News Roundup: State Data Show 41% Vermonters Are Fully Vaccinated
Vermont reporters provide a roundup of top news takeaways about the coronavirus and more for Wednesday, April 28.
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The latest coronavirus data:
1. State date show more than 41% of Vermonters fully vaccinated
Vermont has now vaccinated more than 60% of its adult residents with at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine.
The latest state data released Wednesday also shows more than 41% of Vermonters 16 or older have been fully vaccinated. That's more than 226,000 people.
One more person has died from the virus, the 246th virus-linked death in the state during the pandemic.
Health officials also reported 48 new COVID-19 infections across the state. Only Bennington County had new cases in the double digits, with 13 in all.
The number of people hospitalized due to the virus continues to fall, numbering just 17 Wednesday, including seven people in intensive care.
- Matthew Smith
Scott administration urges NEK residents to get vaccinated ASAP
The Scott administration is urging Vermonters who live or work in the Northeast Kingdom to get vaccinated as soon as possible.
Financial Regulation Department Commissioner Mike Pieciak says that while Vermont has made great progress in reducing the number of COVID cases in the last few weeks, he is concerned that conditions are much worse just across the border in northern New Hampshire.
"Last November, we saw trends worsen in northern New Hampshire and then spill over into the Kingdom, so we do want to provide an extra word of caution for those working and living in the Kingdom to protect themselves, and ultimately and most importantly, to get vaccinated so that we no longer have to worry about these outbreaks that pop up in neighboring states,” he said.
To increase the availability of the vaccines, it's likely that the state will set up several drive through clinics in the Northeast Kingdom in the coming weeks.
- Bob Kinzel
Scott administration says Vermont on track to meet vax goals for May 1 restriction loosening
The Scott administration says Vermont is on track to meet its vaccination goals, and that will allow the state to lift some of its COVID-19 restrictions on May 1.
Michael Pieciak, commissioner of the Department of Financial Regulation, has been closely following pandemic trends for the administration.
He says the state has had great success vaccinating older Vermonters in the last few weeks.
"And we also rank first in the country in terms of those 65 and older who are now fully vaccinated, standing at 82.8%, so these numbers are really good and really strong,” he said. “However, we do want to continue to encourage people, if you haven't yet made an appointment, to do so."
Gov. Phil Scott says he will unveil his plan to lift some of Vermont's current restrictions at his press briefing on Friday.
- Bob Kinzel
Health commissioner: Public school vax mandate unlikely
Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine says it's likely that a COVID vaccine will soon be available for young people between the ages of 12 and 15. He says a special vaccine is currently being tested by the federal government, and the initial results have been good.
Even if the vaccine is approved, Levine says there's no need to mandate that middle and high school students be vaccinated in the fall. He says he believes the state can achieve its vaccination goals without a mandate.
"I think without mandating, we're making a lot of progress, and we shouldn't start thinking about those kinds of concepts at a time when we're leading the country in success,” Levine said.
The state is hoping that most Vermont schools will be open for full-time, in-person learning this fall.
- Bob Kinzel
2. Leader of nonprofit that bought former Marlboro College campus charged with stealing more than $200K
The leader of a nonprofit that bought the former campus of Marlboro College has been arrested on charges that he stole more than $200,000 from a network of charter schools. As VTDigger first reported, 42-year-old Seth Andrew is accused of wire fraud, money laundering and making false statements to a bank.
Andrew’s nonprofit, called Democracy Builders, purchased Marlboro College’s campus last summer. The group planned to create a hybrid online and residential college that would serve low-income and first-generation college students.
Andrew was scheduled to appear in Manhattan federal court on Tuesday. His lawyer told CNBC he planned to plead not guilty.
- Henry Epp
3. Vt. Senate unanimously passes bill banning LGBTQ "panic defense"
A bill that would ban the LGBTQ “panic defense” unanimously passed the Vermont Senate today on Tuesday.
The so-called panic defense is a legal strategy where a defendant blames an individual’s gender identity or sexual orientation for violence committed against a victim.
The bill limits criminal defenses based on a victim’s identity in Vermont. More than a dozen other states have similar laws on the books. The bill now heads to Gov. Phil Scott’s desk.
- Anna Van Dine
4. Pownal officials warn some residents not to drink, cook with tap water
Officials in Pownal are once again telling some residents not to drink or cook with their tap water. The order was issued last week for those who get their water from the Pownal Fire District 2 water system.
The filtering system was installed after the toxic chemical PFOA was found in nearby well water in 2016.
Bottled water is being provided.
- Brittany Patterson
5. Investigation shows human error caused Department of Labor tax form mix-up
An investigation has determined that a single human error was the likely cause of the Vermont Department of Labor sending thousands of tax documents to the wrong people earlier this year.
The report released Monday by the office of state Auditor of Accounts Doug Hoffer found there were adequate controls in place to catch the error.
The mistake led to the Department of Labor to recall thousands of 1099-G tax forms that included names, addresses and Social Security numbers of people who received unemployment assistance.
The state recalled the incorrectly mailed forms, reissued the correct documents and offered identify theft protection to people affected by the error.
- Associated Press
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