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News Roundup: Vermont Dept. Of Health Reports 9 New COVID-19 Cases

A red bidhouse made of wood sits nailed to a tree, with myriad other multi-colored birdhouses just like it nailed to similar trees in stretching onward in the backdrop. The light is dappled from the canopy above.
Abagael Giles
In South Hero, a sea of birdhouses sits in the woods across from a public beach along West Shore Road.

Vermont reporters provide a roundup of top news takeaways about the coronavirus and more for Thursday, June 17.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 9 new COVID-19 cases Thursday

Another nine new COVID-19 infections were reported by health officials across Vermont Thursday.

The two-week case counts have now dropped to ten or fewer for all Vermont counties, except Chittenden and Windsor counties, which have seen between 20 and 30 new cases in the last 14 days.

Virus hospitalizations jumped to four, including one person in the ICU.

Another roughly 400 Vermonters got their first dose of a COVID vaccine Wednesday, pushing the state's vaccination rate to 80.6%.

Matthew Smith

Maine creates vaccination lottery

Maine will to offer a cash prize of more than $875,000 to try to convince more people in the state to get vaccinated against the coronavirus.

More than 56% of Maine's total population is fully vaccinated against the virus, among the highest percentages in the country.

Gov. Janet Mills announced Wednesday that Maine will hold a drawing to give one vaccinated person $1 for each person vaccinated in Maine by July 4.

The drawing is open to everyone 12 and older who has received at least one dose of vaccine. Entries are due by June 30, the day Maine's pandemic state of the emergency will end.

- The Associated Press

2. New USDA report shows maple syrup production was down by 21% in Vermont, over last year

Vermont produces more maple syrup than any other state in the country. But 2021 was one of the shortest sugaring seasons in over a decade, thanks to early spring weather.

Vermont’s maple syrup production fell by 21% in 2021, when compared with 2020. That’s according to a new report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Sap flowed in the Green Mountain State for just 28 days this spring – a full 10 fewer than in 2020.

And while overall, there were slightly more taps in Vermont maple trees in 2021, on average, the taps were about 24% less productive than the year prior.

The USDA’s report valued Vermont’s syrup production at $52.7 million in 2020.

- Abagael Giles

3. Burlington considers supporting, formalizing encampment space for people experiencing homelessness

Vermont's largest city might set up a camping area for people experiencing homelessness.

The plan comes as the state winds down the emergency motel program that housed about 2,000 people during the pandemic. More than 700 individuals will lose housing in July when eligibility requirements for the program change.

Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger says the city plans to "actively manage" an existing encampment.

“We're going to partner with a non-profit and have that as an additional housing resource, at least during this time of acute need,” Weinberger said.

Weinberger says he hopes to have a proposal for the city council soon.

- Liam Elder-Connors

More from VPR: ‘No Place To Go’: As State Of Emergency Ends, So Does Stable Housing For Some Vermonters

4. New exhibit celebrating Alexander Twilight opens this weekend in Brownington

A new exhibit celebrating Alexander Twilight is set to open this weekend at the Old Stone House Museum and Historic Village in Brownington.

Twilight was the first African American to graduate college in the United States and to hold office in a state legislature. In 1836 he was elected to the Vermont General Assembly.

The museum says Twilight’s belongings will be on display exactly as they were when he lived and worked in the house on site as a school master and preacher. 

Bob Hunt curated the exhibition. He says it offers visitors a glimpse into the past:

“No matter where you go on the property, it’s like going back in time to the 1830s and ‘40s,” Hunt said. “So Stepping into this room at Twilight’s house is almost like a visit to the headmaster’s office.”

The Twilight exhibit opens at 11 a.m. this Sat., June 19. The museum is running free tours on the hour until 3 p.m.

- Reed Nye

More from VPR: ‘These Conversations Are Important’: Telling The Full History Of Black Vermonters In Our State

5. Health commissioner says COVID-19 vaccines could be approved for young children within six months

Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine says he's hopeful that a COVID-19 vaccine will be available for children under 12 in the next six months.

Currently, the three vaccines approved for use in the U.S. are only available to people 12 and older.

Levine says several drug companies are currently testing vaccines for younger children. He expects that some of these could come on line as early as the beginning of the new school year.

“We really don't have a firm understanding at this point in time ... most of the medical community fully expects that there will be positive results coming from these trials,” he said this week.

With more than 80% of eligible Vermonters having now received at least one dose of the vaccine, Levine says he believes younger, unvaccinated children will largely be safe.

- Bob Kinzel

6. Department of Corrections hopes to resume in-person prison visits in July

The Vermont Department of Corrections hopes to resume in-person visits at the state's prisons on July 1.

Corrections Commissioner Jim Baker says family visits to incarcerated people will be the next focus of the department.

Baker says he understands that not being able to visit because of the COVID-19 pandemic has been a strain.

The department is also trying to get as many incarcerated individuals vaccinated against COVID-19 as possible. Currently between 65% and 75% of the inmate population has been vaccinated.

The move by the Corrections Department comes after Gov. Phil Scott lifted all COVID-19 restrictions earlier this week.

- The Associated Press

7. Goddard College appoints a new president

Central Vermont’s Goddard College has a new president. The school announced Wednesday that Dan Hocoy has been selected as the institution’s 13th president.

In a news release, the college says Hocoy brings more than two decades of experience in higher education to Goddard.

Hocoy has held several leadership positions – including most recently at Metropolitan Community College, Nebraska’s largest community college. His research and practice as a psychologist has focused on advancing social justice.

In the release, Hocoy says he has long admired Goddard’s progressive and experimental mission to “prepare individuals to take imaginative and responsible action in the world.”

Hocoy is replacing Bernard Bull, who will become president of Concordia University in Nebraska later this summer.

- Marlon Hyde

8. EPA will meet tonight with Strafford residents to discuss superfund site cleanup

The federal Environmental Protection Agency is meeting with residents of Strafford to discuss cleanup at a long-running superfund site on a former copper mine.

The Valley News reports the EPA will host a virtual public meeting Thursday to share an update on the Elizabeth Mine site in the village of South Strafford.

A final phase of the $90 million cleanup of the site began two years ago, but remediation on the two open-cut mines and ore processing buildings began back in 2001.

Water contaminated by metals and acid has been leaching from waste rock and tailings of the former mine into nearby streams since the 150-year-old copper mine closed in 1958.

The EPA's public meeting can be streamed online tonight starting at 6 p.m. Visit epa.gov/superfund to join.

- Matthew Smith

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