News Roundup: More Than 76% Of Vermonters 12 & Older Are At Least Partially Vaccinated Against COVID
Vermont reporters provide a roundup of top news takeaways about the coronavirus and more for Monday, May 24.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. State officials report 21 new COVID-19 cases
Vermont health officials reported 21 new COVID-19 infections statewide Monday.
That's similar to what the state saw over the weekend, with 20 cases across Vermont reported Saturday, and 22 on Sunday.
Today's figures show new cases in single digits scattered across Vermont, with five counties reporting no new cases at all.
Just five people are currently hospitalized with COVID-19, including three people in intensive care.
To date, more than 76% of Vermonters 12 and older have received at least one vaccine dose.
- Matthew Smith
Rutland Regional Medical Center to shut down vaccine clinic in a few weeks
Rutland Regional Medical Center is shutting down its mass COVID-19 vaccination clinic in a few weeks.
The hospital opened the facility at the nearby Holiday Inn in February. But with more than 76% of Vermonters at least partially vaccinated, the hospital says it’s no longer needed.
The clinic will close on June 13, and the hospital says it will transition its other vaccination delivery options, including working with primary care doctors.
- Mark Davis
2. Gov. Scott says he'll lift all pandemic restrictions once 80% of eligible Vermonters are vaccinated
Vermont Gov. Phil Scott announced on Friday that he’d lift all COVID-19 restrictions once 80% of the state’s eligible population gets at least one dose of the vaccine.
As of Friday, about 75% of Vermonters age 12 and above had gotten at least one shot. Just under 28,000 more people need to get a dose to hit 80%.
Scott says he’ll rollback restrictions, including limits on gatherings and masking, the day Vermont hits that number.
“If you’re on the fence or haven’t gotten around to making your appointment yet, now is the time,” he said. “Because we have a chance to get back to normal faster and it’s never been easier to get vaccinated.”
Scott says pandemic guidelines are still slated to end by July 4, even if the state doesn’t reach the 80% benchmark.
The state is increasing the number of vaccination clinics in the coming week, including sites on Church Street in Burlington, the Berlin Mall and the Rutland Holiday Inn. Health officials plan to hold clinics at a variety of locations, including high schools, fairgrounds and racetracks.
Secretary of Human Services Mike Smith says all the events will be for walk-in appointments.
“In addition to all this, we have been reaching out to employers to host vaccine clinics at worksites,” Smith said. “We are starting with the largest employers first.”
- Liam Elder-Connors
3. Vt. House and Senate passed $7 billion state budget Friday evening
House and Senate negotiators in the Vermont Legislature have shaken hands on a $7 billion state budget.
This session’s spending plan was boosted by a massive infusion of coronavirus relief funds from the federal government.
And Montpelier Representative Mary Hooper says lawmakers will use some of that money to help Vermonters recover financially from the pandemic.
“Helping them move out of the pandemic by helping them engage in workforce development activities, be it apprenticeships, or a couple more classes at state colleges, a variety of issues,” Hooper said.
Lawmakers will spend a total of $160 million on economic and workforce development.
The budget, which Gov. Phil Scott has signaled support for, also includes major investments in housing, broadband and climate initiatives.
Senate President Becca Balint called this a session for the history books.
The Senate adjourned the 2021 legislative session on Friday afternoon after passing the state budget.
Balint said the coronavirus pandemic made for an especially challenging year.
“We did it, we did it. Together we did it. And like all of you I’m tired; I’m weary,” Balint said. “But I’m also filled with gratitude and satisfaction.”
Balint said major investments in workforce development, broadband and housing will help Vermonters recover from the pandemic.
Lawmakers plan to return to the Statehouse for an in-person legislative session in 2022.
Republican governor thanks Democratic leaders in the Legislature for hard work
Republican Gov. Phil Scott is thanking Democratic leaders in the Legislature for their work during the 2021 legislative session.
Scott told lawmakers during his adjournment speech Friday that Vermont has shown that divided government can work.
“Vermonters are already better for it. And we’ve once again shown America what can be achieved when elected leaders have the courage to put progress ahead of politics,” he said.
The budget approved by lawmakers on Friday was boosted by $1 billion dollars from the federal American Rescue Plan Act.
- Peter Hirschfeld
4. Legislature pushes conversations about pension reform to 2022
State Treasurer Beth Pearce is raising concerns about the Legislature’s decision to adjourn the 2021 session without enacting pension reforms.
Earlier this year, Pearce said preserving the solvency of the pension fund would require painful cuts to retirement benefits for teachers and state employees.
Lawmakers have instead decided to defer action until 2022.
“If you lack the will to deal with it this year, I’m not sure why you believe you would have the will to do it in the next,” Pearce said.
Lawmakers have convened a 12-member taskforce to study proposed pension reforms over the summer.
That taskforce will submit its recommendations to lawmakers at the beginning of the 2022 legislative session.
- Peter Hirschfeld
5. Affordable housing advocates say new budget will bring thousands of new units to the state
Affordable housing advocates say the budget passed by the Legislature on Friday will make thousands of new units available to low- and moderate-income Vermonters.
Gus Seelig, with the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board, says even moderate-income Vermonters struggle to achieve home ownership.
“What the Legislature is going to do is prime the imagination of developers, both non-profit and for-profit, around the state, to bring forth ideas about what kinds of projects can be funded and be put into production over the next three years,” Seelig said.
Seelig says the spending plan approved by lawmakers will improve housing supply.
The Legislature’s spending package also includes emergency funding to construct housing for people experiencing homelessness.
- Peter Hirschfeld
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