News Roundup: Vermonters 75 And Older Can Sign Up For A Pfizer COVID Booster Shot
Vermont reporters provide a roundup of top news takeaways about the coronavirus and more for Monday, Sept. 27.
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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. Every state in Vermont has "high" degree of COVID transmission according to CDC
New Health Department data reveals more than 400 new COVID-19 infections reported in Vermont this weekend, including 230 cases reported Saturday and 187 on Sunday.
That puts Vermont at more than 33,000 cases since the start of the pandemic.
Every county in the state has a “high” degree of COVID-19 transmission, as defined by the Centers for Disease Control.
- Matthew Smith and Anna Van Dine
Vermonters 75 and older can sign up for Pfizer COVID booster shot
Starting Monday morning, Vermonters 75 and older can start signing up for a COVID-19 booster shot.
The Scott administration and the Department of Health opened up boosters to those 80 and older on Friday.
That's after federal health officials last week expanded emergency authorization of the Pfizer vaccine to allow a third booster shot for certain individuals and age groups.
Vermonters 70 and older can sign up Wednesday, and 65 and older on Friday.
Per CDC recommendations, the state on Friday will also expand booster shots to Vermonters between the ages of 18 to 64 who have underlying medical conditions.
For now, boosters are only authorized for those who previously got the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
- Matthew Smith
Health Dept. report shows average COVID hospital stay lasts seven days
Vermonters who are hospitalized with COVID-19 stay for an average of seven days, according to a new Health Department report.
Hospitalizations have skyrocketed in the past two months. So far, 215 people in Vermont have been hospitalized with the virus since August. That's compared to just 21 people in the two months prior.
For the entire pandemic, 23% of people hospitalized in Vermont have spent time in intensive care. And 7% of COVID patients had to be put on a ventilator.
- Abagael Giles
21% people testing positive for COVID associated with outbreak
A total of 21% of people who test positive for COVID-19 cases in Vermont have been associated with an outbreak, according to a new Health Department report.
The department says they are monitoring 70 active outbreaks, which are generally defined as having at least three cases.
Schools, child care care centers and congregate living facilities have suffered the most outbreaks.
And more than 50% of all COVID-19 deaths occurred in outbreak settings. Those are largely tied to eldercare homes.
- Marlon Hyde
Community health partners vaccinate more than 1,500 farm workers
Community health providers in Vermont have so far helped vaccinate more than 1,500 farm workers.
Naomi Wolcott-MacCausland is the University of Vermont Extension’s migrant health coordinator.
She says there are a number of barriers between farm workers and access to health care.
“There's a lot of challenges around access to transportation, access to language supports, depending on whether we're working with the Jamaican population or working with the Latino farm worker population … compounded by the fact that we are dealing with a new virus and new vaccines and hesitancy that come along with that,” she said.
UVM Extension was recently awarded a grant of more than $200,000 for a bilingual education campaign about the benefits of getting vaccinated.
- Elodie Reed
Quebec residents in private senior housing now need to wear masks in common areas
Quebecers living in private senior residences will have to wear masks in common areas starting Monday.
The CBC reports residents will have to wear masks when in hallways, elevators, and common indoors areas if they live in Montreal, Laval, the Townships, and all regions with higher transmission rates.
Quebec reported more than 700 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, and two new deaths.
Nearly 300 people are currently hospitalized in the province, including 90 people in intensive care.
Some 89% of the Quebec residents 12 and older have so far gotten at least one dose of a COVID vaccine.
- Matthew Smith
2. Vt. Supreme Court rules evidence seized during search by Border Patrol can't be used in case involving Richford couple
Vermont's highest court has ruled that evidence seized during a search by Border Patrol can't be used in a state court proceeding.
The case centered on a Richford couple who faced state drug possession charges after they were pulled over by a Border Patrol agent in Jay in 2018. The couple's defense argued evidence found in the search could not be used in state court, because the federal agents did not have a warrant, as required under Article 11 of the Vermont Constitution.
ACLU Vermont Attorney Jay Diaz argued for the defendants before the state Supreme Court.
"This case affirms our Article 11 rights, our rights to privacy, dignity, and to really be free from these unreasonable seizures,” Diaz said.
Two of the court's five justices dissented in the case. The Orleans County State's Attorney's office — which represented state prosecutors — did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
- Henry Epp
3. Red Cross says it's experiencing emergency blood, platelet shortages
The American Red Cross of Northern New England says it's experiencing an emergency blood and platelet shortages, and is holding donation clinics around Vermont in the coming weeks to collect what hospitals and patients need.
The Red Cross aims to collect 10,000 donations over the next month, with donation drives in 10 Vermont counties running through mid-October. Sign-ups are online.
The Red Cross says blood donor turnout dropped 10% in August, now reaching the lowest level of the year, due in part to the surge in COVID-19 cases from the delta variant.
All blood types, especially type O, and platelet donors are urged to make an appointment to combat the shortage.
- Matthew Smith
4. Cannabis Control Board says it needs more time to develop small cultivator fee structure
The Vermont Cannabis Control Board says it needs more time to develop a fee structure for small cultivators.
The Board was scheduled to release its recommendations on Oct. 1. It now hopes to have the proposal ready by the middle of October when other retail market-related business fees are set to be unveiled.
Board chairman James Pepper is hoping that small growers will fill most of the demand for retail cannabis, and he says he wants a fee structure that compliments this goal.
"Given the fact that we want to be clear about grounding our fee structure and our market structure in equity and accessibility for small cultivators, I think there are just a few more decision points that we want totally vetted,” Pepper said. “We don't want to rush."
Retail cannabis stores are set to open in Vermont next fall.
- Bob Kinzel
Health Commissioner says it’s important legal retail cannabis products don’t get marketed to people under 21
As the Cannabis Control Board develops policies for the state's budding legal retail market, Vermont's top public health official says ensuring marijuana products are not marketed to people under the age of 21 is crucial.
Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine is a member of the panel's subcommittee on public health. The retail market law specifically prohibits companies from advertising or promoting their products to younger Vermonters.
And Levine says these provisions are important.
"Making sure that you don't have labels that would be so attractive to someone who was not supposed to be using this, because of their age, that it would encourage them to get into the product, a whole host of advertising considerations,” he said.
Vermont's retail cannabis market is scheduled to begin operations next fall.
- Bob Kinzel
Public hearings scheduled for public to give input to Cannabis Control Board
The Cannabis Control Board is seeking additional public input as it develops plans for Vermont's retail cannabis marketplace.
The board plans to hold monthly meetings to hear from Vermonters.
Board chairman James Pepper says it's critical for the body to get public feedback about many of the important issues that it's reviewing.
"We are going to be holding monthly after hours Cannabis Board meetings, that are dedicated exclusively to public comment,” Pepper said. “These will be one hour meetings from 6 to 7 p.m. "
The first public hearing is scheduled for tomorrow at its offices in Montpelier. It will also be live streamed on the Board's website.
- Bob Kinzel
5. New Burlington mural showcases centuries of BIPOC history
A new mural in downtown Burlington by the artists at Juniper Creative showcases two centuries of BIPOC history.
The vaulted ceiling at the entrance to the Main Street Landing Performing Arts Center captures generations of BIPOC artists and activists in acrylics. Notable faces include James Baldwin, Burlington’s DJ A-Dog, and the 10th Cavalry Buffalo Soldiers.
Jennifer Herrera Condry is the creative director for Juniper Creative. She says the 11-month project is rooted in education.
“This mural itself feels like an encyclopedia for BIPOC folks, you can come to this one space and learn so much that isn't even being taught in schools,” she said.
The mural will be open to the public by appointment starting in October.
- Marlon Hyde
6. Vt. youth climate activists get together after pandemic hiatus
After a nearly two-year hiatus forced by the pandemic, Vermont's youth climate activists say they are ready to relaunch their movement.
The Vermont Youth Lobby met Saturday on the steps of the Statehouse, and for many student activists, it was the first time they were meeting each other in person.
Iris Hsiang, an Essex senior who was the event's lead organizer, says the pandemic made it hard to create continuity within the movement:
"And we've all grown and changed, and some people have graduated, so we're really looking to revamp the movement."
Hsiang says youth activists are energized and ready to push for bold change, and bring their younger peers into the fold.
- Abagael Giles
7. Vail Resorts to upgrade lifts at two Vt. ski mountains
The owner of Stowe and Mount Snow resorts plans to upgrade several lifts at two of its Vermont ski mountains.
The lift replacements are part of a $320 million capital plan announced this week by Vail Resorts, which owns Stowe, Mount Snow and Okemo resorts in Vermont, as well as four ski areas in New Hampshire.
Vail also released financial filings this week for its fiscal year that ended on July 31. The publicly-traded company made nearly $128 million in net income in 2021. That's a nearly 30% increase from 2020, when the ski season was interrupted by the pandemic, but still well below 2019.
In its annual report, the company says the pandemic could continue to disrupt its operations going forward. It also acknowledges that the effects of climate change could impact its operations and profits.
- Henry Epp
8. Recreation trail along Lake Memphremagog completed
A new recreation trail completed along the shore of Lake Memphremagog connects downtown Newport to a trail running north to Canada.
The Vermont Land Trust purchased the Bluffside Farm in 2015, and held community meetings before deciding on plans for the trail.
Now the 130-acre farm is home to the mile-long trail that runs from a promontory above the lake and heads north along its eastern shore, before connecting to a network of Canadian bike trails at the border.
Partners on the project include the Vermont Youth Conservation Corps and the Nulhegan Band of the Abenaki, among others.
- Matthew Smith
Elodie Reed compiled and edited this post.