News Roundup: Vermont Dept. of Health Reports 33 New COVID-19 Cases
Vermont reporters provide a roundup of top news takeaways about the coronavirus and more for Thursday, May 20.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:
1. Vermont Dept. of Health reports 33 new COVID-19 cases
State health officials report 33 new COVID-19 infections across Vermont Thursday.
Most areas saw three or fewer cases, but Rutland and Windsor Counties had nine and eight cases, respectively.
This virus has hospitalized 10 people today, including three people in intensive care.
The state's vaccination rate has been adjusted to include younger age groups now eligible for a shot.
Statewide, just under 66% of Vermonters 12 or older have gotten at least one vaccine shot. Just over 48% are fully vaccinated.
- Matthew Smith
Essex County, Coos County residents can get a free fair ticket with a COVID-19 vaccine Friday in Lancaster, N.H.
A COVID-19 vaccine clinic targeting residents in northern New Hampshire and Vermont is offering participants a festive incentive: free fair tickets.
The North Country Health Consortium is offering free Lancaster Fair tickets for people 18 and older in exchange for scheduling an appointment and getting vaccinated at a fairgrounds clinic tomorrow (Friday) that runs from 12-6 p.m.
The Caledonian Record reports the 150th Lancaster Fair was canceled last year because of the pandemic. It's now scheduled for early September.
The clinic will offer the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine. It's aimed at residents in New Hampshire's Coos County and Vermonters in nearby Essex County.
Essex County continues to have Vermont's lowest vaccination rate, where just over 51% of residents who have gotten at least one vaccine dose.
- Matthew Smith
Out-of-state visitors and non-residents can now get vaccinated in Vermont
Non-residents visiting Vermont who are 12 and older can now get a COVID-19 vaccination in the state.
Vermont will lift its residency requirement for a shot today Thursday. The state opened up vaccines to residents 12 and older last week, with parental permission.
Clinics, including for walk-ins, are listed on the Vermont Health Department website.
They include clinics being held by Emergency Medical Services workers this weekend, as well as at schools.
Anyone who gets a shot at an EMS clinic this weekend will receive a coupon for a free creemee.
- The Associated Press
2. Walk-in vaccine clinic at Burlington's North Beach Thursday, Friday
Vermont’s largest city is holding COVID-19 vaccination clinics at a popular beach Thursday and Friday.
Shots will be available at Burlington’s North Beach from 1-5 p.m. Thursday and from 12-2:30 p.m. on Friday.
Brian Lowe leads the city's COVID-19 response.
“I’m hoping the weather is really good on Thursday and Friday; it’ll bring a lot of people down the beach. The state and Walgreens, the city and others will be there with the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, to allow people to walk right on up and get a vaccination if they want to, somewhat spontaneously,” Lowe said.
The North Beach clinics, along with several others, are aimed at reaching younger people who haven’t gotten the shot yet.
Nearly 75% of eligible people in Chittenden County have received at least one dose — but that number is lagging among younger residents. Only 50% of 18- to 29-year-olds in the country have gotten a shot.
- Liam Elder-Connors
3. Vt. Legislature finalizes $150 million broadband bill
Lawmakers in the House and Senate have finalized legislation that allocates $150 million for broadband in Vermont.
Dover Representative Laura Sibilia says lack of high-speed internet has become a drag on rural economies.
“We are in this digital revolution, and we have been in it for many decades, and what we have seen are major parts of America and Vermont being left behind,” Sibilia said.
The bill sets aside money to finance upfront connection costs for addresses that aren’t served by for-profit internet service providers.
Chittenden County Senator Chris Pearson says an estimated 60,000 Vermont addresses don’t have access to broadband.
“Basically, you have chunks of the state that the for-profit companies, internet providers, have decided not to reach,” he said.
The money comes from Vermont’s share of the federal American Rescue Plan Act.
Lawmakers say they plan to spend an additional $100 million on broadband buildout over the next three years.
- Peter Hirschfeld
4. Vermont House and Senate reach agreement to create summer pension commission
House and Senate lawmakers will ask a 12-person taskforce to take the lead on a controversial debate over pension reform in Vermont.
The two chambers reached agreement this week on legislation that creates a new panel to come up with proposed changes to the embattled pension system.
Bradford Representative Sarah Copeland-Hanzas says the pension fund doesn’t have enough money to pay off future retirement obligations for teachers and state employees.
“At the end of the day, it’s all just a math problem: Is the money that employer and employee are putting into the system, plus the returns that we get on investment, enough to pay for the pension benefit going forward?” Copeland-Hanzas said.
Members of the teachers and state employees unions will make up half the members on the pension taskforce.
The panel will deliver a set of recommendations for lawmakers to consider during the next legislative session.
- Peter Hirschfeld
5. Burlington mayor appoints Progressive City Councilor Brian Pine to lead Community and Economic Development Office
Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger, a Democrat, appointed a Progressive city councilor Wednesday to lead the Community and Economic Development Office.
Brian Pine currently represents Burlington’s Ward 3. If the city council approves the appointment, he’ll step down from his seat.
Pine’s past experience includes an 18-year stint at the department. Pine says one priority will be expanding housing using federal coronavirus relief funds.
“We obviously have the opportunity now to expand significantly the supply of permanently affordable homes for both renters and homeowners and that’s a priority both the mayor and I share,” Pine said.
The city council will vote on Pine’s appointment during a meeting on Monday. If he's approved, a special election will be held within 90 days to fill the vacant seat.
- Liam Elder-Connors
6. Southern Vermont art collection sells for more than $8 million
The art collection of two former Vermont painters brought in more than $8 million at an auction at Christie’s in New York this month.
Emily Mason and Wolf Kahn, who had a home in Brattleboro, both died just over a year ago. Their private art collection included a painting by Georgia O’Keeffe, which sold for almost $5 million.
Paintings by the couple also brought in record amounts at the sale.
Proceeds from the auction will go towards two foundations that support art exhibitions and artist residencies in Vermont and across the country.
- Henry Epp
7. UVM clerical, technical workers vote to unionize
Hundreds of University of Vermont clerical and technical workers have voted to unionize with the American Federation of Teachers.
VTDigger reports the workers voted to form a union Wednesday, the third time in the last 10 years the workers have attempted to unionize.
The union will go by the name "UVM Staff United" and represents some 720 employees, like lab technicians and library workers.
Another group of 700 UVM staff, classified as "professional” workers, will also hold a union vote before the end of the month. A separate union, United Academics, also represents UVM's 700 full-time faculty.
- Matthew Smith
8. Vt. Attorney General files amicus brief supporting Koffee Kup workers' claims
Attorney General TJ Donovan is throwing his weight behind a lawsuit filed by former employees of Koffee Kup Bakery, which abruptly closed last month.
Workers are suing the company’s court-appointed receiver and its bank, claiming they failed to pay out employees their accrued time off when the bakery shut down.
Former employees say collectively, they’re owed nearly $800,000. Donovan’s office filed an amicus brief on Thursday, saying the receiver and bank’s action violated state wage laws.
About 250 people in Vermont lost their jobs when the business closed.
- Anna Van Dine
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