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News Roundup: Vermont Officials Report 52 New COVID Cases, 2 Additional Deaths

Two people in masks walk four dogs on a sidewalk
Elodie Reed
/
VPR
Carmen Garofalo, left, and Zac Carr, right, walk dogs Drago, Fletcher, Gino and Jeanie down South Union Street in Burlington in early May.

Vermont reporters provide a roundup of top news takeaways about the coronavirus and more for Tuesday, May 11.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 Department of Health reports 52 new COVID cases, 2 additional deaths

Two more Vermonters have died from COVID-19, and state health officials counted 52 new coronavirus infections statewide Tuesday.

The latest deaths bring the pandemic's toll in Vermont to 251.

Only Orleans County had new cases in double digits, with 10 infections in all.

Some 16 people are hospitalized due to the virus, two of whom are in the ICU.

Vaccination data now shows more than 69% of Vermonters 16 and older have gotten one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. A full 50% are fully inoculated.

- Matthew Smith

2. Governor voices support for bill that would extend free health care to undocumented children, pregnant mothers

Undocumented minors living in Vermont will soon be eligible for free health care through Dr. Dynasaur.

Essex Representative Alyssa Black says many children who are living in the country without legal permission lack access to primary care. And she says the emergency room is often the only resort for parents of sick children.

“And then they end up with these enormous bills for an amount that they would never even be able to begin to think about being able to repay,” Black said.

Lawmakers are scheduled to give final approval Tuesday to a bill that would make children and pregnant women eligible for Dr. Dynasaur, regardless of their immigration status.

Gov. Phil Scott says he plans to sign the legislation.

Black said: “This bill simply says, ‘You know what? We see you. We know you’re here. And we care about you.’”

State health officials say the new guidelines will provide health coverage for about 100 undocumented children and 20 pregnant women annually.

- Peter Hirschfeld

3. New report from state auditor details state spending on dairy industry

Vermont has spent more than $285 million on programs and policies to support the state's struggling dairy industry.

That's according to a new report from the state auditor's office.

The review looked at state spending from 2010 to 2019 that either directly helped dairy farmers or helped to reduce the environmental impacts of dairy farming.

The largest financial benefits to dairy farmers came from tax policies and benefits, specifically sales tax exemptions and property tax reductions.

The report does not offer recommendations, but is meant to help policymakers and the public in future decisions regarding the state's dairy industry.

While dairy farms account for about half of the state's farmland, the number of farms has dropped from just over 4,000 in 1969, to 636 last year.

- Brittany Patterson

4. State extends enrollment period for health insurance to Oct. 1

Vermonter's who get their health insurance through the state's insurance marketplace will now have through Oct. 1, 2021 to sign up for coverage.

In a Monday press release, the Department of Vermont Health Access said the state was extending the Special Enrollment Period to allow uninsured Vermonters to take advantage of new financial help available under the American Rescue Plan Act.

The federal COVID-19 relief bill includes higher health plan subsidies and increases the income eligibility thresholds to allow more Vermonters to quality for help.

Anyone currently signed up for coverage through the state marketplace will automatically get the new benefits, if they qualify.

Vermonters without health insurance and those enrolled directly with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermont and MVP Health Care are being encouraged to enroll through the marketplace. 

- Brittany Patterson

5. Sen. Leahy says Democrats should push through $2 trillion stimulus package

Vermont's senior senator says Democrats should try to push through President Biden's $2 trillion infrastructure bill, even if no Republicans support it.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, who is the chairman of the Senate Appropriations committee, says he supports the President's decision to include an expansion of broadband programs, child care initiatives and paid family and medical leave, in the bill.

“Infrastructure is a lot more than roads and bridges, and the thing is, most economists will tell you if you put that all in there, it's going to do wonders for the economy, not just now but 10 years and 20 and 25 years from now,” Leahy said. “We ought to make this investment while we can."

Many Senate Republicans argue the President's plan is too big and they object to raising taxes on the wealthy to help pay for it.

Leahy supports Facebook's indefinite suspension of former President Donald Trump

Sen. Patrick Leahy says he supports a decision by tech giant Facebook to continue its indefinite suspension of former president Donald Trump.

Leahy says he doesn't see the case as a First Amendment issue.

Instead, he says it's consistent with Facebook's community standards that prohibit organizations or individuals who praise violence from having a presence on its platform.

Leahy says Trump violated these standards with his remarks at a rally in early January, prior to the insurrection at the Capitol.

“Because I do know that people died on Jan. 6 because of the president inciting – and Rudulph Guiliani inciting – a riot at the U.S. Capitol,” Leahy said. “That's got to be balanced in some way."

Leahy is supporting a full Congressional investigation into the events of Jan. 6.

- Bob Kinzel

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