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News roundup: Vermont Department of Health reports 202 new COVID-19 cases Monday

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

Vermont reporters provide a roundup of top news takeaways about the coronavirus and more for Monday, Oct. 18.

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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 202 new COVID-19 infections

COVID-19 cases remain high in the state with 202 new infections reported Monday.  More than 580 cases were reported over the weekend.

Forty-one people are hospitalized in the state, with 11 in the ICU.

To date, 89% of eligible Vermonters have received at least one vaccine dose.

Karen Anderson

New single day record for new cases set Saturday

COVID-19 case numbers remained high over the weekend.

The Vermont Department of Health reported 342 COVID-19 cases on Saturday, a new record number. On Sunday, there were 241 new cases.

In the past seven days, 3.4% of tests have come back positive — and that positivity rate has been climbing. It was 2.8% just 10 days ago.

Anna Van Dine

Number of Vermonters receiving monoclonal antibody treatment increased in recent weeks

The number of Vermonters receiving monoclonal antibody treatment for COVID-19 has increased significantly in recent weeks.

Speaking on Vermont Edition today Friday, Vermont’s health commissioner Dr Mark Levine said around 600 doses have been administered in the state so far this year.

"We were doing probably 50 a month, early on in this calendar year, and now, we had a week — last week — where there were 40 just in one week," Levine said.

Levine says he believes it’s an effective treatment for high risk patients. Earlier in the pandemic he cautioned against it.

Mikaela Lefrak

Community College of Vermont to require proof of vaccination for in-person, hybrid classes

The Community College of Vermont will require proof of vaccination for all students enrolling in hybrid or in-person classes for the spring semester.

The announcement came Friday from CCV President Joyce Judy. 

CCV is the last of the state colleges to require COVID-19 vaccination. 

Students enrolling in fully online classes will not be subject to this requirement.

Details on the vaccination verification requirement are expected to be shared with students this week.

Karen Anderson

In Mass., almost 2,000 health care workers will soon be on unpaid leave over refusing to get vaccinated

Hundreds of health care workers in Massachusetts have received COVID-19 vaccines in recent days to meet requirements. But thousands of employees remain unvaccinated, and some hospitals have delayed their deadlines.

The Boston Globe reports that Mass. General Brigham plans to place unvaccinated employees on unpaid leave at the end of their shift on Wednesday.

It's the state's largest hospital system.

The company says about 1,900 employees remained unvaccinated Friday or had failed to submit documentation showing they had received at least one shot. That's about 3% of the 80,000-person workforce.

The Associated Press

2. State breaks ground on new treatment center for Vermonters with high-level mental health needs

Construction is underway in Essex on a new treatment center for Vermonters with high-level mental health needs.

Gov. Phil Scott and others marked the beginning of construction today.

The facility will be a 16-bed residence for those who are no longer in need of inpatient care in a hospital, but who still need services in a secure setting.

The new center will replace a temporary facility that was built in Middlesex in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Irene in 2011, which forced the closure of the state hospital in Waterbury.

Henry Epp

3. Vermont Cannabis Control Board submits key plan to the Legislature

The Vermont Cannabis Control Board has taken a major step towards its goal of creating a retail market in the state by next fall.

The Board handed lawmakers a plan that outlines the fee charges for all aspects of the cannabis market, from growers to testing labs to retailers.

The report also includes a social equity commitment to assist people who have been quote "disadvantaged in the past by the criminalization of cannabis."

Board member Kyle Harris says the state needs waive fees for these applicants and provide additional  assistance.

"A reduction of a $5,000 fee or a $10,000 fee make or break some folks but it's still going to take a lot of business acumen and the right resources and the right support system to be successful, just like in any market," Harris said.

The Board plans to hold several public hearings on the Social Equity provisions in the coming weeks.

Cannabis Control Board calls for state to help towns take on cost of hosting retail cannabis

The Vermont Cannabis Control Board is asking lawmakers to provide local towns with additional money to  offset some of the costs of hosting a cannabis store within their community.

Currently, under the law a town must give approval before a retail store can operate within its borders.

So far, 29 towns in Vermont have voted to "opt in" to the new retail system.

Board member Julie Hulburd says the Board also wants lawmakers to give a small part of the state's 14% cannabis excise tax.

"It allows local governments to cover their costs associated with retail stores being within their borders and it may encourage municipalities to 'opt in' to allowing retailers to come into their borders," Hulburd said.

The Board plans to hold several public hearings on its retail cannabis market proposal in the coming weeks

Bob Kinzel

4. Vermont Housing & Conservation Board approves almost $9 million in affordable housing projects

Vermont's Housing & Conservation Board has approved affordable housing projects totaling almost $9 million.

They include efficiency upgrades in low-income apartment buildings across the Northeast Kingdom, new low- and middle-income units in Burlington and Brattleboro and energy-efficient mobile homes across the state. 

Josh Hanford, with the state’s housing and community development department, says many units are designated for people who were previously unhoused.

"We’re really trying to serve folks that have been in the hotel and motel program, as that is winding down," Hanford said. "The goal has always been to find permanent housing for folks. And all these projects represent units going towards that purpose."

In Burlington, a new apartment building will include units for people who were previously unhoused.

In Brattleboro, an old brick warehouse will be converted to offices and apartments for low- and middle-income households.

And in Colchester, mobile home parks with hundreds of families will be run as co-ops, managed by their residents.

Hanford, with the housing and community development department, says there’s more to come.

"I can't go a day without receiving multiple emails directly from people in Vermont that are struggling to find an apartment or home to buy, and they’re just concerned they’re not going to be able to stay in Vermont unless we get more housing built and available. So that's our number one job," Hanford said.

Funding comes from the state and federal governments.

Gov. Scott wants to allocate a quarter of federal COVID-19 relief money to affordable housing projects.

Lexi Krupp

5. Vermont International Film Festival to offer virtual viewings through Tuesday

After a year-long hiatus, the Vermont International Film Festival is wrapping up this weekend in Burlington. The 10-day festival features 40 films from around the world.

Though the festival is both in-person and virtual, VTIFF executive producer Orly Yadin said the in-person experience is unmatched.

“Seeing a movie in a theater in the dark with friends and strangers and the ability to then come out of the screening and talk about the film you've just seen with others ... It's incomparable," Yadin said. "Our mission is to bring the world to Vermont through film in a theatrical setting.”

The last in-person showing was Sunday, but films will still be available virtually until Tuesday.

Mary Engisch

6. Sen. Sanders is confident Congress will approve massive social budget bill

Sen. Bernie Sanders says Congress will eventually approve a massive budget bill that expands key social programs.

Sanders, as chairman of the Senate Budget committee, is strongly backing a$3.5 trillion proposal to expand child care services, Medicare, affordable housing programs and efforts to fight climate change.

Two Democratic senators — Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Krysten Sinema of Arizona — say they'll vote against the bill unless it has a much smaller price tag.

Sanders says he's confident that the two senators will end up supporting the bill.

"We are going to pass this and this will be the most consequential piece of legislation for working families, for the environment, that we have seen in the modern history of this country," Sanders said.

Senate Democratic leaders are hoping to vote on the bill later this month.

Bob Kinzel

7. State leaders apologize Saturday for Legislature's role in Vermont's eugenics movement

State leaders publicly apologized for the legislature's role in Vermont's eugenics programs.

On Saturday, Speaker of the House Jill Krowinski and Senate President Pro Tem Becca Balint apologized at the Statehouse on behalf of the Legislature for Vermont’s state-sanctioned eugenics program, NBC5 reports.

The eugenics program less than a century ago resulted in the forced sterilization, segregation and institutionalization of Native Americans, French Canadians and people with disabilities, among others. The program targeted women in particular.

This past spring, the Vermont House unanimously voted to pass a bill apologizing for its role in the movement.

Anna Van Dine

8. University of Vermont welcomes largest class ever in 230 years

The University of Vermont says the incoming class of 2025 is the largest and academically best-prepared undergraduate group in the school’s 230-year history.

UVM says more first-year students also hail from other regions of the U.S. than any previous class.

School officials say UVM attracted 38% more undergraduate applicants compared to last year, with nearly 3,000 first-time, first-year students.

Applications to UVM’s Graduate School masters and doctoral programs were up 22%, resulting in the largest-ever entering cohort of grad students this fall.

The Associated Press

Abagael Giles compiled and edited this post.

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