear safety was compromised.

“And the public utility commission hearing officer has now said, ‘Yes, some of these have the potential to affect public health and safety.’ So it's about time we're finally getting down to this issue,” she said.

A Vermont Gas spokesperson says the company is reviewing the ruling, but she says the project was built well and that it is safe.

Read the full story.

- John Dillon

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