News Roundup: State Officials Report 98 New COVID Cases
Vermont reporters provide a roundup of top news takeaways about the coronavirus and more for Thursday, April 29.
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The latest coronavirus data:
1. State officials report 98 new COVID-19 cases Thursday
Health officials reported 98 new COVID-19 infections in Vermont Thursday.
Chittenden County had about a quarter of those cases, 23 in all, with roughly a dozen new infections in Orange, Rutland and Windsor counties.
There are now 19 people hospitalized with the virus, including four people in intensive care.
Nearly 61% of adult Vermonters have gotten at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, and 42% are fully vaccinated.
- Matthew Smith
Out-of-state college residents, part-time residents now eligible for vaccine
Starting Thursday, part-time residents and out-of-state college students can sign up for a vaccination appointment in Vermont.
State health officials say students attending Vermont schools who are residents of another state can sign up to get vaccinated, even if they do not intend to stay in Vermont for the summer.
The new opening also includes people who live only part of the year in Vermont, like second-home owners.
Vaccine appointments remain open for all Vermonters 16 and older.
To date, just over 60% of Vermonters have gotten at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Nearly 42% have been fully vaccinated, a figure that includes those who have gotten both doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, or the single-dose Johnson and Johnson shot.
- Matthew Smith
2. Vermonters with family in India worry over COVID outbreak there
In India, recent daily COVID case counts have repeatedly broken world records. New infections have numbered around 350,000 per day, and the country’s health system is short on basic supplies like hospital beds and oxygen.
Essex resident and retired IBM employee Shyam Parikh has family in Mumbai and Ahmedabad. And he says those in power around the world should put bureaucracy aside and act.
“This is not the time to worry about politics,” Parikh said. “And whoever has the extra supply — whether it’s raw material or vaccines or whatever — they should think of it as a global citizen. I mean, this sounds very good, but it's not easy to do that. I understand that. But that's just the message that has to go to the leaders of the industrial world, basically.”
On Sunday, the Biden administration pledged medical aid to India.
- Elodie Reed
3. Number of kids tested for lead dropped over past year
The number of kids who had their blood tested for lead dropped sharply last year.
Exposure to lead can damage a child's developing nervous system. That's why Vermont’s Health Department has been trying to increase the number of young children who get their blood tested for the toxic metal.
The percentage of 2-year-olds who received a blood test has been steadily climbing since 2015, but the number dropped by almost 8% last year.
Health officials say the COVID-19 pandemic was the likely cause, as doctors turned their attention to the virus and moved more of their care to telemedicine.
The Health Department says it also had to cut back on its lead poisoning prevention program, as staff was reassigned to the COVID-19 response.
- Howard Weiss-Tisman
4. Federal authorities ask Vermont to reprocess thousands of unemployment claims
Vermont's Department of Labor is being asked to reprocess thousands of unemployment benefit claims filed over the last year.
VTDigger reports the request came in a letter from the federal Department of Labor, which says Vermont must reprocess the claims or risk violating federal law, and possibly lose eligibility for three federal unemployment programs.
The letter says the state failed to follow key eligibility requirements for those seeking unemployment, including whether those filing claims had the ability and availability to work, or turned down job offers before filing.
The state Labor Department waived some unemployment requirements during the pandemic. Labor Commissioner Michael Harrington called the reprocessing request "unconscionable" and asked the federal agency to reverse course.
All three members of Vermont's Congressional delegation sent a letter to the federal labor secretary requesting the agency reverse the order, saying it would "cripple" Vermont’s unemployment system. Work-search requirements will be reinstated next month for Vermonters seeking unemployment benefits.
- Matthew Smith
Democratic lawmakers want to make sure reinstated work search requirement doesn’t kick Vermonters off unemployment for COVID hardships
Gov. Phil Scott says jobless Vermonters will now need to look for work in order to continue receiving unemployment benefits.
But Democratic lawmakers want to make sure the reinstatement of the work search requirement doesn’t kick people off unemployment for COVID-related hardships.
Charlie Kimbell is a Democratic representative from Woodstock.
“Whether or not the school supports are there for them to reasonably return to work, that’s going to be very individual,” Kimbell said. “And that’s really hard to have one particular policy that affects everybody the same way, when their individual circumstances are different.”
Administration officials say the work search requirement will be waived for Vermonters in a qualifying COVID circumstance.
The Department of Labor will be hosting virtual town hall events for people who may be affected by the work search requirement.
- Peter Hirschfeld
5. 1 year after taking position, Champlain College president steps down
Just a year after taking the job, the president of Champlain College in Burlington is leaving.
Benjamin Ola. Akande is headed to St. Louis to take a leadership position at an investment firm. A statement from Champlain College does not specify which firm that is, but calls it "one of the nation’s largest investment banking and financial services firms."
Akande came to Vermont from St. Louis last year, where he was an administrator at Washington University.
Champlain's board has named Dave Finney as interim president. Finney was previously the college's president from 2005 to 2014.
- Henry Epp
6. Maine governor proposes 10-year moratorium on new offshore wind projects
Maine's governor has introduced a proposal to establish a decade-long moratorium on new offshore wind projects in state waters.
Democratic Gov. Janet Mills is a proponent of wind power and submitted the proposal to the Maine Legislature Wednesday.
The state's fishing industry raised questions about wind turbines in the Gulf of Maine, calling for more data about the impact of offshore wind on the industry.
Mills' proposal would not limit offshore wind projects in federal waters off of Maine's coast.
If New England is to meet its climate and energy goals, including Vermont's pledge to use 90% renewable energy by 2050, grid manager ISO New England says the region will need to develop 30 gigawatts of offshore wind power by the end of the decade.
- Associated Press
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