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Vermont Coronavirus Updates For Saturday, April 11

People stand spaced out in front of a yellow building.
Howard Weiss-Tisman
Volunteers at the Putney Food Shelf pause for a spaced-out portrait while working curbside pickup Saturday morning.

Vermont reporters provide a round-up of ongoing local coverage of coronavirus for Saturday, April 11.


Another two corrections staffers test positive

Two more Vermont corrections workers have tested positive for the new coronavirus as the state continues to manage the outbreak at the Northwest State Correctional facility.

The first inmate tested positive for COVID-19 on April 8. As of Saturday, a total of 32 inmates and 16 staff members from the Franklin County prison had tested positive. The Corrections Department is waiting for results on nine staff members.

Corrections Commissioner Jim Baker told VPR in an email that a staffer from the Northern State Correctional facility in Newport has also tested positive for COVID-19.

The state has moved 28 positive inmates to the work camp at the Northeast Correctional Complex in St. Johnsbury. The infected staff members are being asked to self-isolate at home or at a site arranged by the state.

The state said none of the prisoners in the work camp are showing symptoms of COVID-19. And officials said they moved all inmates at the work camp to other facilities prior to housing the infected prisoners there.

- John Dillon

Vermont COVID-19-related deaths up to 25

State officials said Saturday one more person died in Vermont who tested positive for the coronavirus as the number of cases continues to rise.

The latest numbers from the Vermont Department of Health show the total COVID-19 cases has now risen to 711, up 32 from Friday's report. The department also reports another COVID-19 fatality, bringing the total to 25.

Currently, 32 people are hospitalized with the disease. And the state has stepped up the number of tests to detect the virus, with more than 9,000 tests administered by Saturday.

- John Dillon

Farmers provide pre-ordered pickup

According to Vermont officials, farmers markets should remain closed to prevent the spread of COVID-19. But in Montpelier, Saturday consumers and farmers found a way to connect anyway.

The Capital City Farmers market allowed people to pick up food they had pre-ordered in advance. About 10 farmers were there to greet them at a safe distance. And Renee Kievit-Kylar of East Montpelier was glad to see them.

“It's a great time to support the local farmers,” she said. “And it's an adventure, because I got to leave the house for a reason, which was really exciting. And it keeps me from crying all the time.”

Farm organizations have pressured the Scott administration to lift the ban on markets. They say spring is a critical time for sales, and the markets can impose strict social distancing rules to protect public health.

- John Dillon

To read more about how farmers and customers connected Saturday despite the state's ban on outdoor markets, head here.

Rutland sets up hospital surge site in hockey rink

An overflow hospital site at Castleton University will be ready for patients next week. Rutland Regional Medical Center is setting up to deal with a possible surge from the coronavirus pandemic.

On Friday, Rutland Regional Medical Center nurse Elizabeth Kyhill walked onto what is normally Castleton University’s Spartan Arena hockey rink and explained how the site would handle non-COVID-19 patients.

“Currently we have 100 cots in here,” she said.

The facility’s incident commander, Dr. Jeff McKee, said the site is not just for Rutland.

“We’re part of a statewide system of alternate care sites,” he said. “So we’re keeping an eye on what’s going on in Bennington and Brattleboro and Springfield and Middlebury, as well as what’s going on at our own hospital in Rutland. So it’s possible that Rutland could be okay, but another part of the state might need us. So we’re still prepared to step up and be part of that statewide system.”

McKee said it was hard to believe the transformation that occurred over just five days: What was once a place everyone brought their kids ice skating was now a fully functional hospital setting.

“Here we are now ready to go,” he said. “This is one of the most important pieces of work we’ll ever do in our community, that we’ll hope we’ll never have to use.”

- Nina Keck

Dairy farmers ineligible for aid as milk prices plummet

Dairy farmers aren't set to get any immediate relief from the $2 trillion stimulus bill passed by Congress and signed by the president.  The aid is meant to help people and businesses harmed by the COVID-19 crisis. 

Congressman Peter Welch said he's frustrated that farms are not eligible for the $10,000 emergency loan available to most other businesses.

“The problem we have with the bill is there's not a mechanism to get cash immediately to farmers,” he said.

Welch said the law needs to change to allow the Small Business Administration to make the loans to farmers, as it does with other businesses.

Milk prices are plummeting as the COVID-19 pandemic keeps schools and restaurants closed. Prices paid to farmers are projected to soon drop far below what it costs to produce the milk.

- John Dillon

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