News Roundup: Vermont Dept. Of Health Reports 114 New COVID-19 Cases
Vermont reporters provide a roundup of top news takeaways about the coronavirus and more for Tuesday, Sept. 7.
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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. Vermont Dept. of Health reports 114 new COVID-19 infections Monday
State health officials reported 114 new COVID-19 infections across Vermont Tuesday.
Of those, 25 cases were in Chittenden County, which has seen more than 500 new infections over the last two weeks.
Currently, 33 people are hospitalized with the virus, include 13 in the ICU.
The rate of vaccination of eligible Vermonters with at least one vaccine dose remains at 84.6%.
— Matthew Smith
State reported 78 new cases Monday, 275 over the weekend
VDH reports 2.8% of COVID-19 tests conducted in Vermont in the past week have come back positive.
On Monday, the health department reported 78 new infections. That's a smaller total than Saturday and Sunday, which together had 275 cases.
Last Thursday, the daily case count was over 200 — the highest it's been since the spring.
The health department also reported Monday that two more people have died. Now 282 Vermonters have died in the pandemic.
— Anna Van Dine
Quebec Province reported 530 new COVID-19 cases Monday
The province of Quebec reported 530 new cases of COVID-19 and no new deaths on Monday, according to the CBC.
The province continues to see rising case numbers, but they remain far below surges last winter and spring.
160 people are hospitalized with 64 in intensive care. That number has doubled in the past month.
So far, 87% of eligible Quebec residents have received at least one vaccine dose.
— Henry Epp
More than 50 COVID-19 infections linked to August wedding in Plainfield
More than 50 positive COVID-19 infections have been linked to a Plainfield wedding last month.
WCAX reports the Aug. 21 wedding went on to have a reception at the Barre Elks Lodge.
Now, state health officials say 55 positive cases have been linked to the wedding and reception, among both attendees and their close contacts.
Cases from the wedding have also been linked to a secondary outbreak of eight cases in an at-home daycare in Plainfield, bringing the total cases to 63.
— Matthew Smith
Rutland Regional Medical Center faces severe staffing shortage
Rutland Regional Medical Center is at what it's president and CEO says it the "most critical and challenging period of the entire COVID-19 crisis."
The Rutland Herald reports medical center president Claudio Fort warned the community the hospital is facing staffing shortages that he says are the most acute in his 30 years of health care.
Fort says pent-up demand for things like tests, screenings and elective procedures delayed by the pandemic is adding to the challenge of the ongoing pandemic.
There's also been an increased demand for mental health services and help with substance abuse.
Fort asked the community to continue social distancing and wearing masks in public areas, even for those who have been fully vaccinated. He also asked residents to get vaccinated and to also encourage friends, family, co-workers to do the same.
Rutland County has seen nearly 190 new COVID-19 infections in the last two weeks.
— Matthew Smith
Canaan school district believed to be the only in Vermont with no mask requirement
The school district in Canaan is believed to be the only district in Vermont not to require students and staff to wear masks, as suggested by the Agency of Education.
The district board in voted 5-1 last month to reject requiring the state’s recommended COVID-19 prevention measures; chiefly the use of face masks, as school resumes.
But the board is recommending mask wearing, and masks will be required on school buses.
The Caledonian Record reports Canaan School Board Chair Dan Wade said the board is not against mask wearing, but members had questions about enforcing a requirement.
Canaan Superintendent Karen Conroy, whose district serves students from Canaan, Granby, Maidstone and other small communities in the northeastern part of the state, said an anonymous survey found that 86% of those who responded were vaccinated.
She said that since the guidance from the state indicated masks were a recommendation, they asked for parental input and a majority wanted masks to be optional.
She said that, as she walked through the school Thursday, all elementary teachers were wearing masks, but the majority of students were not.
— The Associated Press
Yale researchers find vaccination rates are particularly high among New England child care providers
Researchers at Yale School of Medicine found child care workers nation-wide are vaccinated at higher rates than the general population, and that rate is even higher in the Northeast.
Dr.Kavin Patel says that’s good news for parents returning to work. But, he encourages parents to ask questions when they are looking for child care providers.
“Are all the staff masking? Are they adhering to social distancing? Are they hand washing? And then make sure you’re also asking questions about facility mitigation measures. So, is the facility doing daily symptom checks, are they doing daily temperature checks? Are they disinfecting high-touch surfaces?" Patel said.
Patel says to ask if daycare centers will stagger pick-up and drop off times to limit crowds of parents.
— The New England News Collaborative
2. New program offers incentives to carpool in Chittenden CountyA state program is hoping to help Chittenden County residents kick the habit of driving to work alone.
The Commuter Incentive Program is providing guidance on bus routes, carpooling options, and winter biking, and sweetening the pot with $75 gift certificates to local businesses.
That’s for participants who pledge to skip driving themselves to work at least two days a week.
Phoebe Melchiskey manages the program.
She’s calculated that so far, the initiative has eliminated some 1,400 commuter trips — totaling about the distance of driving across the country.
"At this stage, it really becomes collective action — collectively the statistics are mind-blowing, even with a four-month period, and about 30-something people enrolled when they were last calculated," Melchiskey said.
The program has funding to recruit up to 100 participants through the end of the year.
— Lexi Krupp
3. New report shows more than 2,000 families spent time in temporary housing in 2020
This year’s annual report on the state’s emergency housing program shows the significant impact the pandemic had on homelessness in Vermont.
The Agency of Human Services typically puts up 200 to 300 people in motels, and most of that happens during the cold weather months.
But according to the most recent annual report, more than 2,000 households spent time at over 70 lodging establishments during the pandemic.
In 2019, the state spent a little more than $4 million, compared to the more than $53 million it cost to keep people safe during the pandemic.
The program is usually paid for with money from the General Fund, but the state says federal COVID relief grants will cover the costs from last year.
The report says the number of people staying in motels is expected to drop to about 650 by October.
— Howard Weiss-Tisman
4. VEGI program awards dropped significantly during the pandemic
The number of companies approved for awards through Vermont's signature business incentive program dropped significantly in the pandemic year of 2020.
Just two companies moved forward through the Vermont Employment Growth Incentive, or VEGI program.
The two companies were NuHarbor Security — a cybersecurity firm based in Colchester — and Beta Technologies, the South Burlington-based maker of an electric plane prototype. That's according to the program's latest annual report delivered to the Legislature this month. By comparison, seven companies were approved in 2019, and six in 2018.
Companies receive money through the VEGI program over a period of up to nine years — but only if they create a promised number of new jobs or capital investment — which would otherwise not have occurred without the state funds.
Critics, like state auditor Doug Hoffer, say its impossible to prove that such investments would not occur without VEGI funding.
Hoffer put out a series of reports last year critiquing the program's transparency.
— Henry Epp
More from VPR: Vermont Auditor Questions Legality Of State Incentive Award
5. Vermont saw an uptick in at-home deaths in 2020
The number of Vermonters who died in their own home jumped significantly last year.
The health department tracks where Vermonters die — whether that's in a hospital, a nursing home or assisted living facility, or at home.
And according to most recent data, the number of people who died in their home jumped more than 22% in 2020. That number represents about 51% of all deaths, and it was the first increase in three years.
While COVID-19 largely kept people out of hospitals, the health department said they can't directly attribute the pandemic to the sharp increase in home deaths last year.
The report also tracks how many people received hospice care at the end of life, and that number has been steadily rising over the past decade. Ten years ago, only about 34% of Vermont deaths received end-of-life care, but that number was 48% in 2020, which was up slightly from the previous year.
— Howard Weiss-Tisman
6. $16.6 million expansion now underway at Burlington International Airport
A $16.6 million expansion at Burlington International Airport is underway.
VTDigger reports the project will expand the airport's terminal and consolidate security checkpoints.
The federally-funded expansion will add some 33,000 square feet to the terminal, and merge the airport’s two current security checkpoints into one large checkpoint.
Airport officials anticipate little impact on current travel, as the work is an expansion and not in the current facility.
The project is planned to be completed in about a year.
An estimated 1.5 million people pass through the airport's terminal each year.
— Matthew Smith
Abagael Giles compiled and edited this post.