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News Roundup: Three More Vermonters Die From COVID-19, Death Toll At 240

A sign saying #masksonhartford with little stick figures wearing masks
Elodie Reed
/
VPR
A sign reminds Hartford residents to mask up along Route 5 on Thursday.

Vermont reporters provide a roundup of top news takeaways about the coronavirus, an approaching nor-easter and more for Thursday, April 15.

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The latest coronavirus data:,

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1. Three more Vermonters die from COVID-19

State officials reported Thursday that three more Vermonters have died from the coronavirus. Vermont also reported 176 new virus infections statewide.

The state's pandemic death toll now stands at 240, with seven of those deaths coming over roughly the last week.

Vermont has reached a vaccination milestone: More than half of adult Vermonters — about 274,000 people — have now gotten at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Of today's 176 new cases, 60 were in Chittenden County. Elsewhere, there were roughly a dozen cases each in Bennington, Orange, Orleans, Rutland and Windham counties.

A total of 27 people are hospitalized with the virus, including three people in intensive care.

- Matthew Smith

More from Brave Little State: Remembering The Vermonters Lost To COVID

J&J pause extended through April 23

Vermont is canceling all Johnson & Johnson vaccine appointments through Friday, April 23.

The Health Department is working to reschedule people who were slated to get the shot. Anyone who had a J&J appointment through the state's vaccine registration system should call 855-722-7878 to reschedule their appointment. The Health Department says everyone affected by the pause should be able to get a vaccine appointment by the end of April.

People who were scheduled to get the shot through CVS or Walgreens should follow the pharmacies' instructions about rescheduling (CVS instructions here, Walgreens instructions here.)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention extended the pause on use of the J&J vaccine until at least next Friday. The federal agency recommended temporarily halting use earlier this week after six women developed a rare and severe type of blood clot. The CDC says the pause will allow time to gather more data and understand how to treat patients if clots develop.

More than 7 million people in the U.S. have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

- Liam Elder-Connors

Dartmouth to require students to be vaccinated

Dartmouth College joins a growing list of universities that will require students to get a COVID-19 vaccine before returning to campus this fall.

The Valley News reports the college's provost announced the requirement Wednesday, while also permitting some medical or religious exemptions.

Currently the college is not requiring employees to be vaccinated.

Other colleges requiring students get vaccinated include Brown and Roger Williams University in Rhode Island, Boston University, and Cornell in New York.

To date, no Vermont colleges or universities have announced policies requiring students get vaccinated by the fall term.

- Matthew Smith

More from VPR: This Vermonter Is Corralling Vt. Vaccine Info To Help People Get Shots Faster

The Scott administration is hoping organized summer activities will look fairly normal this year as the state heads toward its July 4 reopening goal.

Deputy Health Commissioner Tracy Dolan told Vermont Edition Wednesday that summer camp registration is open, and camps will be allowed to start before Independence Day. But they might have some limitations.

“They will employ some spacing,” Dolan said. “They will likely employ masks, but we don't have the final guidance out now.”

She added that complete guidance and limitations for summer camps will be released soon.

Hear the full conversation.

- Emily Aiken

2. Vt. House bill tackling systemic racism in housing, land ownership

Lawmakers in Montpelier are debating a bill that aims to address Vermont's history of systemic racism in housing and land ownership.

VTDigger reports the legislation would create a new fund to help Black, Indigenous and people of color access home and property ownership.

Under the bill, $10 million would be set aside for grants and other investments to boost racial and social equity for Vermonters who have historically faced discrimination.

Proponents of the bill say it would allow BIPOC Vermonters to create and pass down wealth tied to land ownership in the same way white residents can.

The House Committee on General, Housing and Military Affairs is expected to collect testimony on the bill in the coming weeks.

- Brittany Patterson

3. FEMA to reimburse Vermont for motel housing vouchers

Vermont will be reimbursed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency for its program housing people experiencing homelessness in hotels and motels.

The state will receive nearly $46.7 million from FEMA for its housing voucher program, which launched last March. FEMA announced the reimbursement Wednesday.

Over the next few months, the state plans to wind down the practice of housing people in hotels and motels. As of March, about 2,000 people were using the motel vouchers.

To date, FEMA has committed over $166 million to Vermont for its pandemic response.

- Henry Epp

4. Burlington High School PCB contamination more extensive than originally thought

Officials at a Vermont high school have announced that contamination at the school is more extensive than expected and will be costly to decontaminate.

Burlington Schools Superintendent Tom Flanagan said that the news continues to "worsen" as the school district learns more about the PCB contamination at Burlington High School.

Students currently attend classes in a renovated Macy's store in the city's downtown.

Consultants working to identify the source of the contamination have found the chemicals in caulking, light fixtures, floor tiles and concrete.

A pilot project is underway and is expected to provide an estimated cost for renovations in August.

- Associated Press

5. Nor'easter on its way Thursday night

Northern New England may have had a fairly mild winter, but a spring nor’easter is on the way this week.

The storm is expected to bring rain and snow to Maine starting late Thursday and extend all the way through early Saturday morning.

A winter storm watch is also in effect for parts of southern Vermont with up to a half a foot of snow possible Thursday evening through Friday night, mainly in higher elevations.

Western Maine also could see up to the same amount of snow near the New Hampshire border, mostly in inland areas, but even the coastal areas of Maine and New Hampshire could see a coating of snow.

- Associated Press

6. Two water quality groups split over whether Lake Memphremagog should be labeled "in crisis"

Two Vermont-based groups devoted to the care and health of Lake Memphremagog are split over whether the water body should be designated a "lake in crisis."

The citizens group called DUMP — or Don’t Undermine Memphremagog’s Purity — says ongoing issues like invasive species and phosphorus and chemical contamination warrant the rare “crisis” designation.

Here’s Peggy Stevens with DUMP:

“Risks to public health, risks to the environment, are sufficient reasons for this designation to happen,” Stevens said.

But Mary Pat Goulding, with the nonprofit Memphremagog Watershed Association, says the “crisis” isn’t what’s best for the lake.

"We want people to feel that they can help to improve the lake,” Goulding said. “And if something is in crisis, it sounds a little bit more challenging."

More than 3,700 people have signed a petition started by DUMP urging the state to OK the crisis designation.

Read/hear the full story.

- Matthew Smith

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