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The home for VPR's coverage of health and health industry issues affecting the state of Vermont.

Scott Administration: COVID-19 Cases In Eight Group Living Settings, Federal Money Available

A handwritten "closed" sign on a glass door.
Nina Keck
Gourmet Provence in Brandon, Vermont. Members of the Scott administration shared coronavirus updates at a press conference Wednesday, including new federal money available to Vermont businesses and individuals.

Vermont's top health official said Wednesday there are now people testing positive for COVID-19 in eight group living settings, including care facilities, senior living communities and one condo complex, all located in Chittenden County.

Health Commissioner Mark Levine listed the locations at what has become a thrice-weekly press conference in Montpelier Wednesday. They are:

  • Burlington Health & Rehab
  • Quarry Hill in South Burlington
  • Pinecrest at Essex
  • Birchwood Terrace in Burlington
  • Taft Farms in Williston
  • Lancaster condo complex in South Burlington
  • Shelburne House in Williston
  • UVM Home, Health & Hospice

Levine said that as of Tuesday, 15 people have died from COVID-19 in Vermont, and 28 new people have tested positive for the illness, bringing the state's tally to 321 cases. He noted that two of the latest deaths involved "elderly people in group living situations," and another two occurred in a hospital setting.
“I know how hard this is. It's hard for all of us," Gov. Phil Scott said. "Very few of us can remember a time or event that has affected each of us with such real consequences. Our sense of normal and the comfort and stability that comes with it has been put on hold."

Looking for answers to some frequently asked questions about the new coronavirus in Vermont? Head here.

Volunteers wanted

Scott urged Vermonters with medical experience to join a new volunteer corps, noting the state struggled with a health care workforce shortage long before the COVID-19 pandemic.

The governor said his Medical Reserve Corps would help staff medical surge sites and backup facilities that are being created in case hospitals become overwhelmed by COVID-19 cases. He also called for volunteers with other skillsto sign up to be ready to help with Vermont's coronavirus response.

Unemployment claims

Meanwhile, the state processed more unemployment claims in the past two weeks than it typically sees in one year according to Labor Secretary Michael Harrington.

He estimated the state has seen "up to" 40,000 claims in that time frame. He also acknowledged that many people are struggling to get through to file their claims, and urged them to be "resilient" and keep trying, pledging that everyone eligible will receive benefits.

The Labor Department has reassigned workers from other departments to help process claims, tripled its phone staff, and opened online portals. But Harrington acknowledged it hasn't been enough, and that the department's "30-year-old mainframe system" is strained.

Have questions, comments, concerns or experiences you want to share about coronavirus? Fill out VPR's brief survey, here.

Business loans, individual payments

Commerce Secretary Lindsay Kurrle urged all small businesses to apply for a federal economic injury disaster loan, which provides $10,000 to make payroll and other expenses, and does not have to be repaid.

She also touted the federal "Paycheck Protection Program"to help businesses make payroll with a loan of up to $10 million. The first two months of the program are forgivable if businesses keep staff on their payroll, Kurrle said.

Kurrle said Vermonters should expect direct payments from the federal government — workers who make less than $75,000 will be elgible for $1,200, plus $500 for each child — within 30 days.

"We know that we will need to do more, but it is a start, a foundation to build on," she said.

Out-of-state travel

Scott said he remains concerned about out-of-staters traveling to Vermont, and reiterated his order issued Monday to have people arriving in the state long-term to self quarantine for 14 days. Scott cited reports that the ski town of Sun Valley, Idaho, has suffered a serious outbreak due to tourists.

"We want to prevent that from happening in Vermont," Scott said.

In response to a reporter's question, the governor said the state is monitoring traffic coming into Vermont through Grand Isle County.

"Anecdotally, we had heard many people were coming to the state," he said. "We’re not taking registration numbers or anything like that – just looking for colors of plates to determine who's coming in.”

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Mark Davis has spent more than a decade working as a reporter in Vermont, focusing on both daily and long-form stories. Prior joining Vermont Public as assistant news director, he worked for five years at Seven Days, the alt-weekly in Burlington, where he won national awards for his criminal justice reporting. Before that, he spent nine years at the Valley News, where won state and national awards for his coverage of the criminal justice system, Topical Storm Irene, and other topics. He has also served as a producer and editor for the Rumblestrip podcast. He graduated from the University of Maryland's Philip Merrill College of Journalism.
Elodie is a reporter and producer for Vermont Public. She previously worked as a multimedia journalist at the Concord Monitor, the St. Albans Messenger and the Monadnock Ledger-Transcript, and she's freelanced for The Atlantic, the Christian Science Monitor, the Berkshire Eagle and the Bennington Banner. In 2019, she earned her MFA in creative nonfiction writing from Southern New Hampshire University.
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