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News Roundup: UVMMC Vax Clinic Rescheduled For Winter Weather, Rest Remain Open

Two people hold hands while skaing with masks on with trees in the background
Elodie Reed
/
VPR
Dominick Andrews skates at Battery Park with Elizabeth Callahan on Monday, Feb. 15. Both finished up their rink time just as the snow started falling.

Vermont reporters provide a roundup of top news takeaways about the coronavirus and more for Tuesday, Feb 16.

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The latest coronavirus data:

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1. State reports 53 new COVID cases, one additional death

Vermont saw 53 new COVID-19 infections Tuesday, and one additional death. The state’s pandemic deaths now number 191.

Hospitalizations fell to 37 people, including 12 in the ICU.

More than 78,000 Vermonters have now gotten at least one dose of a COVID vaccine, including nearly 38,000 who have gotten both doses.

As of Tuesday, Vermonters aged 70 and older can now make a COVID-19 appointment.

Eligible Vermonters can book OR reschedule an appointment online at healthvermont.gov/myvaccine, or by calling the state's hotline: 855-722-7878.

- Matthew Smith

UVMMC rescheduling Essex fairgrounds clinic vaccination appointments, all other clinics open

The University of Vermont Medical Center is rescheduling Tuesday's COVID-19 vaccination clinic at the Champlain Valley Expo due to inclement winter weather.

UVMMC says patients will not lose their opportunity to be vaccinated due to this temporary closure. Appointments are being rescheduled for later this week.

The Health Department says all other clinics are being held as scheduled today, though rescheduling is available for any who need it by calling 855-722-7878.

The agency says people who scheduled their vaccine at a pharmacy should contact the store at which they made their appointment to determine if the clinic will be open, or how to reschedule.

- Brittany Patterson

Rutland hospital responding to high community case rates with increased COVID rooms

Rutland County has seen a recent surge in COVID-19 cases, even as the statewide count begins to decline.

Towns like West Rutland, Benson and Pittsford are experiencing especially high rates of infection.

Betsy Hassan, Chief Nursing Officer at Rutland Regional Medical Center, says the community spread that's occurring is something the hospital has been preparing for by increasing patient space in the emergency department and making other changes.

"Like add additional negative pressure space, which is the type of room that best to care for COVID-positive patients in,” Hassan said. “We change staff workflows in terms of managing PPE and prevention practices. So we really sort of take a preventative measure at how best to care for the patients should they need hospitalization."

Hassan says nine of their 13 intensive care rooms are now negatively pressurized, and additional negatively pressurized rooms have been added in a separate wing.

- Nina Keck

2. Welch hopeful Congress will vote $1.9 trillion COVID relief package by end of month

Congressman Peter Welch says it's essential for Congress to quickly pass a nearly $2 trillion COVID stimulus package.

Welch says the plan will help states and towns deal with revenue shortfalls, provide additional funds to help small businesses, and send $1,400 payments to most people.

"It's extremely ambitious, there's no question,” Welch said. “But this is an extremely perilous time, with this pandemic being literally a once-in-a-century event. We've got to be in a position for Congress to be able to vote so we can get the help out as quickly as we possibly can."

He says the state of Vermont and local town governments would receive almost a billion dollars.

"Vermont would get about $961 million, and two-thirds of that would go to the state,” Welch said. “And about a third of it would go to all of our cities and towns, and they're the ones that are really getting hammered, because property tax revenues are really in jeopardy."

Welch is hopeful that the House will pass the bill by the end of this month.

- Bob Kinzel

3. Bill in Vt. Legislature would prevent schools from contracting law enforcement for school resource officers

A bill introduced in the Vermont Senate earlier this month would prohibit school districts from contracting law enforcement as school resource officers.

SROs, as they're often called, are police officers or other sworn law enforcement officers that work on a school campus.

Addison District Sen. Ruth Hardy is the bill's main sponsor. She told Vermont Edition the bill, as written, is meant to start a statewide conversation surrounding SROs.

“Ultimately I think it's better public policy to not have SROs,” Hardy said. “Realistically do I think the bill will pass as it is and be signed by the governor? No, I don't think so. I think that there is a long conversation and a lot of testimony to get to a final version of the bill.”

The bill does not prohibit schools from working with law enforcement to address safety and security concerns or criminal behavior in schools.

Hear the full conversation.

- Emily Aiken

4. Vt. teachers union president: 'Great challenge' to fully re-open schools after April vacation

The head of Vermont's teachers union says it will be a challenge to reopen all schools on a full-time basis for the rest of this school year.

Gov. Phil Scott has said that he hopes all students can return after the April vacation break.

But Don Tinney, who is president of the Vermont NEA, says it will be difficult for some schools to meet social distancing requirements and ventilation concerns if all of their students return at the same time.

"I think it would be a great challenge to say that all schools will be open full-time in person sometime this spring, because I don't think we know enough about what the conditions will be,” Tinney said.

Tinney is encouraging the state to continue with its hybrid in-person learning system for the rest of the current school year.

- Bob Kinzel

5. Report recommends funding options for community TV as cable revenue goes down

A new report to lawmakers is recommending changes to how the state taxes telecom services.

Most of the funding for Vermont’s community TV stations comes from cable revenue. But as more programs are streamed over the internet, the stations are losing their funding source.

Tammie Reilly is president of the Vermont Access Network, which represents the local public access stations.

“The study outlines a number of revenue options and provides a path forward to ensure that there’s gonna be some funding solutions for community media in Vermont,” Reilly said.

The report was put together by a telecom consultant who says Vermont does have the authority to create the new tax and use charges.

- Howard Weiss-Tisman

6. Vt. runner Elle Purrier breaks American record for indoor 2 mile

East Montgomery native Elle Purrier notched another distance running victory this weekend.

WCAX reports the Richford High School graduate on Saturday won the 2 mile at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix in Staten Island, New York. Her winning time broke the previous American record set six years ago.

It was this time last year that Purrier broke the nearly four-decade-old record for the indoor mile at the Millrose Games in New York.

Like many athletes, Purrier's hopes to compete in the Tokyo Olympics last summer were delayed, as the games were pushed back due to the coronavirus pandemic.

- Matthew Smith

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