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

Vermont Coronavirus Updates For Monday, April 13

Putney General Store
Howard Weiss-Tisman
The Putney General Store offered a message of hope to shoppers.

Vermont reporters provide a round-up of ongoing local coverage of coronavirus for Monday, April 13.


Paramedic: COVID-19 may be causing some to pause before calling 9-1-1

Emergency Medical Service workers are accustomed to being called for all types of emergencies — from broken limbs to heart attacks. 

But during the COVID-19 pandemic, Chittenden County paramedic Dave Cohen said some people may be thinking twice before calling 9-1-1.

"In the past, people [would] call 9-1-1 because they're worried. They're worried something could be wrong; might be wrong," Cohen said. "Now, I think that uncertainty and stress is counterbalanced by the uncertainty and stress of not wanting to be in the hospital and not wanting to tie up resources."

Cohen said in his work with three different ambulence squads, he is seeing more calls from people in respiratory distress, whether or not it's related to COVID-19. 

For Henry Epp's full conversation with paramedic David Cohen regarding his experiences in E.M.S. during the COVID-19 pandemic, head here.

Amy Kolb Noyes and Henry Epp

Communications companies donate equipment to help Rutland students get online

With students learning from home for the rest of the school year, access to high-speed internet is crucial. 

But Dan Roswell, the network administrator for Rutland City Schools, said up to 20% of Rutland students didn't have it. 

Luckily, he said several communications companies donated hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of equipment and services to fix that. 

"The first thing that had to happen was VTel had to install cellular antennas in downtown Rutland — so this is a new system — and that took a couple of days to roll out because they had to build the infrastructure," Roswell said. 

Roswell said the school has been handing out free routers to some families, along with Chromebook computers. He said the equipment will help level the playing field for students learning remotely. 

For more about this effort, read or listen to the full story, here.

Nina Keck

South Burlington Holiday Inn will house COVID-19 positive Vermonters experiencing homelessness

A new facility to hold homeless and other vulnerable individuals infected with COVID-19 will open this week in South Burlington. 

The state will use the Holiday Inn hotel to house up to 150 people who are sick with the virus but are not in need of hospitalization. 

Human Services Secretary Mike Smith said the facility will be open as long as it needs to be.

"We will support the individuals isolating here until they recover from being COVID-19 positive and can be medically discharged as determined by healthcare staff." 

Smith said when the crisis is over, the hotel will return to its normal operations.

Liam Elder-Connors

Vermont fast-tracks temporary medical licenses

Health care professionals looking to practice in Vermont during the COVID-19 pandemic can now get fast-tracked for a temporary license.

New emergency measures signed by Gov. Phil Scott allow for temporary licenses to health care workers with licenses in good standing in other states, as well as to professionals whose Vermont license has lapsed. 

Health Commissioner Mark Levine said Vermont urgently needs experienced health workers to meet the demand for care. 

Amy Kolb Noyes

For more regarding Vermont's surge planning and current capacity to treat patients with COVID-19, head here.

Gov. Phil Scott promises to make data-driven decisions about reopening Vermont

Gov. Phil Scott said he'll make the decision about when to reopen Vermont; not the federal government. 

States around the country have shuttered much of public life in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The restrictions have resulted in a dramatic slowing of the U.S. economy and in millions of Americans being laid off. 

President Donald Trump has said he wants to restart the country's economy soon and potentially reopen states by May 1. 

Scott said Monday that's a decision that he'll make for Vermont; not President Trump.

"As we watch the data and I listen to the experts and we see the trends we're seeing, we'll take those steps because, again, I want people to get back to work, but to pick an arbitrary date I think is irresponsible," Scott said.

On Friday, Scott extended the statewide stay-at-home order until May 15

For more regarding the Governor's Monday press briefing regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, head here.

- Liam Elder-Connors

Vermont could hold August primary vote entirely by mail

The state is planning to hold the August primary vote entirely by mail, if needed. 

Secretary of State Jim Condos said lawmakers have given him authority to prohibit in-person voting if the coronavirus still poses health threats at that time. 

Even if in-person voting is allowed, Condos things the number of people who vote by mail will skyrocket for the Aug. 11 primary.

"Regardless of what we do, we believe that we will have a significant increase in vote by mail, and there is always the possibility — depending on what the information is that the governor is receiving — that we may go to a total vote by mail, where the ballot is actually sent to every registered voter," Condos said.

Condos said a decision about exclusively voting by mail need to be made in one month.

Bob Kinzel

Mass testing underway at two additional elder care facilities

The state is conducting mass COVID-19 testing at two facilities that house elderly Vermonters out of an abundance of caution. 

All residents and staff at Decker Towers, a senior living complex in Burlington, will be tested after two deaths occurred there in recent days.

Human Services Secretary Mike Smith said one of the deaths was not related to COVID-19, and the second is under investigation.

"Coupled with a self-reported case of COVID-19 in that facility, this led us to the conclusion that we needed to begin testing of the entire facility, and we did that on Easter," Smith said.

Smith said the Health Department continued testing at Decker Towers Monday.

The state is also testing everyone at the Veterans' Home in Bennington. Smith said there are no confirmed cases among residents there.

Read the full story, here.

Liam Elder-Connors

Green Mountain Power: Social distancing must continue in a power outage

Heavy rain and gusty winds are in the forecast for all of the Northeast today, and Green Mountain Power warns customers that the storm could take down trees and power lines, causing power outages.

Hundreds of customers have already experienced outages, especially in the southeastern part of the state.

GMP reminds customers to practice social distancing from crews responding to a power outage. 

Because people are being asked to stay at home, the utility suggests keeping your electronic devices charged in anticipation of a possible power failure. 

Amy Kolb Noyes

There are now 748 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Vermont

The daily increase of new COVID-19 infections in Vermont appears to be slowing, according to state health officials. 

Vermont has now tested more than 10,000 people for COVID-19. 

There are now 748 cases in the state, with 33 people hospitalized. 

28 people in Vermont have died from COVID-19. The latest death occurred over the weekend.

Health Commissioner Mark Levine said there were only 21 positive tests among 500 results the state got back on Sunday. 

"We seem to be approaching, if you will, a plateau," Levine said Monday at a press briefing. "We'll see if that is a sustained phenomenon or just a trend over several days." 

State modeling projects the peak of cases to be later this month or in early May. On Friday, the governor extended the statewide stay-at-home order until May 15.

For the latest information regarding the spread of COVID-19 in Vermont from Gov. Phil Scott's press briefing on April 13, head here.

- Liam Elder-Connors and Amy Kolb Noyes

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