News roundup: Vt. Dept. of Health reports 377 new COVID-19 cases Friday, 3 more deaths
Vermont reporters provide a roundup of top news takeaways about the coronavirus and more for Friday, Nov. 5.
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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 377 new COVID-19 infections
The health department reported 377 new COVID-19 infections Friday.
It would be Vermont's highest number of new infections in a single day, if not for Thursday's record high of nearly 500 new infections.
It's all contributing to the state's rising positivity rate, now at 3.3%.
Health officials also reported today that three more Vermonters have died due to the pandemic.
The number of Vermonters hospitalized with the virus dropped by 10, to 45 people.
As of Friday, 89.7% of Vermonters 12 and older are partially vaccinated against the virus. Just under 81% are fully vaccinated.
— Matthew Smith
Vermont reported its largest single-day case increase Thursday
The State of Vermont is reporting the largest number of daily COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic.
The Vermont Health Department has confirmed that 487 people tested positive for the virus on Wednesday, and that six people died.
That breaks the previous number of cases by over 100.
Ben Truman is the communications director at the Health Department.
He says it's not clear what's causing the current surge, but he says the Delta virus has been difficult to get under control.
"It is, to my knowledge, the highest one-day case number report we've had throughout the pandemic," Truman said. "So when it's out in the communities, it spreads really easily and now we're starting to move indoors — schools and more gatherings and things happening, so there's more opportunity for this to happen."
— Bob Kinzel
Gov. reacts to record high case count Thursday
Vermont reported a record 487 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, its highest daily count since the start of the pandemic.
Gov. Phil Scott on Thursday issued a statement, raising concerns about the impact the case count could have on hospital capacity in the coming weeks.
Scott urged Vermonters to get vaccinated, get their kids vaccinated, and get booster shots when they are eligible.
He said Thursday's case count could be driven by Halloween and other gatherings.
He urged Vermonters to gather wisely by wearing masks in indoor settings, even if vaccinated; being mindful of the size of gatherings; and encouraging guests at large events to be vaccinated.
— The Associated Press
State officials report strong interest in COVID-19 vaccines for kids
State officials say they're pleased by the number of parents who have signed their children up for a COVID-19 vaccine.
Earlier this week, the Centers for Disease Control gave approval to a vaccine for kids between the ages of 5 through 11.
Appointment registration through the state opened Wednesday.
Health Department spokesperson Ben Truman says, within the first 24 hours, more than 30% of this age group registered for a shot.
"It's very exciting, and frankly it's heartening, because that tells me that people are responsive — Vermonters have been living with this for so long and we all so much want to get back to whatever 'new normal' will be," Truman said.
State health officials hope that most children in this age category will be fully vaccinated by the end of the year.
— Bob Kinzel
Kids 5 & up can get vaccines starting today
Kids 5 and up can get their first COVID-19 vaccine as early as Friday at vaccine clinics across the state.
Over the next several weeks, dozens of schools, malls and medical centers across Vermont will be home to COVID vaccine clinics for kids, organized by the state health department.
Health care providers are strongly encouraging families to schedule appointments online or by phone with the health department to ensure they’ll get a dose.
At some clinics, local providers will be on hand, like Dr. Joshua Kantrowitz in St. Johnsbury, to answer any questions.
"And certainly, we have lots of families calling, asking us questions before they register their kids for the vaccine so they feel comfortablewith that decision," he said. "I’d say half the day, hand on the doorknob as I’m leaving the room, families say, 'Hey what about the COVID vaccine?'
Doctors offices are expected to receive the vaccine in the next few weeks.
But for many, administering doses is a challenge because of distancing requirements.
— Lexi Krupp
2. Philonise Floyd reflects on his brother's legacy, what's next for racial justice
George Floyd was murdered by a Minneapolis police officer in May 2020. His death, and the death of other Black people at the hands of police, sparked racial justice protests around the country, including here in Vermont.
Philonise Floyd, George Floyd's brother, came to Burlington last week, to speak at the Flynn Theater as part of the Greater Burlington Multicultural Resource Center’s Diversity Speaker Series.
Vermont Edition co-host Connor Cyrus sat down with Floyd before the event, at the Courtyard Marriott in Burlington. Here's an excerpt from that conversation:
"When you lose someone that you love so much, it can change your entire life," Floyd said.
— Connor Cyrus
3. New rules could make it easier for Vermonters educated outside the United States to get a professional license here
New rules could allow Vermonters educated outside the U.S. to pursue careers in social work, optometry and about 40 other licensed professions.
Lauren Layman, with the Office of Professional Regulation, told lawmakers on Thursday that the rules provide her office with a way to acknowledge educational credentials earned in other countries.
"It’s a pretty short rule, only about four pages," Layman said. "But hopefully very helpful to folks out there trying to get a professional license and get into the workforce.”
Lawmakers hope the new rules will improve career prospects for New Americans living in Vermont, and other residents of the state who were born outside the U.S.
— Peter Hirschfeld
4. Vermonters who receive food assistance through 3SquaresVT will see boost to benefits
Vermonters who receive food assistance through the 3SquaresVT program will see a temporary boost in their benefits this month and next.
The Department for Children and Families says the increase, which could be up to $95, is due to funding from the federal coronavirus relief bill or CARES Act.
DCF says program participants don't need to do anything to get the extra benefits. If eligible, they'll be automatically applied.
— Brittany Patterson
5. Taskforce says it will miss Dec. 2 deadline for plan to address Vermont's pension shortfalls
A legislative taskforce created to solve Vermont’s pension shortfall is supposed to deliver a proposal to lawmakers by Dec. 2.
But taskforce’s co-chair says the panel will miss that deadline.
Windham County Senator Jeannette White says members of the taskforce are still awaiting the actuarial analyses they’ll need to settle on a final package. And she says, a delay in getting those numbers means the highly anticipated reform proposal won’t arrive until after the Dec. 2 deadline.
“My thought on that is that it’s more important for us to do good work than to rush a report just because there was a legislative deadline date,” White said.
White says the Pension Benefits Taskforce will have a proposal for lawmakers to review before the beginning of the 2022 session.
The 13-member panel is looking for ways to address a multi-billion shortfall in Vermont’s public pensions system.
— Peter Hirschfeld
6. Vt. Cannabis Control Board says small cannabis growers should be allowed to sell products on-farm
Vermont's Cannabis Control Board believes that small cannabis growers in the state can be part of wider agri-tourism industry.
The board estimates that tourists will initially account for a majority of cannabis sales when the retail market opens in Vermont next fall.
Under the current proposal, growers could apply to get a license to sell their products at their farms, much in the way some farmers sell home-grown vegetables.
Board member Kyle Harris thinks there's a lot of potential in this approach:
"This will help promote aspects of agri-tourism," Harris said. "It's important for us to let visitors come under the right set of circumstances."
Next, the Cannabis Control Board's report will be reviewed by the Legislature in January.
— Bob Kinzel
7. Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine to receive more than $78 million in federal funds for heating assistance
The $3.4 billion dollars in heating assistance released by the Biden administration this week includes more than $78 million for Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.
Vermont will get more than $18.8 million through the program.
Maine is slated to get about $36 million, and New Hampshire about $25 million.
But the cost of all fuels is expected to rise this winter, with natural gas, propane and heating oil seeing the biggest increases.
Last winter, a home using natural gas paid about $570 in heating costs, but this year, that could rise to nearly $750, according to the Energy Information Administration.
The$3.4 billion represents 90% of the funding for the coming year under the federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, known as LIHEAP.
View a state-by-state breakdown of those funds, here.
— The Associated Press
8. Killington opens Friday — the first ski area to do so in Vermont
Killington Resort is kicking off skiing and snowboarding for the season Friday.
In a release, Killington says the first turns of the season are open for passholders today, and the general public Saturday.
The resort's COVID-19 policies are different than last season: masks are not required in lift lines, or on lifts or gondolas ... all of which will be loaded to full capacity this winter.
The resort is encouraging masks indoors.
Resort officials say today's opening is the first resort open for skiing and snowboarding on the east coast.
— Matthew Smith
Abagael Giles compiled and edited this post.