News Roundup: Dept. Of Health Reports 1 New COVID Case As Gov. Lifts All Pandemic Restrictions
Vermont reporters provide a roundup of top news takeaways about the coronavirus and more for Monday, June 14.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 1 new case of COVID-19 Monday
State health officials reported just one new case of COVID-19 Monday.
Two people are hospitalized with the virus.
Meanwhile, Gov. Phil Scott announced today that 80.2% of the state's eligible population has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, making Vermont the first state in the nation to reach this milestone.
Scott said he is rescinding all COVID-19 restrictions, and will not renew the state of emergency when it expires Tuesday.
- Karen Anderson
Masks will be required on all Green Mountain Transit buses through Sept.
While mask mandates have been dropped in many communities, if you’re riding the bus on Green Mountain Transit, expect to keep wearing a face covering for several more months.
GMT announced Friday that it will require passengers to wear masks on board buses until Sept. 13.
That applies to all passengers except for children younger than 2 years old. However, masks are no longer required at any outdoor bus stop.
GMT continues to limit the number of passengers allowed on its vehicles. And bus service is still free – as it has been since early in the pandemic.
- Henry Epp
State hosts vaccination clinics for mobile home park residents
As part of a larger effort to get 80% of all eligible Vermonters inoculated against COVID-19, the Department of Health and EMS agencies are making a push to get mobile home park residents vaccinated.
On Friday Tina Sweet – who was accompanied by her dog, Orian – was among those to receive a Johnson & Johnson shot at a walk-in vaccine clinic at Colchester’s Windemere Mobile Home Park.
She says she’s been on the fence about the shot because she’s a Hodgekin’s Lymphoma survivor, but has learned blood clotting complications are not common.
“But I figured, if they were coming here, I might as well come and do it,” Sweet said. “I have a sister who lives in Kansas. And if I ever want to fly there, I have to have had the vaccine. So this was the easiest for me.”
Friday's clinic was hosted by the Glover Ambulance Squad. Signs lined the sidewalk, leading to a grassy area with an ambulance and portable exam room.
Ambulance Chief Adam Heuslein says the clinic was one of many the squad has offered at mobile home parks across northern Vermont.
He said they're trying to make getting a shot more convenient.
"So people are very happy that we're set up here, and you look at this location: we're in a trailer park here, right across, here, from a Dunkin' Donuts, that has been hopping all morning," he said.
The squad said it administered around 50 to 60 COVID-19 shots this week.
- Elodie Reed
3. Rival developer files two more lawsuits against CityPlace Burlington project
The long-stalled redevelopment of a mall in downtown Burlington is facing more legal challenges – this time from another developer.
Redstone, a development and property management company, filed two lawsuits this week against the developers of the CityPlace Burlington project. Seven Days first reported the new lawsuits.
The suits, one in state court and the other in federal court, raise similar issues -- that Redstone's property rights are violated by the mall redevelopment, which includes building two new city streets. Redstone, in court papers, says one of the proposed streets goes through its property.
In a statement to Seven Days, one of CityPlace's developers said he thought his team would prevail and the project would move forward.
- Liam Elder-Connors
4. U.S. Treasury gives county governments COVID relief, but in Vt., they have very little power to spend
The U.S. Treasury is giving county governments across the country millions of dollars in COVID-19 relief money.
But here in Vermont, county governments have very little authority, and it's not yet clear what will happen with all of the money that’s about to flow into the state.
Addison County is expected to spend about $268,000 this year.
But the latest COVID-19 relief package includes more than $7 million for the Champlain Valley county.
That’s more 26-times the amount of money the county usually spends.
“We’re very concerned about that,” said Karen Horn, of the Vermont League of Cities and Towns.
She said, in Vermont, each county has two assistant judges. And the way the COVID-19 relief package is worded now, it will be up to them to decide how to spend all that federal relief money.
“It’s a huge amount of money and it’s not money that necessarily the county assistant judges are equipped to deal with,” Horn said.
The feds say the money has to go toward public health, infrastructure or essential workers. But Vermont counties don’t oversee any of that.
Horn says the state's Congressional delegation is trying to come up with an alternative formula for distributing the money.
- Howard Weiss-Tisman.
5. Sen. Leahy says he supports 20% funding increase for the EPA
Sen. Patrick Leahy says he's hopeful there will be a sizeable increase in federal funding for pollution control projects for Lake Champlain.
Leahy, who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee, says the Biden Administration is committed to boosting spending on a variety of programs designed to reduce pollution in the lake and its tributaries.
Leahy says he's also pleased that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is looking at these programs with a long-term perspective.
“Lake Champlain, if we in a year stopped what we've been doing in trying to keep pollution out and trying to keep it clean, it could revert very quickly,” Leahy said. “And this is going to be an ongoing thing."
Leahy said he supports a request by the Biden administration to increase funding for the EPA's budget by more 20%.
Leahy calls for federal funding to test Vt. Schools for PCBs
Senator Patrick Leahy says he'll ask the federal EPA to provide funds to test dozens of schools in Vermont for unsafe levels of highly toxic chemicals known as PCBs.
This issue forced the closing of Burlington High School and classes were moved to a former department store downtown.
Leahy says it's critical to get federal money to help determine how widespread PCB contamination is in schools across Vermont. PCBs were banned in the U.S. in 1979.
“I hope they will, because we're going to find more,” he said. “Some of them are going to be in small towns, where it's going to be very difficult to do it. And these are towns where they followed the rules; they've done what they are supposed to do and now they're getting hit with it. I think this is a major issue that we're facing."
Leahy said the pollution is so serious at Burlington High School that it's been recommended that the facility be torn down and replaced.
- Bob Kinzel
6. Nature Conservancy opens art installations at Vt. properties, featuring new artist in residence Elizabeth Billings
The Nature Conservancy has opened a series of art installations on three of its Vermont properties, aimed at connecting visitors to the land.
The installations were created by Elizabeth Billings, the Conservancy’s first artist in residence.
Billings’ piece at Raven Ridge Natural Area in Monkton is made of lines of blue cloth containing bark rubbings that stretch from tree to tree. Billings says the cloth itself is made of natural and destructible material.
"But it’s also to bring your attention to the fact that we’re all impermanent and the Earth,” Billings said. “We’re in a very precarious place.”
In addition to Raven Ridge, the installations are on view at LaPlatte River Marsh in Shelburne and Equinox Highlands in Manchester. They’ll be up for the rest of the year.
- Reed Nye
7. National refugee resettlement program hopes to pilot program in Brattleboro
A refugee resettlement group wants to pilot a new program in Brattleboro that’s built around community support for the new families.
Brattleboro town manager Peter Elwell says leaders from local housing, transportation, and educational organizations have already begun discussing the plan.
“There is broad support for this. The kinds of organizations and community leaders that are going to need to be involved in this, it’s pretty varied and it’s going to need to be a lot of us,” Elwell said. “And we’re going to need to coordinate well."
The Ethiopian Community Development Council says it hopes to open an office in Brattleboro this summer, and the first families could arrive before the end of the year.
Tsehaye Teferra is founder of the Ethiopian Community Development Council. He says Windham County is one of two regions in the country that will test a new program welcoming refugees into rural communities.
“So we want to have a group of eight to ten people that will come together and agree to sponsor this family,” Teferra said. “So, that is the program we want really to encourage, and to test and try in Brattleboro."
Teferra hopes about 75 families can settle in Brattleboro over the next few years.
- Howard Weiss-Tisman
8. Vermont sees gypsy moth caterpillar outbreak unlike any since 1991
The Vermont Agency of Agriculture says the state is seeing a large infestation of gypsy moth caterpillars this year that are defoliating many of the state's trees.
The state has not seen a large outbreak like this since 1991.
Gypsy moths are an invasive insect that first arrived in the United States more than 100 years ago and they have been expanding their range ever since.
The caterpillars prefer oak trees, but they will eat many types of leaves, including maple and pine.
- Karen Anderson
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