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News Roundup: Vermont Department Of Health Reports 75 New COVID-19 Cases Friday

A man wearing an orange baseball cap and yellow crossing guard jacket wears a mask and holds a stop sign in the middle of a crosswalk in Burlington. Trees line the street behind him.
Elodie Reed
/
VPR
Crossing guard of 21 years Jon Curtis helps kids across Maple Street in Burlington on Monday, May 3. According to Curtis, this was the first five-day week that kids were walking to Edmunds Middle School for in-person classes.

Vermont reporters provide a roundup of top news takeaways about the coronavirus and more for Friday, May 7.Want VPR's daily news in podcast form? Get up to speed in under 15 minutes with The Frequency every weekday morning. How about an email newsletter? Add our daily email briefing to your morning routine.

The latest coronavirus data:

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1. Vermont sees 75 new COVID-19 cases

State health officials recorded another 75 cases of coronavirus across Vermont Friday.

Most counties saw only a handful of cases, the most being in the roughly dozen cases reported in Chittenden and Windham Counties.

Currently 17 people are hospitalized due to the virus, four of whom are in intensive care.

The latest vaccination figures show two-thirds of Vermonters have now gotten at least one dose of a COVID-19 inoculation. Just under 47% are fully vaccinated.

- Matthew Smith

Dartmouth College changes course, allows guests at June graduation

Dartmouth College will allow graduating seniors to bring two guests to next month’s commencement ceremony.

The Valley News reports she new guidelines reverse the college's earlier decision to prohibit guests at the June 13 ceremony.

President Phil Hanlon said the change was made based on declining COVID-19 cases, the availability of vaccines nationwide and “more flexible state and local guidance.”

Two tickets will be available to each student receiving an undergraduate degree. Those receiving graduate and professional degrees will be allowed two guests at events hosted by their individual schools, but not at the larger ceremony.

- Matthew Smith

2. Democratic lawmakers at odds with governor over ARPA funds

Democratic lawmakers and Republican Gov. Phil Scott are butting heads over how to spend a billion dollars in federal money in this year's state budget.

Scott wants the money to exclusively go to physical infrastructure projects, but the budget passed by the state Senate last week puts the money towards other types of grants and services.

Senate President Becca Balint says that's in line with the guidance set out by the federal government.

“It really seemed to signal to us that they were looking at investments in people – in families, in communities, and we really wanted to keep that narrative at the center of the work we were doing,” Balint said.

She said she's optimistic the Legislature and administration will find common ground on the budget in the coming weeks.

- Henry Epp

More from VPR: Reporter Debrief: With End Of Session Near, Budget Differences Remain Between Scott, Legislature

3. Starting May 9, Vermont's unemployment insurance work search requirement will be reinstated

Starting next week, May 9, most Vermonters receiving unemployment benefits will need to once again show they are searching for work.

The Department of Labor waived the so-called work requirement at the start of the pandemic. But now, as the economy begins to reopen, the Scott administration says more jobs are available.

Michael Harrington, Vermont’s labor commissioner, told Vermont Edition Thursday that one of the challenges for Vermont’s workforce is determining if those applying for jobs have the right skills for the positions currently available.

"We had a workforce shortage going into the pandemic,” he said. “We will have one going out of the pandemic."

To find a job or find employees for your business, visit labor.vermont gov. For assistance with filing for unemployment or reporting a fraudulent unemployment claim, call 1-877-214-3332.

Listen to the full conversation.

- Connor Cyrus

4. Gov. Scott optimistic Vermont can lift most COVID-19 restrictions by July

Gov. Phil Scott says he remains optimistic that Vermont will be able to lift most, if not all, of its COVID-19 restrictions by the beginning of July.

The administration has linked the elimination of certain restrictions to set vaccination targets.

Speaking at a Statehouse press conference, Scott said the state is on track to meet its vaccination goals.

"And now that we're finally moving beyond the pandemic, I believe that by July we'll be through this and the Emergency Order will cease to be in existence,” the governor said.

Roughly two-thirds of all Vermonters 16 and older have now received at least one dose of the vaccine.

- Bob Kinzel

5. Vermont to receive $12 million in federal grants to boost substance use disorder programs

Gov. Phil Scott says $12 million in new federal grants will allow the state to strengthen community-based substance use disorder programs.

Scott says the funds are important, because local and regional prevention groups have had a difficult time providing these services during the pandemic.

The governor says 157 Vermonters died last year due to opioid related causes, an increase of more than 30% over the previous year.

Scott says the state needs to do a better job in the coming months.

"This has been a difficult time for all of us, but especially for people suffering with substance use disorder. This block grant will allow us to expand our efforts in education, outreach, prevention, treatment and recovery,” Scott said.

Under this plan, the Vermont Department of Health will receive a two-year, $6 million grant to expand community-based recovery programs.

- Bob Kinzel

6. As schools close, some Vt. students face longer bus rides

Merged school districts around Vermont are reconfiguring where – and how – kids go to school.

In the Addison Central School District, where school closures are planned, school board member Barbara Wilson worries about the potential for increased travel for some students.

She's concerned that the impacts of this wouldn’t be felt equally, and says some parents might drive their kids to school to avoid the longer bus ride. But other kids:

“They may not have that luxury, where a parent is able to take them to school, let alone if it’s further away," Wilson said.

According to Addison Central's superintendent, the district is trying to keep bus ride times under an hour.

Other districts around the state are facing similar challenges.

Read or listen to the full story.

- Anna Van Dine

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