News Roundup: State Officials Report 145 New COVID Infections, 2 Additional Deaths
Vermont reporters provide a roundup of top news takeaways about more COVID cases and deaths, a plan for Vermont to host Afghan refugees and more for Thursday, Sept. 2.
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While Vermont's pandemic state of emergency has ended, the delta variant is now circulating around the state. Click here for the latest on new cases, and find the latest vaccination data online any time.
1. State officials report 145 new COVID infections, 2 additional deaths
Vermont has reported two more COVID-linked deaths and 145 new infections Thursday, according to the latest Health Department data.
To date, 279 Vermonters have died from the pandemic.
Most of today's new cases were in Washington County, with 27, and Chittenden County, with 25, with around a dozen or more cases in four other counties.
Some 29 people remain hospitalized. Eight are in intensive care.
So far, 86.2% of eligible Vermonters have gotten at least one dose of a vaccine.
- Matthew Smith
Seven more COVID cases reported at Newport prison
The Department of Corrections Wednesday announced seven more people inside Northern State Correctional Facility in Newport tested positive for the coronavirus, bringing the total to 32. Seven employees have also tested positive.
The facility, which holds roughly 400 people, remains in a full-lockdown.
They're really not leaving their cell except for maybe 10 or 15 minutes a day to take a shower. So, their movement is really restricted.
And it's not the first time they've had to deal with this. For 49 days, people in the facility were locked down earlier this year during a really big outbreak. So, it can be a really tough time mentally for folks in the facility.
- Liam Elder-Connors
Health Commissioner says he agrees with Gov.’s decision to not declare another state of emergency
Vermont's top public health official says he agrees with Gov. Phil Scott, that despite rising COVID case numbers, there is no need for another state of emergency.
Last week, 91 Health Department workers sent a letter urging Scott to do more to address a surge in coronavirus cases.
And some legislators -- including Speaker of the House Jill Krowinski -- are calling on the administration to reinstate the state of emergency in order to mandate masks in schools.
But speaking this week to VPR, Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine said the current circumstances look different compared to March of 2020, when things like testing and protective gear were scarce, and vaccines did not exist.
"I think our sophistication in how to manage this virus, and how to manage the kinds of circumstances we're in, is way different now,” Levine said.
The state says all but one Vermont school district is currently mandating masks.
- Brittany Patterson
400+ women health care workers urge Scott administration to use stronger COVID protocols
More than 400 women in Vermont’s health care system are urging Gov. Phil Scott and Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine to institute stronger COVID mitigation protocols in Vermont schools.
Dr. Beth Wagner is a hospitalist at Central Vermont Medical Center. She says unvaccinated children are especially vulnerable to the highly transmissible Delta variant of the coronavirus.
"What we worry about is that there's going to be surges of COVID outbreaks in schools that are going have schools shut down, and then it's just going to be a snowball effect from there,” she said.
Wagner and hundreds of other doctors and health care providers sent a letter to Gov. Scott and Dr. Levine this week, asking them to impose a mask mandate in all Vermont schools.
Scott says he can’t mandate COVID protocols unless Vermont is in a state of emergency. And he says current case counts don’t warrant an emergency declaration.
- Peter Hirschfeld
2. Plan for Vermont to host up to 100 Afghan refugees submitted to State Dept.
Vermont would host up to 100 Afghan refugees under a plan submitted to the State Department Wednesday.
The U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants made the proposal. It has the support of Gov. Phil Scott, who asked the Biden administration to approve Vermont as a site for Afghan resettlement.
The goal is to accommodate those who are in danger due to their support for the U.S., as well as media and non-governmental organizations.
Details are still being finalized. Anyone resettled in Vermont would have to complete security and health screenings. USCRI said many businesses and individuals have already reached out to offer support.
- Anna Van Dine
3. Quebec launches vaccine passport system
Quebec launched its province-wide vaccine passport system on Wednesday.
The Montreal Gazette reports people across the province will now need to scan their Vaxi-Code app to gain entry to many businesses and non-essential services, including festivals, gyms, restaurants and bars.
The smartphone app provides an electronic record of vaccination through a QR code that can be easily scanned. A printed version of the QR code can also be used.
Health officials say the passports are required now, but strict enforcement won't start until mid-September.
To date, about 86% of eligible Quebecers have received at least one vaccine dose.
- Matthew Smith
4. NEK fall festival canceled for COVID-19
A popular fall festival in the Northeast Kingdom has been called off for the second year in a row. Organizers say there are too many unknowns at this point due to the COVID-19 delta variant.
Todd Vendituoli is president of the Burke Area Chamber of Commerce, which runs the annual Burke Fall Festival.
“We just used what we saw, as increasing numbers, the potential for creating problems, and we didn’t want to do that,” Vendituoli said. “So we, you know, voted to cancel for this year."
Vendituoli said the chamber was especially worried about the large number of kids who attend the festival.
Children under the age of 12 are unable to get vaccinated against COVID-19 at this time.
- Howard Weiss-Tisman
5. Vermont early bear hunting season begins
Vermont’s early bear hunting season is underway. The season opened on Wednesday and runs through Nov. 12.
Nonresident hunters using dogs are not permitted to bear hunt Sept. 15.
The state's later bear hunting season starts on Nov. 13 and runs through the 21st.
Hunters are allowed to take one bear during the year.
Wildlife officials say the state’s regulated bear hunt helps manage the state’s bear population, which has helped it grow from 1,500 bears to close to 5,000 over the last 50 years.
In other hunting news, the federal government announced it will open up the Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge in Franklin County to coyote, skunk, opossum, weasel, fox and racoon hunting on acres already open to other hunting.
- Associated Press
Elodie Reed compiled and edited this post.