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News roundup: Vermont Dept. of Health data show slight dip in people hospitalized for COVID-19 Wednesday, climbing positivity rate

A yellow 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, poverty and more for Wednesday, Nov. 10.

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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 data show slight dip in people hospitalized for COVID-19, climbing positivity rate

The latest Health Department data in Vermont show the number of people hospitalized from COVID-19 dropped slightly today, even as the state's positivity rate continues to climb.

Some 50 Vermonters are now hospitalized due to the coronavirus, three fewer than yesterday but still part of sustained high levels of hospitalizations in Vermont.

The state's seven-day positivity rate, elevated since August due to the delta variant, has been increasing for more than two weeks, and is now 3.8%.

In all, the state reported 201 new cases today and one new virus-linked death.

- Matthew Smith

COVID cases in school-age children rise 

A dramatic spike in COVID cases in Vermont over the past two weeks is having a disproportionate impact on children between the ages of 5 and 11.

Gov. Phil Scott said during his weekly press briefing yesterday that infection rates in 5- to 11-year-olds are now double the rate in the general population.

“Although kids in this age range usually have mild illnesses, case can be disruptive for families, like not being able to go school and parents missing work as a result,” he said.

Scott said the comparatively high number of cases in young kids should compel even more parents to sign their children up for the COVID-19 vaccine.

As of Tuesday morning, about 30% of kids between the ages of 5 and 11 had been registered for vaccine appointments.

Hear/read the full story.

- Peter Hirschfeld

Recent COVID outbreak shows how the virus travels amongst vaccinated people

Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine says a recent COVID outbreak at St. Michael's College in Colchester shows how the virus can still pose a threat to vaccinated people.

Recently, 79 students tested positive, even though 98% of students are fully vaccinated.

School officials believe crowded Halloween parties were the primary source of infection.

Levine says the incident shows just how contagious the delta variant is.

"I'm concerned that it happened, yes, but am I surprised that it happened? No," he said. "Based on what we've seen around the country, this virus can do just that. I don't know this for a fact, but I would put money on these cases being very mild. But still a case is a case, and it's unfortunate it happens."

Levine says he's pleased that over 95% of college students in Vermont are fully vaccinated.

- Bob Kinzel

2. Rising costs of living brings economic difficulties to Vermonters

Advocates say rising housing, transportation and food costs are making it harder for many Vermonters to make ends meet.

That's despite millions in COVID relief, plentiful jobs, and rising wages.

Michele Bailey of West Rutland is a single mom of three on permanent disability, and she says her fixed income isn’t keeping up.

“We’re fortunate enough to be homeowners," she said. "But now my roof is leaking, and I can’t afford to fix that. My refrigerator broke down the other day, and I can’t afford to replace my refrigerator. My car is on its last leg."

Community groups in Vermont are working to connect those in need with federal COVID relief funds, but say many people are still missing out for a variety of reasons.

Read/hear the full story.

- Nina Keck

3. Officials plan to aid former Sears Lane residents

Burlington city officials are planning to aid former residents of a homeless encampment that was shut down last month because of reported criminal activity.

MyChamplainValley reports city officials say they'll work with the residents of Sears Lane and use federal funding from the American Rescue Plan to provide services for people experiencing homelessness.

The city says it's scheduling a forum on the issue in January, and requested that the state extend its emergency motel voucher program until 2022. That program provides people experiencing housing insecurity a temporary motel room.

The city also created a focus group that includes people affected by homelessness and those who work with the homeless population.

- Associated Press

4. Temperature increases could impact Vermont’s ski industry

A new statewide report finds climate change is making Vermont warmer and wetter — faster than regional scientists previously thought.

And that could have big impacts for Vermont's $1.6 billion ski industry.

The second Vermont Climate Assessment released yesterday found that if greenhouse gas emissions aren't curbed, Vermont could see temperatures increase by 10 to 16 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century.

Under that scenario, the state's ski industry may not be viable by 2080.

Stephen Posner is director of policy at the Gund Institute, which led the study.

"The ski industry is, I think, one of the groups that I know is carefully watching climate data and planning investments accordingly, as well as additional activities at ski resort mountains," Posner said.

The report found there's still time to curb emissions, and the associated climate impacts.

- Abagael Giles

5. A federal grant will be used to expand Vermont nursing programs

The Vermont State College system will use a federal grant to expand nursing programs at Northern Vermont University and Vermont Technical College. The money will make room for 60 new students in the schools’ nursing programs.

Workforce shortages at hospitals across Vermont have gutted nursing staffs.

And Sen. Bernie Sanders says the Vermont health care system now spends $75 million a year on traveling nurses to plug the gaps.

"$75 million a year to pay nurses who come here, do a good job, but who are paid substantially higher salaries and wages than local nurses, and that is basically insane and dysfunctional,” he said.

Sanders, who helped secure a $240,000 grant for the Vermont State College system, says Vermont will need an estimated 9,000 new nurses to join the Vermont workforce over the next seven years.

And he says the expansion of nursing programs at Vermont state colleges will increase the local supply of trained health care professionals.

- Peter Hirschfeld

6. Vermont doctors provide insight about the kids COVID vaccine

As thousands of Vermont families weigh whether to get their young children vaccinated against COVID, doctors across the state are looking to help address concerns.

The American Academy of Pediatrics is holding a series of presentations to answer questions about the COVID vaccine for kids ages 5 to 11.

In the first discussion this week, Dr. Leah Costello, a pediatrician in South Burlington, went through data from clinical trials of thousands of kids. She emphasized the shot is over 90% effective in preventing COVID infections in young kids.

And most kids in the clinical trial didn’t have any side effects. About a third reported mild fatigue or headache after getting the shot — around the same as a group of kids who got a placebo.

Costello said a common concern she hears is about a heart problem called myocarditis. That’s inflammation of the heart muscle, which can lead to chest pain and shortness of breath. It’s a rare side effect from the vaccine, seen in about one in 10,000 young men after puberty.

But it’s also a symptom of COVID, where the condition is more frequent and more severe.

“The vaccine is much more likely to prevent myocarditis than to cause it,” Costello explained. “Because the vaccine prevents COVID, and COVID can cause myocarditis.”

Costello stressed that it’s normal to want to get more information, and not be the first in line to get the vaccine.

“It’s OK to have questions and feel some hesitancy,” she said. “There’s been a lot of decision fatigue over the last 20 months, and this is just yet another decision.”

She shared that her own two young children got the shot after it was approved last week.

- Lexi Krupp

Marlon Hyde compiled and edited this post.

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