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Vermont Officials Report 62 New COVID Cases, 1 Additional Death

A barn with a sign reading if milk is your booze, Corona will lose!
Abagael Giles
/
VPR
A dairy farm in South Hero calls on passersby to drink more milk "for the health of it."

Vermont reporters provide a roundup of top news takeaways about the coronavirus and more for Wednesday, Feb 10.

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The latest coronavirus data:

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1. State reports 62 new COVID cases, 1 additional death

Vermont reported 62 new COVID-19 infections Wednesday, and one new virus-related death.

The state's coronavirus fatalities now number 187. Currently 54 people are hospitalized with COVID-19, including 10 in intensive care.

About 36,000 Vermonters have gotten one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, while more than 30,000 have gotten both doses.

- Matthew Smith

Bennington, Rutland counties see sharp COVID case spike

A sharp spike in the number of coronavirus cases in Rutland and Bennington counties is pushing the statewide infection count higher.

At the governor’s press conference today Tuesday, Commissioner of Financial Regulation Mike Pieciak said COVID-19 infections are up 76% in those two counties.

“Just like all Vermonters should be cautious and vigilant, particularly those who live in Bennington or Rutland County, should be at this time, as well,” he said.

The rest of the state is trending downward, but the increase in cases in southwestern Vermont means COVID infections overall statewide are on the rise, even as they drop in New England, and across the rest of the country.

- Howard Weiss-Tisman

Canada to require negative COVID test result for nonessential traffic over border

Starting next week, nonessential travelers arriving in Canada by land will have to show a negative COVID-19 test, or face a fine.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the requirement Tuesday, and snowbirds who live in warmer U.S. states part-time are included.

Trudeau says customs officers won't be able to send any Canadians back to the U.S. if they don’t have a test, but the PM said the fine will be up to 3,000 Canadian dollars, or nearly 2,400 U.S dollars.

Travelers who don't show a negative test will also be subject to extensive follow-up by health officials.

The land border had been closed to nonessential travelers for nearly a year.

- Associated Press

Gov. says extra COVID vaccine doses coming, considering non-age-band approach for future priorities

Gov. Phil Scott said Tuesday that Vermont will receive extra doses of the COVID-19 vaccines.

Scott was on a call with the Biden administration and other governors when he learned that more than 700 additional doses will be arriving due to an increase in vaccine production.

“I appreciate the continued weekly communication between the governors and the White House, and more details will be forthcoming from Washington,” Scott said.

Scott says if the extra doses do show up, it will be easier to schedule and administer vaccine clinics three weeks out.

The governor also said his administration is considering making some changes in how groups are prioritized to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

The current plan emphasizes age.. People 75 and older are at the top of the list, followed by those 70 and older, then Vermonters 65 and older, and finally people between 18 and 65 with chronic conditions.

Scott says he's reviewing what will happen after that.

"Whether we continue with the age banding, or we start doing certain categories, but it gets complicated,” he said. “You'd be amazed at how many people lobby us for wanting to be next, because in some respects we're all essential."

With current supplies, it could take several months before any new categories will be added to the priority vaccine list. State officials say the next group to be vaccinated, those 70 and older, could begin the process by the end of the month.

- Howard Weiss-Tisman and Bob Kinzel

Scott administration giving BIPOC Vermonters under 75 vaccine when they bring older relatives to clinics

At a press conference Tuesday Health Commissioner Mark Levine said the state has offered vaccinations to people of color under 75 who showed up at the clinics with older family members.

“We have learned from our experience through the state’s pandemic response that it makes good public health sense to allow household members facing language and access barriers, to get information and services at the same time, rather than duplicate these services later on,” Levine said.

He added that about a hundred members of the BIPOC community have been vaccinated at clinics which offered language translation services.

- Howard Weiss-Tisman

More from VPR: Frequently Asked Questions (And Answers) About The COVID-19 Vaccine In Vermont

Health commissioner urges Super Bowl party-goers to get tested for COVID

Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine is urging all Vermonters who attended a Super Bowl party with neighbors or friends to be immediately tested for the COVID-19 virus.

Levine says this testing protocol is the same as with all other contacts with non-family members. He recommends an immediate test followed by a second test a week later.

“We recommend it for anyone who gathered with people they don't live with, such as the Super Bowl gathering last weekend,” Levine said. “Testing is how we find the virus, so that people who are positive can isolate themselves quickly and their close contacts can quarantine. This is what can keep the virus from moving on to the next person."

Levine says he hopes these precautions will help limit the number of new cases that can be linked to Super Bowl parties.

- Bob Kinzel

2. Rutland High School replaces "Raider" mascot with "Raven"

Rutland High School has dropped the "Raiders" name and is now officially "The Rutland Ravens."

WCAX reports the change was formally adopted in a 6-4 vote at Tuesday’s Rutland City school board meeting.

A group of students and alumni last summer asked the board to retire the Raiders name and its arrowhead symbol, arguing it perpetuated stereotypes about Native Americans.

Some in the community say they'll fight to overturn the name change, and will push to elect new school board members on Town Meeting Day to reverse the decision.

Students in grades 3-12 voted on the issue last week, with 57% voting for the new "Ravens" name.

- Matthew Smith

More from VPR: Rocky Road Away From 'The Raiders': The Controversy Over Rutland High School's Mascot

3. U.S. Customs and Border Protection hopes to install 8 new video surveillance towers

U.S. Customs and Border Protection hopes to build eight new video surveillance towers along the U.S.-Canada border.

The permanent and moveable towers would use existing cell towers to keep watch over large, remote areas.

The agency's plan would build towers in Champlain, New York, and the Vermont communities of Highgate Center, Franklin, Richford, Derby Line and North Troy.

A 30-day public comment period on environmental impact of the project began Tuesday. There's no indication when the agency would begin construction.

- Associated Press

St. Albans customs and immigration employees relocated to Essex with little notice

About 200 federal workers at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services' center in St Albans have been relocated to an Essex Junction office after a water main leak in December left their workplace empty for nearly two months.

Employees were notified in late January about the move, and told they must report to work in the new location just days later, in early February.

The St. Albans Messenger reports the move has created a hardship for many workers, with dozens of families unable to manage the commute to Essex Junction due to child care and other commitments.

The union representing the workers says they're reaching out on the local and national level for information on when workers can return to the St. Albans facility.

- Matthew Smith

4. Dartmouth athletic director steps down after reinstating five athletic teams over Title IX complaints

Dartmouth's athletics director for more than a decade is stepping down. The Valley News reports Harry Sheehy will retire this month.

He steps aside less than two weeks after Dartmouth reinstated five varsity teams to comply with Title IX, and avoid a potential class-action sex discrimination lawsuit that several student-athletes threatened in December.

The teams originally cut were women's and men's swimming and diving, women's and men's golf, and men's lightweight rowing. They were eliminated in July as part of what the college called necessary pandemic-related cuts. All were reinstated last month.

Dartmouth alum and onetime basketball player Peter Roby will take over on an interim basis. In the meantime, a national law firm is conducting a gender equality review of Dartmouth's varsity athletics programs.

- Matthew Smith

5. State offering identity theft protection to Vermonters affected by Dept. of Labor data breach

Vermont is offering identity theft protection to anyone whose private information was released during the recent Labor Department data breach.

At his press conference Tuesday, Gov. Phil Scott said the protection will be offered, free of charge, and that information will be mailed out this week so people can sign up.

“My hope is that this will provide some reassurance, though I know it doesn’t come close to making up for the harm and worry that this has caused Vermonters,” Scott said.

Last month, the Labor Department sent out tax forms to the wrong addresses. The forms included social security numbers and personal information.

Scott is urging anyone whose data was compromised to sign up for the free protection.

- Howard Weiss-Tisman

6. Retired ag agency scientist raises concerns about increased herbicide use in report

The use of herbicides has increased in Vermont. And that concerns Nat Shambaugh, a retired state agriculture agency scientist.

Shambaugh prepared a report that shows farmers in recent years sprayed increasing amounts of the two main weed killers on corn fields. The chemicals are atrazine and glyphosate.

He says the increase happened despite new genetically-modified corn that was supposed to reduce the need for atrazine, a known carcinogen.

"Glyphosate use increased to 30,000 pounds per year,” Shambaugh said. “Atrazine use at the same time went from 50,000 pounds a year to 80,000 pounds a year. So it has increased by 30,000 pounds a year as well. Even though one of the main reasons for introducing RoundUp Ready corn was to eliminate or minimize atrazine use, it obviously hasn’t succeeded at that."

The Lake Champlain Citizens Advisory Committee, which advises the Legislature on lake issues, has called for more monitoring for herbicides in the lake and its tributaries.

Read/hear the full story.

- John Dillon

7. Vt. U.S. Attorney Christina Nolan to step down

Vermont’s top federal prosecutor will resign by the end of the month, a long-standing practice when a new president takes office.

Christina Nolan, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Vermont, has held the position since 2017. She was nominated by former President Donald Trump after being recommended by Sen. Patrick Leahy.

Nolan, in a written statement, said serving as U.S. attorney has been the “honor and privilege of a lifetime.”

President Joe Biden will eventually nominate a new U.S. attorney in Vermont, though the Justice Department did not offer any additional details.

- Liam Elder-Connors

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