News Roundup: Vermont Reports 108 New COVID-19 Infections Monday
Vermont reporters provide a roundup of top news takeaways about the coronavirus and more for Monday, Sept. 13.
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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 108 new COVID-19 infections Monday
The health department reported 108 new COVID-19 infections Monday, as the state's positivity rate climbed to 3.5%.
Health officials also added 42 backdated cases today. Combined with more than 360 weekend cases, Vermont has now seen more than 30,000 infections since the pandemic began.
Health officials also report one more Vermonter has also died from COVID, the 288th death in the state from the virus.
Today there are 38 people hospitalized with the virus, including nine in the ICU.
The vaccination rate of eligible Vermonters, last updated Saturday, is 86.7%
— Matthew Smith
Quebec set to deploy rapid testing in effort to identify cases faster in schools
Quebec will deploy rapid COVID-19 testing to detect new cases in more than 70 schools across the province, starting Monday.
CBC Montreal reports the change is the result of about 20% of Quebec schools — roughly 600 in all — now reporting a combined 1,000 cases of COVID-19.
Quebec reported more than 750 new cases of COVID-19 Sunday and no new deaths.
88% of the eligible Quebecers 12 and older have now gotten at least one dose of a vaccine. 81% are fully vaccinated.
— Matthew Smith
New Hampshire families sue over mask mandates in schools
Dozens of families in New Hampshire are challenging mask-wearing policies in Granite State school districts during the pandemic, with two cases in court last week, calling for injunctions to stop enforcing them.
A lawyer representing families in the Epping, Londonderry and Timberlane school districts argued in a Superior Court hearing that mask mandates violate the parents’ rights to make health care and medical decisions for their children. They also claim the masks are illegal restraints under a state law limiting the use of child restraints in schools.
Attorneys for the school districts called for the case to be dismissed, saying the districts have been following rules from the state Department of Health and Human Services that recommends mask-wearing. They also argue the mask mandate is not a violation of the restraint law.
A similar mask challenge also has been filed on behalf of a school district that includes six other schools. Two other similar lawsuits have been dismissed.
— The Associated Press
Amid growing infections, UNH ramps up COVID-19 restrictions
The University of New Hampshire is increasing restrictions aimed at preventing the spread of the coronavirus as cases rise on campus.
As of Friday, students, faculty and staff were required to wear masks in all indoor campus locations, except when eating, in private offices or in dorm rooms.
The new requirements apply to everyone, vaccinated and unvaccinated.
The university is also increasing ventilation and air exchange in campus buildings and adding plastic barriers in dining halls.
Additional restrictions are being implemented in Stokes Hall, the residence hall with the highest number of cases.
— The Associated Press
2. Nearly 350 private sector companies in Vermont impacted by new federal COVID-19 vaccine mandates
Nearly 350 private sector firms in Vermont could be impacted by new vaccination requirements announced by President Joe Biden last Thursday.
Biden directed the federal labor department to develop a rule requiring all employers with 100 or more workers to mandate COVID-19 vaccines or weekly testing for their employees.
Vermont Chamber of Commerce President Betsy Bishop says she still has questions about the requirement.
"You know, will there be funding for either employees or employers on the testing side of things or the mandatory paid time off? How are we anticipated to manage that?" Bishop asked.
Bishop says she also wants more clarity on how the new rule will be enforced.
Over 112,000 Vermonters work for private sector companies with 100 or more employees, according to the state department of labor.
— Henry Epp
3. State task force assembling resources for 28 organic dairy farms dropped by Horizon
A state-led task force is gathering resources aimed at helping Vermont's organic dairy farms, after 28 producers recently learned they'll lose their milk contracts with Horizon Organic.
Danone, which owns Horizon, terminated contracts with all of its organic dairy farmers in Vermont. The move affects nearly one-fifth of the state's organic dairies, which face a flooded marketplace — and have few other places to sell their milk.
Diane Bothfeld is with the Vermont Agency of Agriculture. She says the resources include mental health support through the Farm First program.
"It can be difficult for farmers to make that call around stress and anxiety and nerves and stigma there," Bothfeld said. "But we're working really hard to ensure they understand that resources are available, and that they're free and accessible and can be very helpful."
Bothfeld says the program receives about 500 to 600 calls a year.
— Elodie Reed
4. Climate Council to host stakeholder meetings starting this week
Public meetings will be held this month as a plan to commit Vermont to cutting its greenhouse gas emissions in the coming years is drafted.
The Global Warming Solutions Act was passed last year despite Governor Phil Scott’s veto.
The legislation set up a council on climate to analyze ways Vermont can reduce emissions.
Some strategies the panel is considering are recommendations for carbon capture and sequestration on Vermont farms, encouraging Vermonters to buy electric or low-emission vehicles, and boosting efficiency and weatherization.
A virtual meeting to gather feedback from farmers takes place Tuesday, with plans to hold in-person public meetings in Elmore, East Dorset, Island Pond, and Colchester later this month.
The council is in the early stages of drafting the plan that will be presented to the Legislature on Dec. 1, with feedback and revisions through January.
— The Associated Press
Abagael Giles compiled and edited this post.