News Roundup: ICU beds reach critical capacity level at Vermont's largest hospital, according to doctor
Vermont reporters provide a roundup of top news takeaways about the coronavirus and more for Tuesday, Nov. 30.
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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. ICU beds reach critical capacity level at Vermont's largest hospital, according to doctor
Inpatient and ICU bed capacity at Vermont’s largest hospital has reached critical levels, according to a memo sent to doctors at the University of Vermont Medical Center last evening.
Jericho Rep. George Till, a doctor at UVMMC, says hospital officials will reduce the number of surgeries being performed as a result.
“It means that some people who expected they’d be getting surgery won’t be getting it," Till said. "Some people who really need surgery, it will possibly be delayed."
Till says UVMMC has initiated a contingency plan that includes the construction of five ICU surge beds. He says the hospital is also looking for other health care facilities to handle overflow at UVM.
- Peter Hirschfeld
Vermont's COVID hospitalizations reach new all-time high of 84
Coronavirus hospitalizations in Vermont are at an all-time high of 84, health officials reported Tuesday.
That's as the average positivity rate continued to climb to 4.7%.
Officials tallied 214 new COVID infections Tuesday, which puts Vermont at more than 50,000 total cases since the start of the pandemic.
To date, 83% of Vermonters 5 and older have now gotten at least one dose of a vaccine, including 40% of 5-to-11-year-olds.
About four in 10 Vermonters over the age of 18 have also gotten a COVID booster shot.
- Matthew Smith
New York’s North Country hospital seeing more COVID admissions than ever
The hospital in Glens Falls, New York says patients are now sicker — and more are dying of COVID — than at any other time in the pandemic.
North Country Public Radio reports the hospital is currently seeing more COVID admissions, and more COVID admissions to the ICU, as the hospital bumps up against its capacity.
The hospital’s chief medical officer, Dr. Howard Fritz, urged those opposed to vaccines to focus on the science.
“This is not about politics, it's about science,” Fritz said. “And I hope that people will start to come to the realization that the science bears out masking, that the science bears out getting vaccinated, that our statistics here at Glens Falls Hospital bear out the fact that vaccination works.
Currently, 80% of COVID-19 patients at Glens Falls Hospital are not vaccinated, and 100% of the hospital's ICU patients are unvaccinated.
- Matthew Smith
Vermont monitoring COVID outbreaks at multiple long-term care facilities
Vermont is monitoring outbreaks of COVID-19 at multiple long-term care facilities across the state.
WCAX reports the biggest one is in Bennington, where health officials say Crescent Manor Nursing Home and Rehab Center has 71 cases. Two people have died from the outbreak.
As of yesterday, a total of 12 long-term care facilities in the state are experiencing outbreaks, but more facilities also have cases, but not enough to be officially called outbreaks.
Administrators at Crescent Manor declined to comment to WCAX about the outbreak, but the news outlet confirmed sick residents were receiving monoclonal antibody treatments.
Crescent Manor is still allowing guests, and state officials say that's in line with new federal rules and additional restrictions on visitation are not expected.
- Matthew Smith
Federal judge blocks enforcement of COVID vax mandate in 10 states including N.H.
A federal judge has blocked President Joe Biden's administration from enforcing a coronavirus vaccine mandate on health care workers in 10 states that had brought the first legal challenge against the requirement.
The preliminary injunction issued Monday applies to New Hampshire and nine other states, from Alaska to Arkansas.
The states all have either a Republican attorney general or governor.
A federal judge in Missouri said the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid had no clear authority from Congress to enact the vaccine mandate for health care providers that participate in the two government programs.
The rule requires workers to receive their first dose of a vaccine by Dec. 6, and a second by early January.
A federal court previously placed a hold on a separate rule from the Biden administration that would require businesses with more than 100 employees to get their workers vaccinated.
Federal officials say they're reviewing the decision.
- Associated Press
2. Legislative committee proposing change to election districts
A key committee is recommending a big change to the composition of the Vermont Legislature.
The Vermont Apportionment Board has the responsibility of redrawing district boundaries to reflect demographic changes based on the 2020 census. The panel is proposing that all senators and House members be elected from single-member districts.
Currently, most senators are elected in multi-member districts. Six senators represent Chittenden County. The change could force some incumbents to run against each other.
"I think everyone on the Apportionment Board feels that there is real value to smaller districts, at least in principle where you can do them,” said Apportionment Board Chairman Tom Little.
Lawmakers this winter will make a final determination on the Legislative map that will be used in the 2022 election.
- Bob Kinzel
3. Second Democrat files papers for Senate run
A second Democrat has filed to run for the Senate seat which Sen. Patrick Leahy is vacating in 2022.
Political newcomer Niki Thran of Warren has filed to run, challenging Congressman Peter Welch who announced his campaign for the Senate last week.
Thran is an emergency room physician at Gifford Medical Center. She says she's particularly passionate about health care reform, gun control and environmental issues.
"I can offer the fact that I'm not a lifelong politician, that I bring real world experience to the job. I'm a big problem-solver,” she said.
Thran's campaign has raised over $13,000 dollars so far, according to filings with the Federal Election Commission. Thran says she plans to formally launch her campaign in January.
- Henry Epp
4. Deer season continues for archery, muzzleloader hunters
Rifle season may have ended Sunday, but it’s not too late to bag a deer in Vermont.
The archery deer hunting season continues through Dec. 15, while the muzzleloader season runs from Dec. 4-12.
Hunters need a hunting license and either an archery or muzzleloader license to take an antlerless deer or buck, if they didn’t get one earlier in the season. Muzzleloader hunters can take antlerless deer in designated Wildlife Management Units.
Hunters can take up to four deer during the Vermont hunting seasons, including one legal buck.
Permits are available on Vermont Fish and Wildlife’s website.
- Kevin Trevellyan
5. Vermont has a new chief medical examiner
Vermont’s long-time deputy medical examiner has been promoted to the top job.
Dr. Elizabeth Bundock was appointed on Monday to serve as Vermont’s chief medical examiner, in an announcement by state Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine.
Bundock is succeeding long-time Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Steven Shapiro, who has retired.
The Health Department says about 10% of the more than 6,000 deaths in Vermont each year require a forensic examination by the office of the medical examiner, who determines the cause and manner of deaths and contributing factors whenever possible.
Those findings about the illnesses and conditions contributing to deaths help inform state policies and programs.
Bundock will oversee the state's forensic pathology services with an eight-person staff and a statewide team of 32 community-based assistant medical examiners.
In the aftermath of flooding caused by Tropical Storm Irene in 2011, Bundock helped lead the search and recovery efforts at the Woodlawn Cemetery in Rochester, where floodwaters unearthed and displaced dozens of sets of human remains, which needed to be re-identified and re-interred.
- Associated Press
6. Two dead in Elmore shooting
State police are investigating a shooting in Elmore that left two people dead Monday morning.
Officers from several agencies, including the Vermont State Police, responded to a call at 6:55 a.m. about a domestic altercation at a home on King Road. Police found the bodies of Mary Lisa Kelley and Lawrence Jay Kennedy when they arrived.
Law enforcement officials say initial evidence indicates Kelley, who's 58, was fatally shot by her husband. Police say Kennedy, who's 61, then shot and killed himself.
The incident comes as state police are still investigating a weekend shooting in Alburgh that left two people dead and one injured.
- Liam Elder-Connors
7. Northern New England gas prices rose in last week
Gas prices rose in most of northern New England in the last week.
Prices in Maine went up nearly a penny per gallon over last week, to $3.45 per gallon of unleaded.
That's according to surveys of fueling stations by GasBuddy, which also found gas prices in New Hampshire stayed the same — at $3.36 a gallon — while Vermont saw prices go up half a cent, to $3.43 a gallon.
Nationally, the average cost of a gallon of gas was down nearly 3.5 cents, to $3.37 a gallon.
Drive Electric Vermont says fully recharging most electric cars — based on average electricity rates in the state — would cost between $10 and $15.
- Associated Press
8. Those enrolled in Reach Up program to receive extra payment
Almost 3,500 Vermont families enrolled in the Reach Up family assistance program will be getting an extra payment of $375.
The Vermont Department for Children and Families announced on Monday the one-time payment is in addition to monthly cash grants families receive.
The extra payment is to help pay for increased costs related to the pandemic.
Households with Reach Up grants between Sept. 1 and Oct. 15 are eligible.
The Vermont State Treasurer’s Office began issuing the checks last week, and all eligible families should receive them before the end of November.
- Associated Press
Elodie Reed and Kevin Trevellyan compiled and edited this post.