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News roundup: Health officials report 2 more Vermonters have died from COVID, 20 so far in October

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 and more for Wednesday, Oct. 20.

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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. Health officials report 2 more Vermonters have died, 20 so far this month

Two more Vermonters have died from COVID-19, the Health Department reported Wednesday, alongside 107 new infections statewide.

The virus has now led to the death of 20 Vermonters so far this month, and 349 Vermonters since the start of the pandemic.

Hospitalizations jumped to 55, the highest the state has seen since February.

Some 89.3% of eligible Vermonters are partially vaccinated against COVID-19, while 80% are fully inoculated.

- Matthew Smith

More Vermonters being hospitalized for COVID-19

As the number of Vermonters contracting the coronavirus rises, so too is the number of Vermonters being hospitalized due to COVID-19.

Commissioner of Financial Regulation Michael Pieciak said the Scott administration anticipated that higher case counts would lead to more hospitalizations.

And he said unvaccinated Vermonters continue to be at highest risk of being hospitalized due to COVID-19.

“70% of those that have been in the hospital over the last seven days are among the unvaccinated, same with the ICU numbers,” Pieciak said.

Over the past seven days, Vermont recorded its highest weekly COVID case count since the beginning of the pandemic.

Public health officials say virus-related illnesses are contributing to a strain on Vermont hospitals.

- Peter Hirschfeld

Pending federal approval, Scott administration says it’s ready to distribute COVID shots to kids

The Scott administration says it's prepared to distribute COVID shots to children between the ages of 5 and 11 in the next few weeks.

The federal government is considering a proposal to give children a small dosage of the COVID vaccine.

Human Services Secretary Mike Smith says approval could come in about two weeks.

"We will be ready to administer Pfizer to those ages 5 to 11,” Smith said. Vermont is slated to receive 15,900 for children over the first three week period after it's approved."

Smith says current allotment will be sufficient to initially vaccinate about one third of all Vermont children between the ages of 5 and 11.

- Peter Hirschfeld

Governor asking roughly 60,000 unvaccinated Vermonters to get the COVID shot

Gov. Phil Scott Tuesday pleaded with unvaccinated Vermonters to finally get the shot.

Nearly 90% of eligible Vermonters have at least one vaccine dose, but over the past two weeks, the state's average case count has increased almost 40%.

Scott is urging the roughly 60,000 eligible Vermonters who haven’t gotten vaccinated to finally get their shots.

"By not getting vaccinated, you're much more likely to get sick from COVID, and you're much more likely to spread it to others,” Scott said. “At this point there's no doubt that if you're unvaccinated, the virus will find you."

Roughly 2,000 Vermonters are getting vaccinated every week. Scott’s administration is deploying additional mobile vaccination units to the Northeast Kingdom in an effort to reduce the number of COVID cases there.

Department of Financial Regulation Commissioner Mike Pieciak says the caseload rate for Orleans County is four times greater than most other counties in the state.

"When you look across northern New England and some of the other states that have counties with particularly high case counts at the moment, they are also some of their lower-vaccinated counties, like in northern Maine, and Coos County in New Hampshire,” Pieciak said. “So it is something that is not only happening in Vermont but more broadly and I think the key is vaccination."

Gov. Phil Scott says he believes the number of COVID cases will begin to decline in Vermont by early November.

- Peter Hirschfeld and Bob Kinzel

Schools begin new rapid antigen testing this week

A new rapid antigen testing program for Vermont schools will begin this week.

Education Secretary Dan French says 62 school districts have expressed interest in participating in the program.

And he says many have completed the waivers and certification needed to begin administering the Test to Stay program.

“As of today we have about 10 independent schools and 13 school districts that are ready to launch Test to Stay,” French said. “Talking with my team this morning, I expect many of these will go live with Test to Stay this week.”

French says the rapid COVID antigen tests will reduce the number of students who have to quarantine due to coming into close contact with a COVID-positive individual.

Students who are considered close contacts will now have the option of taking a daily antigen test instead of quarantining from their classmates.

- Peter Hirschfeld

2. Investigations by Enosburg Falls, Winooski high schools have conflicting findings after alleged racist abuse at soccer game

An investigation at Enosburg Falls High school found no evidence of racist abuse at a September soccer game, VTDigger reports.

The investigation was conducted after some students and spectators allegedly hurled racist epithets at members of the Winooski boys' soccer team during the game.

Winooski is the most racially diverse school district in the state.

An investigation by Winooski High School in September found that three students from Enosburg Falls may have used racist slurs at players during the game.

- Anna Van Dine

3. Burlington officials delay plans to evict Sears Lane encampment

Burlington officials have delayed plans to evict people living in an encampment in the city's South End.

Advocates say between 20 to 30 people are living at the Sears Lane camp.

Mayor Miro Weinberger last week announced plans to clear the encampment after two incidents that the administration deemed as dangerous.

Opponents said the order violated the city’s 2019 policy that bars evicting campers unless "significant harm has occurred or is likely to occur."

At the city council meeting Monday, Weinberger said the city will pause displacement until Oct. 26.

In addition, the city plans to use federal funds to help relocate the campers and store residents’ belongings for 30 days.

- Brittany Patterson

4. Vt. Dept. for Children and Families needs more foster parents for COVID-positive kids

Vermont’s Department for Children and Families needs more foster parents.

Aryka Radke, deputy commissioner of Vermont’s Family Services Division, says foster parents are needed to provide temporary care for kids already in the system who test positive for COVID-19.

"Be a care assist, help make sure the child is doing well not simply physically but also emotionally, because this is hard time for the child, not only being sick but being away from their regular caregivers,” Radke said.

Radke says, to date, 47 children in Vermont have been placed in foster care at a time they tested positive for COVID. DCF wants to be prepared if the case load increases.

She says the department is providing enhanced stipends for foster parents who help.

- Nina Keck

5. Vt.'s newest historic site marker for Abijah and Lucy Terry Prince

The state’s newest historic site marker recognizes the lives of Abijah and Lucy Terry Prince, two African Americans who lived in Guilford in the late 1700s.

Lucy Terry Prince was enslaved for part of her life in Massachusetts. She won her freedom and had a poem published, which is recognized as the earliest known published work in English by an African American in the United States.

Abijah Prince was a former slave who engineered his own freedom and fought for civil rights.

At Tuesday’s unveiling of the historic marker at welcome center on Interstate 91 in Guilford, author Gretchen Gerzina said the Princes deserve a place in Vermont history.

“Abijah and Lucy were some of the very first landowners and settlers in the state of Vermont,” Gerzina said.

The historic marker in Guilford is the 19th that recognizes the lives and achievements of African Americans in Vermont.

- Howard Weiss-Tisman

6. Chester to pay $50,000 in settlement with Black man ordered out of car at gunpoint by police

The town of Chester will pay $50,000 in a settlement with a Black man who was ordered out of his car at gunpoint by a Chester police officer more than two years ago.

The Valley News reports the settlement with the town comes after a state Human Rights Commission investigation found the driver, Obadiah Jacobs, was singled out for the stop because of his race.

The investigation determined the Chester Police Department engaged in illegal discrimination against Jacobs in the 2019 stop.

As part of the settlement, the Chester town government also agreed to post an apology to Jacobs on the town website.

- Matthew Smith

7. Missing New Hampshire woman found dead, police arrest husband following confession

A New Hampshire woman missing in Vermont since Monday has been found dead, and Vermont State Police have arrested her husband after he confessed to killing her.

In a release late Tuesday night, state police say they located the remains believed to be those of 22-year-old Emily Ferlazzo, who was reported missing in the Bolton area by her family on Monday.

Police say her husband, 41-year-old Joseph Ferlazzo, admitted to detectives that he killed Emily on Saturday inside the camper van they were traveling in.

Police say they seized the camper Tuesday in St Albans, and that a court-ordered search found human remains and other evidence.

Joseph Ferlazzo remains in custody, and state police say they intend to charge him with first-degree murder. He's due in a Burlington court Wednesday.

 - Matthew Smith

8. Dartmouth raises $3 billion in fundraising campaign


Dartmouth College has reached a rare distinction this week.

It’s one of a few dozen institutions of higher education to raise more than $3 billion in a fundraising campaign.

Dartmouth College surpassed a record $3 billion in donations since its fundraising campaign launched three years ago.

For comparison, that’s almost half of Vermont’s state budget last year. And far above the University of Vermont’s recent $580 million campaign.

Dartmouth says it’s using the funding to position itself as a leading research university, support faculty, upgrade campus facilities, and expand financial aid.

The news follows an announcement earlier this month that Dartmouth’s endowment will no longer be directly invested in fossil fuel companies.

The college's last fundraising campaign raised $1.3 billion, and ended in 2010.

- Lexi Krupp

9. Mt. Mansfield finally freezes, latest date on record

Vermont's highest peak has finally seen freezing temperatures for the first time this year.

Around 4 a.m. on Tuesday, Mount Mansfield reported a temperature of 32 degrees for the first time this season.

The peak's first freeze of the year typically occurs in mid-September.

Tuesday's hard freeze is the latest ever recorded, shattering the previous record by more than two weeks.

The previous record for a late freeze was Oct. 6, set back in 2011.

- Henry Epp and Matthew Smith

Elodie Reed compiled and edited this post.

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