News Roundup: Health Officials Report 11 New COVID-19 Cases Friday, The Most In A Month
Vermont reporters provide a roundup of top news takeaways about new funding for local trails, meat processors and more for Friday, July 9.
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1. State officials report 11 new COVID-19 infections Friday, the most in a month
State health officials reported 11 new COVID-19 infections Friday.
It's the first timesince June 9 that Vermont has seen new daily case counts reach double digits.
Currently, five people are hospitalized due to the virus, but none are in an ICU.
To date, 82.6% of eligible Vermonters have now gotten at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
— Matthew Smith
Vaccination rates could be higher in border regions than they appear
Vaccination rates may be higher in border communities in northeastern Vermont than they appear because people living there could be getting their COVID-19 shots in New Hampshire.
Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine says one issue can be the ability to get complete data from sources outside the state.
Vermont's vaccine dashboard shows that 58% of eligible residents of Essex County have received at least one shot, the lowest figure in the state.
As of Thursday, the statewide vaccination rate is 82.5%. While some New Hampshire vaccinations were reported to Vermont with the full demographic detail, others were not.
— The Associated Press
Public health officials in Vermont are examining data about vaccine efficacy against the Delta variant
Public health officials in Vermont say they are not recommending Vermonters get a COVID-19 vaccine booster shot at this time.
That comes as the highly-contagious Delta variant becomes the dominant strain of the coronavirus in the U.S.
Speaking Thursday on VPR's Vermont Edition, Deputy Health Commissioner Tracy Dolan said the agency is looking at reports that double dose vaccines are more effective than the single dose, Johnson and Johnson.
"Right now we don’t have sufficient data from Johnson and Johnson to let us know whether a booster would be recommended," Dolan said. "So we don’t have a change in our recommendation at this point."
Dolan said all three COVID-19 vaccinations approved for use in the U.S. are highly effective at keeping people out of the hospital and protecting them from death.
— Connor Cyrus
2. Sen. Sanders' presidential campaign gave $350,000 to a think tank established by family members
Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign has given $350,000 to a think tank established by members of his family.
On April 1, the Bernie 2020 campaign made the donation to the Burlington-based Sanders Institute.
The Institute previously said it suspended operations in early 2019, to avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest with Sanders’ presidential campaign.
Sanders' Communications Director, Mike Casca, says the donation will be used to relaunch the Institute.
This was done as part of ending the campaign, and it's part of the transition from winning votes to educating people about Sen. Sanders agenda," Casca said.
Casca says both the campaign and the institute agreed the money won’t be used to pay the salaries or benefits of Sanders’ family members. A spokesperson for the institute says the organization has begun hiring and will create an archives for the Sanders campaign and family.
— Henry Epp
3. Congressman Welch hears from constituents about economic recovery in St. Johnsbury
Congressman Peter Welch stopped by St. Johnsbury Wednesday to visit businesses that have contributed to a multi-year effort to revitalize the town’s downtown district.
A slew of improvements, including to historic buildings and an effort to provide free Wi-Fi downtown, is part of a plan to bring new jobs and energy to the small community in the Northeast Kingdom.
Standing in front of Whirligig Brewery, Welch said the combination of federal funds and community leadership has been a key piece to this project.
“When you come back home, you see local leadership, you see everyday people, you know, putting their shoulder to the wheel, making things happen, caring about their community," Welch said. "It really feels good because a lot of these federal funds and it's taxpayer dollars have enabled businesses to stay in business.”
A nearly $5 million project is set to expand and renovate the Fairbanks Museum and Planetarium. Welch requested nearly $2.5 million in the federal budget for the effort.
Some business owners in St. Johnsbury say the multi-year effort to revitalize the town’s downtown is having a positive impact.
Jerome Balmes is the co-owner of Central Cafe. He says the community has had a remarkable bounce back.
"[There are] like, six or more businesses that's been just recently opened for the past three months, four months in this area. And we're excited that there's no more empty windows," he said. "We thought that the COVID will stop people from doing business, but it seems like it draws people to here.”
Business owners say they are looking forward to when they can welcome Canadian tourists back to Vermont.
— Marlon Hyde
4. Coalition aims to develop new funding formula for Vermont's education system
A group of Vermont lawmakers will spend the summer and fall working on an overhaul of the state’s education funding formula.
A new coalition wants the panel to boost funding for poorer school districts.
Alison Notte is a Rutland City School Commissioner and a member of the Coalition for Vermont Student Equity. She told a panel of lawmakers recently that it’s just more expensive to educate children from poverty.
“Children coming into school from economically challenged homes have not had the same early learning opportunities, developmental opportunities, and are often not as prepared as their peers,” she said.
Vermont spends about $1.8 billion a year now on K-12 schools. And the Coalition for Vermont Student Equity wants to lawmakers to recalibrate the funding system, so that schools in low-income regions of the state get a larger portion of the education fund.
They also want more funding for schools in rural areas, and schools with a high percentage of English language learners.
— Peter Hirschfeld
5. Vermont Attorney General's Office calls for Bennington white nationalist to be placed on house arrest
The Vermont Attorney General’s Office is asking for a self-described white nationalist to be placed on house arrest.
The AG's office says Max Misch is a threat to public safety while free from jail. The Bennington resident recently faced charges of domestic violence.
Criminal defendants released on conditions are expected not to be charged with new crimes while their cases are ongoing.
The Bennington Banner reports Misch faces allegations he illegally possessed large-capacity firearm magazines in 2018.
— Brittany Patterson
This post was compiled by digital producer Abagael Giles
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