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News Roundup: Gov. Scott Allows Unvaccinated Households To Gather With One Other Household At A Time

A white barn in the snow, against a blue sky displays a Black Lives Matter barn quilt.
Nina Keck
A barn in Pittsford displays a Black Lives Matter sign over the weekend.

Vermont reporters provide a roundup of top news takeaways about the coronavirus and more for Friday, March 12.

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The latest coronavirus data:


1. Vermont Department of Health reports 121 new COVID-19 cases

Vermont saw 121 more COVID-19 infections Friday, and one additional virus-related death.

The state's pandemic death toll is now 212.

Of the new infections, 33 were in Chittenden County, with 22 in Franklin County.

There are 23 people hospitalized due to the virus today, including four people in intensive care.

More than a quarter of adult Vermonters – nearly 139,000 people – have gotten at least one dose of a COVID vaccine.

- Matthew Smith

Scott allows gatherings between at most two unvaccinated households at a time, urges adherance to COVID-19 precautions

Gov. Phil Scott says he plans to take a very cautious approach to lifting restrictions that have been in place because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Scott's approach is in direct contrast to Texas where Gov. Greg Abbott has allowed businesses to reopen at 100% capacity and he's also lifted requirements that people wear masks.

At his Friday press briefing, Scott expressed criticism of the approach taken in Texas.

“I don't believe it's the safest or fastest way out of this crisis nor do I believe it's what most Vermonters want. I believe we're going to be in very good shape by summer, midsummer,” Scott said.

Scott said small gatherings involving two unvaccinated households can now take place and as many as six people from different households will be allowed to sit at the same table at most restaurants.

- Bob Kinzel

Orleans County judge upholds Gov. Scott's mask mandate

An Orleans Superior Court judge has issued a ruling upholding Gov. Phil Scott’s COVID-19 emergency order requiring the wearing of masks in businesses.

Attorney General TJ Donovan brought the case against the owner of a printing services store in Newport that was, until recently, a UPS franchise.

UPS cut ties with the store last month after owner Andre “Michael” Desautels refused to wear a mask or enforce the mask mandate in his store. 

In court, Desautels and his attorney argued the emergency statue was unconstitutional.

But in her ruling, Judge Mary Miles Teachout sided with the Scott administration, saying Desautels violated state rules. Under the decision, the store may not operate unless it is in compliance with the mask mandate.

- Brittany Patterson

New Hampshire rolls back COVID-19 restrictions

New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu is lifting some of the state's COVID-19 restrictions as case numbers fall and vaccinations accelerate.

New Hampshire Public Radio reports out-of-state visitors, and residents returning from out-of-state travel, no longer need to quarantine when they arrive in the Granite State. It'll still be required for international travelers.

Retail stores across the state are also now allowed to return to 100% capacity, and barbershops and salons can allow walk-in customers. The statewide mask mandate remains in effect.

- Matthew Smith

2. Dying Tenney tree to be taken down next week in Weathersfield

The time has come to cut down the famous Tenney tree in Weathersfield.

In the fall of 1964, Romaine Tenney died by suicide, in protest of the federal government’s seizure of his farm to build the Interstate.

The single maple tree is all that remains, but Weathersfield town manager Brandon Gulnick says it is dying and cannot be saved.

Gulnick said there are plans to use the wood to build a pavilion, and a commemorative panel that will tell Tenney’s story.

“It’s a piece of history here in Wethersfield, so we wanted the story to carry forward,” Gulnick said.

The Tenney tree will be removed sometime next week.

- Howard Weiss-Tisman

More from Vermont Edition: Interstates, Burning Farms & Eminent Domain: Remembering Romaine Tenney

3. Gov. Scott says all Vermont adults will be eligible for a vaccine by May

Gov. Phil Scott says Vermont will meet President Biden's goal of having all residents 16 and older eligible for a COVID-19 vaccination by May 1.

Scott said Friday the state is on track to meet that goal – but needs a steady vaccine supply from the federal government.

“While we appreciate the stake in the ground, what we really need is the doses to fulfill the timeline that we're laying out,” Scott said Friday.

Scott says the state's aggressive vaccine plan depends in part of the federal government delivering more of the Johnson & Johnson one-shot vaccine to the state.

- John Dillon

4. Gov. Scott hails passage of $1.9 trillion federal stimulus package, promises relief for hospitality sector

Gov. Phil Scott Friday hailed passage of a sweeping, $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package.

President Biden signed the bill into law Thursday. The legislation directs about $1.3 billion to Vermont. Scott says the money will help the state's businesses recover and should allow life to begin to return to normal this summer.

“And this should just be the booster shot we need, the booster shot for the economy and for families in Vermont, to get us to transition again to some sort of normalcy,” Scott said.

Scott said he's waiting for more details on the spending plan. He said one of his top priorities for the federal aid is to help the state's restaurants and hospitality industry.

He said those businesses should get top priority as the state distributes the latest round of federal pandemic assistance.

Scott said he's still waiting for details on how Vermont can use the $1.3 billion it will receive under the federal bill.

“There's money in there for our businesses, for the hospitality sector in particular, that are most at risk,” Scott said Friday. “And we want to make sure they get the money just as quick as they possibly can.”

Scott said a large share of the $1.3 billion for Vermont will go to straight to Vermonters in the form of $1,400 payments and support to families with children.

But he said the state's restaurants and hospitality sector were severely hurt by a year of COVID restrictions, and need immediate assistance.

- John Dillon

5. Gov. Scott says most schools will be able to reopen for full-time, in-person learning next month

Gov. Phil Scott says he believes that most schools will be ready to reopen on a full-time, in-person basis by the middle of next month.

Scott said the state has prioritized the vaccination of teachers to improve health and safety considerations at the schools.

And he says the administration is now working with schools on achieving social distancing guidelines.

The governor says most teachers will be fully vaccinated when students return from their April break.

“Once we get through that obstacle, which we're trying to deal with right now, we believe that there are going to be more schools coming on board, opening up for in-person instruction,” Scott said. “And we'll work with them with other obstacles that may be in the way to accommodate that."   

Scott said decisions about reopening individual schools on a full-time basis will be made at the local district level.

- Bob Kinzel

6. Nine rural Vt. communities win historic preservation grants

Nine rural communities across Vermont have been awarded grants ranging from $50,000 to $100,000 to help support the preservation and revitalization of historic structures.

Some projects that will benefit from the Paul Bruhn Historic Revitalization Grants include the East Calais General Store, circa 1850, which will be renovated.

In Bridgewater, a community group is working to turn the former village school into a childcare center.

And in Vernon, the Friends of Vernon Center want to turn the Governor Hunt House, built in 1779, into a community center.

The grant program is administered by the Preservation Trust of Vermont and the National Park Service.

A total of $625,000 was awarded.

- Brittany Patterson

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