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News Roundup: School And Corrections Staff, Child Care Providers Eligible For Vaccines Next Week

Rubber gloved hands hold a syringe
Kirsty Wigglesworth
/
Associated Press File
The Scott Administration on Tuesday announced new categories for vaccine eligibility within the state, including workers in select sectors in the next round of registration, which opens March 8.

Vermont reporters provide a roundup of top news takeaways about the coronavirus, the next groups to be prioritized for vaccination and more for Tuesday, March 2.

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1. Scott Administration expands vaccine eligibility to include people working in select professions

A major announcement from the Scott administration Tuesday means more than 100,000 Vermonters are newly eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine.

Gov. Phil Scott said during his COVID-19 media briefing that all staff at public schools, as well as people with certain medical conditions, will be able to register for vaccine appointments starting next week.

“And by March 15, all those over the age of 16 who are at the highest risk of severe illness and death, whether due to age or a health condition, will be able to sign up for their vaccine,” Scott said.

The governor says prioritizing teachers and other school staff will expedite the return to fulltime in-person learning in Vermont schools.

Scott said he expects all school staff will have an opportunity to get vaccinated by mid-April.

- Peter Hirschfeld

Vermonters with certain chronic conditions eligible for vaccination next week

The wait for a COVID-19 vaccine is nearly over for Vermonters with certain high-risk medical conditions.

During the Scott administration’s COVID-19 media briefing Tuesday, Commissioner of Health Dr. Mark Levine said Vermonters with diabetes, heart disease, COPD and other eligible conditions will be able to sign up for the vaccine starting next week.

“We’re glad to be that much closer to protecting these Vermonters, who as the data shows are at higher risk for severe illness and death from COVID-19,” Levine said.

The full list of eligible conditions, which includes people with Down syndrome and other intellectual disabilities, is available on the Department of Health website.

Levine says about 75,000 Vermonters below the age of 65 fall into the high risk category.

- Peter Hirschfeld

State reports 70 new COVID cases, one additional death

The Vermont Department of Health reported 70 new COVID-19 infections Tuesday, and one more virus-related death.

The new cases span all but two Vermont counties, with the majority of new infections in Chittenden and Bennington counties.

A total of 24 people are hospitalized with COVID-19 in the state, including eight in the ICU.

To date, more than 106,000 Vermonters have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine.

- Karen Anderson

Vermonters aged 65-69 begin signing up for vaccine

Vaccination appointments opened Monday for Vermonters aged 65 to 69.

The Health Department reported that by 12:15 p.m., more than 17,000 residents in that age band had registered for an appointment. The agency says that accounts for about 40% of those in that age group.

People aged 65 and older can make an appointment to get the COVID-19 vaccine by registering online with the Health Department or by calling 855-722-7878.

Appointments can also be scheduled through Kinney Drugs and Walgreens pharmacies.

- Brittany Patterson

UVM COVID numbers decreasing

Coronavirus cases at the University of Vermont appear to be slowing.

According to VTDigger, just 31 positive student cases were reported this week, the lowest weekly total since classes resumed on Feb. 1. That’s down from the 61 new cases reported last week.

University officials announced last week that students would be tested every three days for COVID-19, instead of once a week, as previously required.

UVM also increased sanctions for non-compliance of COVID-19 protocols. With the exception of a missed COVID test, any breach of the University’s COVID rules is now cause for suspension.

- Brittany Patterson

Dartmouth COVID cases spiking

COVID restrictions at Dartmouth College are tightening as the school sees a spike in coronavirus cases among students.

WCAX reports there are currently 124 active cases on campus, 122 of them are students. That’s the highest active caseload the school has seen since the start of the pandemic.

Dartmouth School officials say they are investigating the reason behind the increased cases, and in an effort to curb the spread of the virus have closed inside gathering places, like the gym and library. And the dining halls are now take-out only.

- Karen Anderson

2. Town Meeting Day is today

Several Franklin County towns held informational meetings ahead of Town Meeting Day as most towns in the county will vote by Australian ballot this year.

St. Albans City and Town polls opened for voting and ballot drop-off between 7am and 7pm Tuesday.

According to the St. Albans Messenger, one of the top agendas for St. Albans Town voters is a decision on a proposal for a new town hall, a longtime goal of officials to replace the existing 120 year-old meeting space.

In Sheldon, voters who decide to cast their ballot in person can do so via a drive-through system at the town hall.

And Montgomery and Richford polls opened at 10 a.m. today. Voters there will decide whether or not their municipalities should allow for recreational marijuana businesses to set up shop.

- Karen Anderson

Keep up with the latest Town Meeting Day updates with VPR’s liveblog, here.

3. State employees to work remotely until at least June

State employees should expect to continue working remotely until at least June, the Agency of Administration announced Monday. That extends a previous order recommending remote work until April.

But, the state says that beginning April 1, it will consider a limited number of requests from employees who wish to return to the office, if there is space under safety guidelines.

And the administration says it is considering how to allow employees to continue to work remotely after the pandemic. A recent survey showed that most state employees want to work remotely, at least on a part-time basis, going forward.

- Mark Davis

4. Wind causes power outages in southern Vermont

Hundreds of residents in Windham County were without power this morning after strong winds knocked several trees down overnight.

Crews worked to restore power to nearly 1,000 residents across the state, with most of the outages reported in Windham, Bennington and Windsor counties.

Click here for a map of power outages in Vermont.

- Karen Anderson

5. Brattleboro Select Board continues exploring police reform

The Brattleboro Select Board will continue its discussion on reforming the police department.

Earlier this year, the board accepted a more than 200-page report on community safety and police reform.

Then, last week, the town manager issued recommendations on how the town can move ahead.

Some of the more controversial ideas, such as disarming police officers at community events, will not be considered right away. Other recommendations, such as not having police respond to welfare checks, will likely take more time than the authors of the report had hoped.

The board will meet Tuesday to go over the manager’s new timeline, and decide the next steps.

- Howard Weiss-Tisman

6. Nearly 1,500 signatures on "no confidence" petition for UVM president

A group of nearly 1,500 University of Vermont students, faculty and alumni have signed a petition saying they have "no confidence" in UVM President Suresh Garimella.

The petition comes amid continuing protests of the university’s decision to eliminate dozens of majors, departments and programs.

It comes two weeks after the Burlington City Council unanimously passed a resolution condemning UVM's recent decisions.

Garmiella and other UVM leaders say the cuts have been necessitated by declining enrollment and growing budget deficits.

- Mark Davis

7. Conservation groups working on securing about 300 acres in Upper Valley

Conservation groups in the Upper Valley say they are close to buying nearly 300 acres of important forest land in Norwich.

The Upper Valley Land Trust and the Norwich Conservation Commission hope to permanently protect a parcel of land that includes the Norwich Town Forest and the popular Gile Mountain Fire Tower.

Two popular hiking trails cross the properties, which also include important wildlife habitat and flood resilience potential. The project will cost about $330,000.

- Mark Davis

8. Vermonters consuming more hard alcohol, wine during pandemic

Vermonters are consuming more hard alcohol and wine during the pandemic, but not as much as people in a number of other states.

Patrick Delaney is the Commissioner of the Department of Liquor Control, and he says tax revenues indicate that Vermonters' consumption of distilled liquor and wine has grown roughly 10% since the beginning of the summer.

At the same time, many bars have been closed.

"Obviously with the absence of on-premise, our numbers would certainly indicate that there is more consumption occurring at home,” Delaney said. “The national trend for distilled spirits is up 26%, so that's considerably higher than our 10%."

Delaney says he is concerned that the number of alcohol-related crashes has not declined during pandemic, even though many people are driving considerably less.

- Bob Kinzel

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