News Roundup: Vermont Dept. Of Health Reports 60 New COVID-19 Cases
Vermont reporters provide a roundup of top news takeaways about COVID-19, Tropical Depression Henri and more for Monday, Aug. 23.
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 findthe latest vaccination data online any time.
1. Vermont Dept. of Health reports 60 new COVID-19 infections
The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Vermont Monday has jumped to 33, as state health officials report 60 new infections.
Thirteen people are hospitalized in intensive care.
The health department also recorded 132 news cases Saturday, and 122 on Sunday.
All 14 Vermont counties are now experiencing what the CDC classifies as high or substantial spread of the coronavirus, and recommends wearing masks indoors even among those fully vaccinated.
Vaccination data — last updated Friday — shows 85.2% of eligible Vermonters have received at least one vaccine dose.
— Matthew Smith
Dartmouth College relazes its mask policy, as COVID cases rise
Dartmouth College is slightly relaxing its mask policy at the same time as it deals with an increase in COVID-19 cases.
After seeing very few cases earlier in the summer, 11 students and 10 employees tested positive in August, as of the 17th, campus officials said.
At least 19 of the 21 cases were in fully vaccinated individuals. Some had no symptoms, while others had mild illnesses.
The college earlier this month began requiring masks in nearly all indoor settings, a policy now being relaxed to allow students living on campus to remove their masks anywhere in their residences if they are vaccinated and have no symptoms.
— The Associated Press
Vermont music venues require proof of vaccination
Some Vermont entertainment venues are asking visitors for proof of vaccination against COVID-19 to attend events.
Higher Ground in South Burlington and the Vermont Comedy Club in Burlington have announced such policies.
The Burlington Free Press reports coffee house, bar and music venue Radio Bean and the bar Three Needs enacted similar plans earlier this month.
Higher Ground reopens Tuesday for the first time in nearly 18 months, and will require proof of full vaccination or a negative test from the past 72 hours for patrons to enter.
Higher Ground founder and co-owner Alex Crothers says, with the delta variant on the rise, the requirements are an important safety measure both for customers, but also for the touring artists performing at the venue.
— The Associated Press
2. City of Burlington mandates vaccines or weekly testing for all employees
Vermont's largest city is mandating its workers get the COVID-19 vaccine or face weekly testing.
Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger announced the requirement at a press conference Friday.
Weinberger says more than 90% of city employees are already vaccinated.
"This is something we've been focused on and measuring for sometime," Weinberger said. "And we did wait to put a mandatory policy in place until we felt like we'd gotten as far as we could with voluntary policies."
The new vaccination policy will take effect on Oct. 8.
— Liam Elder-Connors
3. Vermont set to receive $50 million to provide mortgage relief
The state is expected to file its application this week for $50 million in federal housing aid for low income Vermonters.
Maura Collins is with the Vermont Housing Finance Agency and says the COVID relief money will help homeowners catch up on mortgage payments that have been delayed due to the pandemic.
"A lot of it is left up to states to determine what the need is, and who to prioritize, and things like that," Collins said. "And then we hope to open the program as soon as we can after we get that federal approval."
The number of delinquent mortgages in Vermont is about double what it was before the pandemic.
— Howard Weiss-Tisman
4. July employment report shows uneven progress on recovery
Vermont's Department of Labor released new unemployment numbers Friday for the month of July, showing a slight improvement over June.
Vermont's unemployment rate dropped to 3 percent in July — a 0.1% improvement over June.
While unemployment for July was down nearly 60% over the same month last year — those gains haven't been felt evenly across the state. Five counties — Bennington, Grand Isle, Lamoille, Rutland and Windham — are still seeing employment down by more than 10% from this time last year.
The food and lodging sector has also been slow to recover, with employment still down by nearly 20% from pre-pandemic levels.
Expanded federal unemployment benefits are set to expire Sept. 4.
— Abagael Giles
Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development launches new relocation program
The Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development has launched its latest relocation program to entice workers to move to the state.
Online applications for the grants went online Thursday, and require proof of residency and documentation of eligible expenses.
The Burlington Free Pressreports, if approved, residents can receive up to $7,500 in reimbursement grants for eligible expenses.
Previously, the Vermont Legislature created the Remote Worker Grant Program in 2018 and then the Worker Relocation Grant Program the next year.
Combined, the two programs have awarded more than 300 grants to "newly settled Vermonters."
— The Associated Press
5. New England mayors, city councilors meet to discuss preparation for climate change
A group of mayors and city councilors from New England met last week to discuss climate change and its effects on the region.
Montpelier Mayor Anne Watson says increased precipitation is just one concern regional leaders are facing.
"Something that also came up is drought; more extreme weather events and particularly the loss of industries," Watson said. "The person from Maine talked about the seafood industry — that they’re anticipating and already starting to see the beginnings of [impacts]."
A $3.5 trillion resolution passed the U.S. Senate earlier this month calling for funding to support climate action. The reconciliation bill goes before the House in the coming weeks.
— Karen Anderson
6. New survey examines the burden health care places on Vermonters' finances
A new survey is revealing the toll that medical costs are taking on Vermonters’ finances.
Mike Fisher, the Chief Health Care Advocate for Vermont, says his office launched the survey last month.
Fisher said he’s been overwhelmed by the response.
“We were blown away here," he said. "We knew we were going to hear some horror stories, and we knew we were going to hear some passionate stories. But to have almost 2,000 people respond...”
Fisher says that according to the survey, the cost of medical care is forcing some Vermonters to forego other essentials.
Fisher says elected officials and other policy makers need to find ways to help Vermonters deal with rising health care costs.
Fisher said his office is trying to raise awareness about the scope of the problem.
“People live in isolation about this issue — embarrassed, feeling horrible about the dynamic, and we really wanted to do what we could to reduce the stigma," he said.
Fisher said he plans to present the results of the medical debt survey later this this year.
He says he hopes the report will spur legislative action in Montpelier.
— Peter Hirschfeld
Abagael Giles compiled and edited this post.