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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 Thursday, April 30

A Sign Thanks Public Sector Employees On A Fence In Swanton
Abagael Giles
In Swanton, a laminated sign thanks those working through COVID-19 in the public service sector.

Vermont reporters provide a round-up of ongoing local coverage of coronavirus for Thursday, April 30.


Four new cases of COVID-19, plus two new deaths

The state reported two more deaths from COVID-19 on Thursday. That brings the total number of fatalities in Vermont from the disease to 49.

And of the 223 new COVID-19 tests, four came back positive, for a total of 866 cases to date. The new cases are in Chittenden, Rutland and Washington counties.

- Amy Kolb Noyes 

Trash haulers looking for recycling mandate flexibility during pandemic

Citing risks posed by the coronavirus, the Scott administration is joining with waste haulers around Vermont to press for flexibility with the state’s recycling laws.

Jeffrey Meyers runs Meyers Container Service, which serves residential and business customers in northern Vermont. He said he's not looking for a total exemption to recycling mandates.

“I don’t expect the tonnage of recyclables to go down in Chittenden County at all,” he said. “We will continue to recycle in certain areas that we can. What I’m concerned about is the areas where I have two guys in trucks and they have to get out and manually pick the recyclables and the trash.”

Studies have shown the coronavirus can live up to three days on plastic and metal surfaces.

A number of states and cities have relaxed recycling mandates during the COVID crisis. Communities in Maine recently dropped or pared back recycling programs to protect workers. Read the full story, here.

- John Dillon

Chester chef and community activist form food distribution effort

About a week before COVID-19 shut down Vermont schools, a chef and a community activist in Chester had a conversation about food insecurity.

The chef is Jason Tostrup of The Free Range restaurant. Chris Meyer is the activist. Together, they formed Chester Helping Hands, a nonprofit food distribution service.

As social isolation took hold, local businesses contributed food and produce that Meyer said would otherwise have gone to waste.

“Okemo Mountain emptied out all their coolers of like their dairy, their perishables to us,” Meyer said. “So for the first four, five weeks of this process, virtually everything we served was donated.”

Chester Helping Hands also distributes produce from Boston, charging just enough to cover costs.

In a recent week, with the help of volunteers, the group 600 boxes of fresh produce, and more than 1,000 free meals.     

- Betty Smith

Looking for help, or ways to help Vermonters during the COVID-19 crisis?Head here.

Remote forum for lieutenant governor candidates Zoom-bombed

A virtual forum for candidates for lieutenant governor was disrupted by the appearance of Satanic and Nazi images Wednesday night. 

The Essex County Democratic Committee was running the online forum, using the Zoom platform.

Guildhall resident Laura Wilson is secretary of the committee and said committee chair Martha Allen, who was running the meeting, made sure the participants were able to continue despite the interruption.

"She shut down the meeting. Everyone was able to get back on,” Wilson said. “We proceeded, then when it happened again she was able to, while keeping us all actually online, she was able to get rid of all the intruders, and keep us focused and on track."

Wilson said the Essex County Democrats will continue to hold online forums, but will use security measures such as an online waiting room for participants.

- Amy Kolb Noyes

Scott administration, Burlington mayor confident UVM will mitigate COVID-19 risks

The Scott administration said it’s confident that the University of Vermont will postpone in-person learning this fall if Vermont sees a resurgence of COVID-19.

UVM President Suresh Garimella announced Wednesday that students would be returning to the Burlington campus this fall.

Rebecca Kelley, communications director for Gov. Phil Scott, said Garimella has also indicated that he’ll abide by any public health orders issued by governor.

“And I think everybody understands at this point that even if something is put in place, we can’t predict where we’ll be in a few months, and everybody at this point should be understanding that changes can happen,” Kelley said.

More than 11,000 students are enrolled at UVM. The school has canceled in-person learning for the rest of the spring semester.

Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger said bringing University of Vermont students back in the fall is an important part of restoring economic stability to the community.

While he said he wasn’t aware UVM would be making the announcement Wednesday, Weinberger added the university is an important part of Burlington’s economy.

“It would concern me a lot if we had to go through another semester without that kind of activity happening in Burlington,” Weinberger said. “I think that would be a further blow. So I’m certainly hoping President Garimella succeeds with this goal.”

Weinberger said he’s confident UVM will develop protocols to mitigate the risks posed by the virus.

- Peter Hirschfeld and Liam Elder-Connors

State revenues projected to drop by $430M in next year

The economist for the Vermont Legislature has a dire warning about the fiscal impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Economist Tom Kavet said state revenues will be down almost $430 million in the next fiscal year.

“There's not expected to be a quick snap back in economic activity,” he said. “So we're looking at revenue losses of about three times what they were in fiscal ‘20.”

Lawmakers were alarmed by the scale of the projected shortfall as they start to build next year's budget.

Kavet noted that Vermont companies received about a billion dollars in federal funds to help keep workers employed. But he said that may have not reached restaurants and other small businesses hit hardest by the economic shutdown. He predicted Vermont's unemployment rate will be higher than 20%.

- John Dillon

Dartmouth-Hitchcock offers employers training on COVID-19 and workplace safety

An online program run by Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center is helping employers figure out how to protect workers as their businesses begin to reopen.

Project ECHO, which has long offered courses about medical issues, is now being used to share information about the coronavirus.

Carolyn Kerrigan, lead facilitator for the project, said medical professionals often learn new things from the community members who participate in the courses. She said that's the case as they work with businesses on COVID-19 safety.

- Betty Smith

This turkey season, hunters will report birds online

Spring turkey season starts May 1. By law, hunters have to report their turkeys to the department within 48 hours and successful hunters usually report their birds at local check stations. But not this year. The Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department said hunters should instead report their turkeys online.

According to the department, other states have also used online reporting.

This is a precaution to help stop the spread of COVID-19. The department will collect the same information they would at a check station.

Successful hunters should report their turkeys here.

- Anna Van Dine

Farmers's markets can begin opening Friday

Farmers markets around Vermont can open beginning Friday under new rules designed to limit the risk of spreading the novel coronavirus.

Jennie Porter, market development manager for NOFA-Vermont, said that growers and market managers are relieved they can finally open. But she said farmers markets won't be the familiar seasonal celebrations where neighbors meet while shopping for local food.

"It's not going to be the kind of market where you browse around, decide what you want," Porter said. "It's going to be really intentional, like move through the line, point to what you want, then get out of there. there will be no congregating. It's definitely not going to be the market atmosphere we're all used to."

The markets will also feature only food vendors and not crafts sellers. Porter said that, along with the expected decline in tourist traffic, will affect market revenue.

More from VPR: In Pandemic Era, Farmers Meet Consumers, But Don't Call It A Market

- John Dillon

Construction projects staffed by out-of-state crews remain stagnant

Now that worker restrictions for construction sites have been eased a bit, some Vermont crews are back on the job.

But out-of-state crews working on Vermont projects aren't yet underway.

That's because of rules prohibiting non-essential out-of-state workers from coming here unless they self-quarantine for two weeks. As a result, the big tunnel project in Middlebury is idle because it is being done by a largely New York-based work crew.

Wayne Symonds, chief engineer for the Highway Division of Vermont's Agency of Transportation, said there are other examples.

"The Lancaster, New Hampshire - Guildhall, Vermont bridge project does span the Connecticut River. And the drawbridge between North Hero and Grand Isle, Vermont — the contractor there is from Maine," Symonds said.

Until quarantine requirements are met or lifted, non-essential operations with out-of-state workers will remain on hold.

- Betty Smith

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