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News Roundup: As Vt. Nears 80% Vaccination Rate, Clinics Entice With Free Creemees, Beer & Pickles

Silver silos sit in a row, leading up to a massive red dairy barn, with a dirt farm road between them. The sky is blue and it is early summer.
Reed Nye
/
VPR
Nordic Farms in Charlotte has a new owner, who plans to create a sustainable agriculture hub at the 5,000 acre property, which used to be a dairy farm.

Vermont reporters provide a roundup of top news takeaways about the coronavirus and more for Thursday, June 10.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.

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1. Vermont Dept. of Health reports 12 new COVID-19 cases

Vermont health officials reported 12 new cases of COVID-19 in Vermont Thursday.

Two people are hospitalized with the virus, one of whom is in intensive care.

Just 2,300 more Vermonters need to get at least on dose of a COVID vaccine for the state to hit it's 80% target, and lift the remaining pandemic restrictions.

- Matthew Smith

New York's North Country passes grim milestone: 500 pandemic deaths

New York's North Country passed a grim milestone this past weekend: the region's 500th death from COVID-19 since the pandemic began in March of last year.

North Country Public Radio reports a majority of the region's deaths occurred in just a few months, between December and February.

In that 3-month span, the North Country went from just over 100 deaths, to more than 450.

New York's Franklin, Essex and Clinton Counties report a total of 76 people have died during the pandemic. That includes four people who died while incarcerated in North Country prisons.

- Matthew Smith

2. Charlotte's 5,000-acre Nordic Farm to be revamped under new ownership

The founder of Gardener’s Supply and the Intervale Center, Will Raap, is hoping to reimagine farming in Vermont at a new 5,000-acre sustainable agriculture venture in Charlotte.

Nordic Farm 3.0 will promote forms of agriculture that could replace the state’s declining dairy industry and help in the fight against climate change.

The farm will promote business development for grains, botanicals, local food and agri-tourism. The property will feature a mix of working farms, businesses and a migratory bird sanctuary.

Raap says he hopes Nordic Farm can model sustainable farming practices.

“The idea of moving into a new era here also must come with an approach to how we treat the land that’s different and better,” Raap said. “So that’s why we call it regenerative.”

While many elements will take several years to complete, the annual farmer’s market will be up and running by August.

Vermont businesses including Kria Botanicals, Vermont Compost Company and WhistlePig Whiskey are among the partners on the project.

"Imagine we could offer a strategy, for that 5,000 acres to become more productive, not only commercially, with grains and botanicals, etc., but also ecologically," Raap said.

- Reed Nye

3. Deputy Health Commissioner says many hesitant Vermonters have unanswered questions about COVID-19 vaccines

As the state of Vermont inches closer to its 80% vaccination rate goal, health officials are finding that a number of unvaccinated people still have questions about the COVID vaccine.

Deputy Health Commissioner Tracy Dolan told Vermont Edition Wednesday, it's critical for public health officials to answer these questions if the state is going to meet its goal in the coming days.

"Even as recently as a couple of days ago, we had a few people who were at a clinic and [who] even once they got to the clinic were still unsure [about getting vaccinated], and then [they] asked a few questions and felt confident enough to move forward,” Dolan said. “And it really is just a matter of continuing to get information to people too – people still have questions."

The Scott Administration continues to hold dozens of walk in clinics statewide in an effort to reach its 80% goal as soon as possible.

Listen to the full conversation.

- Bob Kinzel

4. Migrant Justice renews calls for Hannafords to sign on to Milk with Dignity program

A Vermont-based farmworker and immigrant rights organization is urging New England supermarket chain Hannaford to change how it sources its dairy.

The program, called Milk with Dignity, launched in 2017 when Ben & Jerry's partnered with the nonprofit Migrant Justice. It seeks to improve labor and housing conditions for Vermont dairy workers.

Over the last year, Migrant Justice has asked customers to call Hannaford in support of the program.

Will Lambek of Migrant Justice helped organize the call-in day.

"The original idea came when we had just launched this campaign, and then the pandemic started," Lambek said. "Now that we're more in the streets, this is one tool among many."

College student Hazel Macmillan from Moretown has been phone banking for the organization.

They say the immediate goal is to get the supermarket to respond.

“You can just imagine the overwhelming feeling … Hannafords is like OK, Migrant Justice is not going to stop … they are going to annoy us until we say something,” Macmillan said.

Migrant Justice says more than 500 calls have come in so far.

Hannaford has not made a public statement about the initiative. The supermarket did not respond to requests for comment.

- Lexi Krupp

5. Vt. Secretary of Commerce says reopening of Canadian border will prove key to economic recovery

State officials say the reopening of the Vermont-Canadian border will have an enormous economic impact on many businesses in the northern part of Vermont.

The border has been closed to most non-essential business traffic for over a year, but there are signs that rising vaccination rates in Canada will allow most restrictions to be dropped in the next month or so.

Lindsay Kurrle is the Secretary of the Agency of Commerce and Community Development.

“We rely on regional commerce and travel and tourism, and our neighbors to the north are very much part of that economic stream for us,” Kurrle said. “Our hospitality industry is going to be extremely excited when that border is open."

Vermont's Congressional delegation is also urging the Biden Administration to work with Canadian officials to create "appropriate milestones" to safely reopen the border as soon as possible.

- Bob Kinzel

6. Gov. Scott signs $7.3 billion state budget bill late Tuesday

Gov. Phil Scott has signed a $7.3 billion state budget that he says will put Vermont on a path to a more prosperous and equitable future.

Scott's office announced late Tuesday he had signed the budget, and a separate bill to accelerate community broadband deployment across the state.

The budget includes funding small business pandemic relief, community revitalization projects and tourism marketing, career technical education programs and centers, adult training and re-training, state colleges and worker relocation grants.

The budget also invests funding from the federal American Rescue Plan and commits some funds to programs over the new two years.

- The Associated Press

7. Vermont State Colleges system to offer $16 million in ARPA scholarship funds to Vermonters

The Vermont State College system is offering $16 million in scholarships and free tuition programs for Vermonters in the upcoming academic year.

The funds, from the American Rescue Plan Act, prioritize higher and continuing education and workforce development, with investments in student scholarships and the public higher education system.

The funds were announced Wednesday in Randolph by officials with the state college system.

Chancellor Sophie Zdatny says the program includes "Welcome Home" scholarships of up to $5,000 for Vermonters transferring home to Vermont State Colleges schools from out-of-state schools, or those who might be returning to school after leaving last year.

- The Associated Press

8. UVM will require returning students to be fully vaccinated, if a COVID-19 vaccine gets full FDA approval

The University of Vermont will require students to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, but only if federal regulators approve at least one of the shots for general use.

Currently, all of the COVID-19 vaccines used in the U.S. are authorized only for emergency use.

The requirement will apply to all students entering or returning for the fall semester. UVM says it will continue to encourage faculty and staff members to get vaccinated.

Champlain College has announced a similar requirement for student vaccinations. Other colleges, including Middlebury, Norwich University and St. Michael’s, will require COVID-19 vaccinations in the fall regardless of the FDA authorization status.

- Liam Elder-Connors

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