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News Roundup: Vermont House Apologizes For Role In Eugenics Movement

House chamber seats and desks on a red and yellow carpet.
Elodie Reed
/
VPR File
On Wednesday, the Vermont House voted to formally apologize for its predecessors' role in the eugenics movement. A 1931 law sanctioned the sterilization of more than 200 Vermonters, many of whom were members of marginalized communities.

Vermont reporters provide a roundup of top news takeaways about the coronavirus, the Vermont House's formal apology for its role in the eugenics movement and more for Thursday, April 1.

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The latest coronavirus data:

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1. Officials report 233 new COVID cases

State officials reported 233 new COVID-19 infections across Vermont Thursday.

It's the fourth time in the last eight days the state has topped more than 200 cases in a single day.

Nearly 90 of the new cases are in Chittenden County, with roughly two dozen cases each in Caledonia, Orleans and Rutland counties.

There are currently 32 coronavirus-related hospitalizations statewide, with four people in intensive care.

About 38% of Vermonters over the age of 16 have started their COVID vaccinations with at least one dose.

- Matthew Smith

Vaccine registration to open to non-resident college students, second homeowners on April 30

Vermont will open vaccine registrations to non-residents like college students and second homeowners by the end of the month.

At Tuesday's media briefing, Gov. Phil Scott said college students from outside Vermont would not be eligible to register for a vaccine in the state, and cautioned students against using their college addresses to claim residency.

But the governor's office released a statement Wednesday that says Vermont *will* extend vaccinations to non-resident college students, starting on April 30, and on the condition that federal vaccine supplies remain steady.

Second homeowners returning to Vermont this summer will also be able to sign up for a shot at the end of the month.

The opening for nonresidents will come nearly two weeks after state health officials open appointments to all Vermont residents 16 or older. That opening is set for Monday, April 19.

- Matthew Smith

State officials estimate vaccines have saved 78 Vermont lives so far

State health officials estimate Vermont's COVID-19 vaccination program has saved 78 lives since the shots arrived late last year.

Despite a recent spike in the number of new cases of COVID-19, the number of new infections in older people — those most vulnerable to the virus — are continuing to go down.

The state says nearly 87% of people over the age of 75 have been vaccinated. To date, more than 37% of all Vermonters 16 or older have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Currently all Vermonters over age 50 are eligible to be vaccinated. And starting Thursday, Vermont is opening up vaccinations to all Vermonters who identify as Black, Indigenous and people of color, aged 16 or older.

Newly-eligible BIPOC Vermonters can sign up for a vaccine online at healthvermont.gov/MyVaccine.

Newly-eligible Vermonters may need to update account details, which you can do by:

  • Logging in, then
  • clicking the “Dependent/Spouse” tab, then
  • clicking “UPDATE DETAILS” for the person who needs an appointment, then
  • checking the consent box and updating the information.

Appointments are also now open for caregivers of children with high-risk health conditions.
When registering online, parents or caregivers should answer "yes" to the question that asks about high-risk health conditions. Health officials say they're updating their language online for parents soon.

- Associated Press and Matthew Smith

Prison outbreak appears to be nearing end

A large outbreak of COVID-19 at a state correctional facility in Newport appears to be nearing its end.

The Vermont Department of Corrections says mass testing conducted on Monday at Northern State Correctional Facility found no new cases.

Monday’s results are the first time since late February that all tests at the facility came back negative.

A total of 179 people held at Northern State Correctional Facility caught COVID-19, plus 24 staff members. Currently, only two incarcerated people and three staffers are positive – the remaining people have recovered.

DOC Commissioner Jim Baker said in a statement that the situation wasn’t over, but the new results were “encouraging.” Everyone at the facility was scheduled to get tested again Thursday.

- Liam Elder-Connors

Shaftsbury school going remote after positive COVID test

Fifth graders at Shaftsbury Elementary School will be attending school fully online for the next week.

The Bennington Banner reports the shift came after a member of the school community tested positive for COVID-19.

The Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union made the announcement Wednesday.

The school will remain open for all other grades. Fifth graders are set to be back in the classroom on April 8.

- Brittany Patterson

2. Vermont House formally apologizes for role in eugenics movement

Lawmakers in the Vermont House of Representatives have formally apologized for the role their predecessors played in the eugenics movement.

Winooski Rep. Hal Colston says Vermont now faces the task of repairing the harms done to victims of the sterilization program.

“Facing the truth allows all of us to be free,” Colston said. “Then we might heal our broken relationships. Then we might heal the wrongs of eugenics and racism, which are joined at the hip.”

In 1931, the Vermont Legislature approved a law that sanctioned the sterilization of more than 200 Vermonters, most of whom were members of marginalized communities.

House lawmakers unanimously approved a resolution Wednesday apologizing for the state’s role in the eugenics program.

- Peter Hirschfeld

3. Public Utility Commission extends ban on disconnections

The Public Utility Commission has extended a ban on utility disconnections for another two months. The order prevents companies from stopping service due to non-payment bills.

The PUC first instituted the order a year ago to “help protect Vermonters suffering from economic hardship” due to the pandemic. The ban was briefly lifted in October when the state made some relief money available to help utilities and customers pay bills. When that money ran out in December, the PUC re-instituted the ban.

In a press release, the PUC said it hoped more relief money will be on the way, but it wasn’t guaranteed.

- Liam Elder-Connors

4. FEMA to reimburse Vermont for pandemic expenses

The state of Vermont and several other entities will get millions of dollars from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to reimburse expenses related to the pandemic.

FEMA announced several pots of money on Wednesday: $3.8 million will go to the Department of Public Safety for PPE and N95 sterilizer machines it bought last year.

Southern Vermont Community Action will be reimbursed for food distribution efforts earlier this year, to the tune of nearly $1.4 million.

And UVM Medical Center is in line to receive a $9.6 million grant for its testing sites, quarantine facilities and other expenses.

In total, FEMA says it has paid Vermont more than $130 million for its pandemic response so far.

- Henry Epp

5. Border residents fight federal proposal for surveillance cameras

Residents of Derby Line are fighting back against a plan to install a 200-foot surveillance tower along the Vermont-Canada border.

Bryan Davis has been farming in Derby Line his whole life. And he says he and his neighbors are worried about their privacy and property values.

“You know, who’s to say they can’t zoom in on a backyard or a porch or the driveway or even look into someone’s houses, you know? The windows,” Davis said. “I’m not saying they’d do that, but certainly the possibility is there.”

U.S. Customs and Border Protection wants to erect surveillance towers in five northern Vermont communities. The federal agency says the towers will help agents detect illegal border crossings.

Read/hear the full story.

- Peter Hirschfeld

6. Vernon fire department is open once again

The Vernon Fire Department is back in action after disbanding last year.

The Brattleboro Reformer reports the local select board voted this week to reopen the department after it underwent months of rebuilding.

Last fall, the department ceased operating after a group of first responders called attention to training and leadership problems within the department.

Fire departments in Brattleboro, Guilford and Bernardston, Massachusetts helped respond to calls while the Vernon crew was reconstituted.

The paper reports many of the department's former members have returned.

- Brittany Patterson

7. Rutland officially buys former College of St. Joseph's athletic center

The city of Rutland has officially taken ownership of the athletic center of the former College of St. Joseph.

The Rutland Herald reports voters approved a nearly $1.5 million bond for the building in November.

That was on top of $350,000 in grants needed for the purchase.

The city's recreation department had been using the facility for most of the last year. The sale closed Tuesday.

- Matthew Smith

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