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News Roundup: Kids 12-15 Can Now Sign Up For A COVID-19 Vaccine

A sign advises masking and social distancing against a green backdrop of a forested path.
Elodie Reed
/
VPR
At Shelburne Bay Park, a sign advises trail users to wear a mask and practice social distancing. New guidance issued by the state of Vermont in late April advises that masks are no longer required outdoors, if social distance can be maintained.

Vermont reporters provide a roundup of top news takeaways about the coronavirus and more for Thursday, May 13.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 Dept. of Health reports 72 new COVID-19 cases

Vermont health officials reported 71 new COVID-19 infections statewide Thursday.

Rutland County had the largest tally, with a dozen new cases.

Hospitalizations due to the virus dropped to 10, with two people in intensive care.

To date, nearly 70% of Vermonters 16 and older have gotten at least one vaccine dose, while 51% are fully vaccinated.

- Matthew Smith

Kids 12-15 eligible for COVID-19 vaccine, starting Thursday

Starting Thurs., May 13, Vermont is opening COVID-19 vaccinations up to those between the ages of 12 and 15.

That's after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention authorized the Pfizer vaccine Wednesday, after clinical trial data found it to be safe and effective for this age band.

Pharmacies are offering the shots to younger Vermonters today. Parents and guardians can also book appointments through the state health department's website

State health and education officials are also planning school-based clinics in the coming days.

To date, just over 69% of Vermonters 16 and older have gotten at least one vaccine dose. Just over 50% are fully vaccinated.

- Matthew Smith

2. Vermont Senate passes formal apology for Vermont's role in the eugenics movement

The Vermont Senate has formally apologized for the state’s role in the eugenics movement of the early 20th century.

In 1931, the Vermont Legislature approved a law that sanctioned forced sterilizations – particularly targeting Abenaki, Black and French Canadian Vermonters, as well as those with disabilities. This went on for over 20 years.

A resolution by the Legislature issues an apology to all Vermonters who were harmed as well as their descendants.

The measure passed the Senate on Wednesday by a vote of 29-0.

The House passed it unanimously back in March.

The bill also states that the Legislature should take further action to address the impacts of these policies and “related practices of disenfranchisement, ethnocide and genocide."

- Anna Van Dine

More from VPR: ‘Building The Plane While We Fly It’: BIPOC Community Organizers Bridge The Gap On Vaccine Equity

3. Vt. Senate passes bill that would decriminalize the possession of small amounts of buprenorphine

Legislation that would decriminalize the possession of small amounts of buprenorphine appears to be headed to the desk of Gov. Phil Scott.

The Vermont Senate on Wednesday gave its support to a proposal that’s already won approval from House lawmakers.

Senate President Becca Balint said buprenorphine, which is used to treat opioid use disorder, is a lifesaving alternative to heroin and fentanyl.

“We’re taking this action because we are all, every single one of us, every single community, is impacted by this health emergency,” Balint said.

It's unclear whether Scott will sign the bill.

Administration officials have expressed concerns, including Public Safety Commission Michael Schirling, who has said that buprenorphine is a powerful opioid that should only be used when prescribed by a doctor.

- Peter Hirschfeld

4. Vermont House approves bill declaring racism a public health emergency

The House has approved a resolution that declares racism as a public health emergency in Vermont.

The measure states that health outcomes for Black, Indigenous and People of Color in Vermont are significantly worse than for the Vermont's white population.

According to the resolution, Black Vermonters account for almost 5% of all COVID-19 cases, while representing roughly 1% of the population.

Northfield Representative Anne Donahue said this issue needs serious attention in the future.

“So yes, it is racism that is like COVID a public health emergency,” Donahue said. “But COVID is being defeated by a vaccine and racism will not be so easily defeated without a longer term societal commitment.”

The measure now goes to the Senate for its consideration.

- Bob Kinzel

More from VPR: 'Building The Plane As We Fly It': BIPOC Community Organizers Shrink The Gap On Vaccine Equity

5. ACLU, Vermont Legal Aid says districts misused Medicaid funds to pay for police officers in schools

Two legal advocacy groups say school districts in Vermont are misusing Medicaid funds to pay for police in schools. 

The American Civil Liberties Union and Vermont Legal Aid, in a letter sent Wednesday, called on the Agency of Education to stop the practice.

The organizations say that at least two school districts — Maple Run Unified School District and North Country Supervisory Union — got approval from the state to use Medicaid Reinvestment Funds to pay for police in schools.

State law requires Medicaid dollars be spent on helping students with disabilities and improving academic performance — and the ACLU says police in schools don’t help either of those things. 

John Castle is North Country Supervisory Union Superintendent. He says the district wasn’t aware that they might be misusing the funds.

“But I’m sort of anticipating that we’ll need to rectify the situation and most likely utilize local funds and no longer use Medicaid funds,” Castle said.

Maple Run Unified School District’s superintendent said, "We've done everything the way we thought we should be doing."

The Agency of Education did not respond to a request for comment.

- Liam Elder-Connors

6. BIPOC community organizers shrink the gap on vaccine equity in Vermont

In recent weeks, the gap in vaccination rates between white and Black, Indigenous or people of color, also known as BIPOC, Vermonters has narrowed.

In early April, the gap stood at 13%. Today, it's closer to 6%.

That success is being attributed to a series of clinics across the state that are led and designed by leaders who are people of color, with funding and support from the Vermont Department of Health.

Belan Antensaye is with the Vermont Professionals of Color Network, one of the groups organizing the clinics. She says building trust is key.

"One of the things our clinic is focusing on is to reduce vaccine inaccessibility – whether it’s with transportation, or interpretation, or education sessions, or follow up or comfort,” Antensaye said. “Everything we are seeing suggests that that is helping a lot.”

BIPOC clinics will continue to run through at least July 10.

If you self-identify as Black, Indigenous or as a person of color, you can sign up to get vaccinated at a BIPOC clinic online at vermonthealthequity.org or by calling: 802-755-7239.

Listen to the full conversation.

- Connor Cyrus

7. State librarian calls for funding to preserve broadband access at libraries across the state

Vermont’s State Librarian is asking lawmakers for a last-minute addition to the budget in order to preserve broadband access at community libraries across Vermont.

Forty Vermont libraries share an old fiber optic network that allows them to provide free internet access to local residents.

But State Librarian Jason Broughton says the equipment needed to run that network is getting old.

“We are sitting on, I would say, a light ticking time bomb,” Broughton said. “Because the equipment is now deteriorating and aged, anything that we do to the system will need to have that specific piece of equipment to replace it.”

Broughton is asking lawmakers for $500,000 for maintenance of the system.

He says the money will keep internet access in place until the state completes a larger broadband buildout with federal coronavirus relief money.

- Peter Hirschfeld

8. Vermont brewers seek 'reciprocity clause' for online beer sales

Vermont has won worldwide acclaim for its craft beer industry. But brewers here say they’re at a competitive disadvantage with breweries in other states.

That's because while currently someone in Vermont can buy beer from an out-of-state brewery and have it shipped here, it remains illegal for someone outside of Vermont to order beer from a Vermont brewery and have it shipped out of state.

Shaun Hill is the owner of Hill Farmstead Brewery in Greensboro.

“I mean, right now, 50 states can ship beer into Vermont, and a Vermont brewer or manufacturer can only ship to like eight or nine states,” Hill said.

Hill and other Vermont brewers want the Legislature to create a so-called reciprocity provision.

If lawmakers approve the proposal, breweries in other states would only be allowed to ship to customers in Vermont if they’re located in a state that allows its residents to buy beer from Vermont breweries.

- Peter Hirschfeld

9. Vermont House approves bill that would make vote-by-mail system permanent

Voting by mail has gotten a big boost in the Vermont House.

By nearly a 4:1 margin, the House has given its approval to legislation that takes the temporary system used in the 2020 General Election and makes it permanent in the future.

Last year, town clerks sent a ballot to every registered voter on their checklist six weeks before the election.

Voters could choose to mail the ballots back, drop them off at their clerk's office, or bring them in on Election Day.

Bradford Representative Sarah Copeland-Hanzas is the chair of the House Government Operations committee.

"We believe that it was a very successful election, with the highest turnout and the vast majority of Vermonters having voted by mail,” Copeland-Hanzas said.

The Senate will now consider some of the changes that the House made to the original bill.

- Bob Kinzel

Correction 5:03 p.m. 5/13/2021: An error reported in the Senate Journal on Wednesday indicated that the Vermont Senate voted 29-1 to adopt a bill that apologizes for the state's role in the eugenics movement. The journal -- and subsequently VPR's reporting -- have since been corrected to reflect the true vote, 29-0.

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