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Round up: Vt. health officials report four more people have died from COVID-19

A yellow background with vermont news round up written, with a small green graphic of vermot on the "R" of roundup
Elodie Reed
/
VPR

Vermont reporters provide a roundup of top news takeaways about the coronavirus, the state’s contract with a private Mississippi prison and more for Wednesday, Oct. 6.

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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 officials announce four more people have died from COVID-19

The Health Department announced Wednesday that four more Vermonters have died from COVID-19.

The pandemic has now resulted in the death of 327 Vermonters since it began in March of last year.

Health officials also reported 129 new coronavirus infections statewide.

A total of 34 people are hospitalized with the virus.

Some 88.3% of eligible Vermonters are at least partially inoculated with at least one dose of a vaccine.

- Matthew Smith

COVID hospitalization rates, cases have dropped over past week

The number of unvaccinated Vermonters needing hospital care for COVID-19 dropped 30% over the past week.

But Commissioner of Financial Regulation Michael Pieciak says unvaccinated individuals are still at highest risk of severe illness or death from the disease.

“Over the last seven days, 100% of the people in Vermont that have needed ICU care for COVID-19 have been unvaccinated,” Pieciak said.

The hospitalization rate for vaccinated Vermonters is also down over the past week.

And case counts decreased for the second straight week. Pieciak says the number of new cases fell by 15% over the last week, and he says much of New England is also seeing a decline in new cases.

“In Vermont, Connecticut, Massachusetts, certainly improvement over the past week, and the region is down 8%, in terms of week-over-week case numbers,” he said.

Pieciak says case counts have fallen in Vermont even as the number of COVID tests increased.

- Peter Hirschfeld

State officials hoping to register more people for booster shots

About 9,000 Vermonters received a third dose of the Pfizer vaccine over the past week.

And another 5,400 people have registered for booster appointments.

But Secretary of Human Services Mike Smith says the state is hoping to register more.

“We’d like to see more people take advantage of this opportunity to have additional protection from COVID-19, given our expanded approach to offering booster doses,” Smith said.

Boosters are available to anyone 65 and older who received a Pfizer vaccine at least six months ago.

People with certain medical conditions, BIPOC Vermonters, and people who work in high-risk occupations, such as teachers or grocery store employees, are also eligible for a third dose.

- Peter Hirschfeld

2. Vermont Dept. of Corrections says state is extending contract with private Mississippi prison

The Vermont Department of Corrections says it's again extending its contract for a year to house about 150 inmates at a private Mississippi prison.

It says it's the last extension allowed under the original contract signed with CoreCivic in 2018.

Corrections Commissioner Jim Baker said in a statement that out-of-state prisons are "a safety valve to prevent overcrowding and mitigate COVID."

Baker says the department would prefer to have space in Vermont for the state's entire incarcerated population, but that is not the reality now.

- Associated Press

3. Burlington committee votes to give citizen advisory group oversight of police department

Burlington has moved a step closer to more civilian oversight of the city's police department.

Seven Days reports a committee of city councilors voted unanimously Tuesday night on a resolution giving the city's existing civilian advisory commission extensive oversight powers over the police department.

That would include things like full access to complaints against officers, and the ability to hire investigators to review misconduct.

The proposal follows an outside assessment of the Burlington Police Department, which found police oversight was lacking, among other findings.

The full city council will review the resolution at its Oct. 18 meeting.

- Matthew Smith

Burlington School District to use new budgeting process prioritizing equity

The Burlington School District has announced a new budgeting process for the next school year that prioritizes equity for schools to make sure students are getting what they need.

WPTZ reports that principals and schools will have control over how money is spent, and each school will get a RISE -- "Recognizing Injustice and Seeking Equity" -- allocation to help close the opportunity gap.

Resources will be distributed based on enrollment and need.

The executive director of finance and operations says the district will use COVID-19 relief funds to help meet it's equity goals, so taxpayers won't be affected.

- Associated Press

4. Leahy reintroduces bill restoring Voting Rights Act

Sen. Patrick Leahy is among a group of nearly 50 senators who have reintroduced national legislation to restore the Voting Rights Act and stop voter suppression.

The act would restore early voting, mail-in voting and all other initiatives for eligible voters.

In the 2013 case known as Shelby County v. Holder, the Supreme Court ruled a section of the 1965 Voting Rights Act was unconstitutional.

Now, Leahy and other Democrats in the Senate want oversight reinstated, arguing tens of thousands of Americans are being disenfranchised under various state laws without it.

Leahy reintroduced the bill and renamed it after the late Congressman John Lewis. It's now known as the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.

- Matthew Smith

5. 2021 one of deadliest years on record for Vermont motorcyclists

The year 2021 is proving to be one of the deadliest on record for Vermont motorcyclists.

An analysis of Vermont State Police crash data by VTDigger finds 15 motorcyclists have already died on Vermont highways so far this year, even as the number of crashes involving motorcycles has fallen overall.

The deaths are already higher than any other year in the last decade.

Traffic officials say the pandemic could be a factor, as more people have taken up motorcycling for the first time, and heightened stress is leading to more distracted driving.

- Matthew Smith

6. Shelburne Museum identifies decoy creator as Shinnecock-Montauk tribal member

Shelburne Museum has solved a mystery in its decoy collection.

According to a press release, five imitation shorebirds had been attributed to multiple different craftsmen over close to a century, based on "superficial comparisons, personal hunches and unverified lore. Until now.”

The museum says researchers have gathered enough evidence to attribute the handcrafted wooden decoys to Charles Sumner Bunn.

Described as “the greatest decoy carver who ever lived," Bunn was a member of the Shinnecock-Montauk tribes on Long Island.

The museum is holding a free online presentation about Bunn's life and work this evening.

Shelburne Museum has an extensive collection of over 1,400 decoys, including game birds, shorebirds, fish, and amphibians made in the 19th and 20th centuries.

- Anna Van Dine

7. Xerox acquires Colchester-based IT firm

A Colchester-based IT firm has been acquired by Xerox for an undisclosed amount.

Competitive Computing, also known as C2, provides IT support to companies in areas such as e-commerce, cloud computing and cybersecurity. They list the state of Vermont, UVM Medical Center, Burton Snowboards and National Life Group among their clients.

A C2 spokesperson says the company employs 70 people. It's been in business since 1993.

In a press release, Xerox officials say they're acquiring C2 to expand into the IT support field for small and medium-sized businesses.

Xerox is a $3.7 billion publicly-traded company based in Norwalk, Connecticut. It's perhaps best known for its line of printers and copy machines.

- Henry Epp

8. Construction underway to create more parking at Lake Willoughby

Construction is underway to create more parking at Lake Willoughby in the Northeast Kingdom to prevent visitors from parking on the side of the road and creating traffic bottlenecks.

WCAX reports work crews are forming an overflow parking lot off Route 5A that has space for about 80 cars.

The Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation says the next phases of upgrades will start in the spring and summer of next year.

They include parking area improvements, a boat ramp access and West Cove beach boardwalk that's compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and bathroom facilities.

- Associated Press

Elodie Reed compiled and edited this post.

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