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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 Tuesday, May 5

Two people eat ice cream in front of a blue awning reading "Olsen's Ice Cream."
Elodie Reed
Vergennes couple Emma Jackman, 16, and Aidan Gardner, 18, try out Olsen's Ice Cream on its opening day on Saturday, May 2. While they brought cloth masks with them, Jackman said they were trying "to make it as normal a summer as possible."

Vermont reporters provide a round-up of ongoing local coverage of coronavirus for Tuesday, May 5.


Vermont Department of Health reports five new cases of COVID-19

The Vermont Department of Health reported five new cases of COVID-19 Tuesday. That brings the total cases so far in Vermont to 907.

Over 17,500 tests for the disease have been administered and analyzed in Vermont, including 186 new ones in the last day. A total of 52 people have died.

- Amy Kolb Noyes

Delays in unemployment benefits frustrate lawmakers

Lawmakers are increasingly frustrated with the state's failure to work through a backlog of claims for unemployment benefits.

When Labor Commissioner Michael Harrington told the Joint Fiscal Committee on Tuesday about delays in implementing a new program for people who were self-employed, Montpelier representative Mary Hooper demanded a faster response.

“We are more than a week -- and perhaps more than two weeks -- away from having the people trained who can resolve these complex cases, which means that there are folks that are more than a month from having any sort of income,” she said. “I just find that really disturbing.”

Harrington said he's working on alternative plans, such as enrolling self-employed claimants in the regular unemployment system and adjusting their claims later.

- John Dillon

Welch anticipates rural broadband legislation

Congressman Peter Welch said there's growing bipartisan support for a bill providing high speed internet in all rural states.

Welch said the pandemic has highlighted the need to have these services available so people can work at home, participate in telemedicine sessions and take online education classes.

“Now we've got rural members of Congress like myself saying 'hey we want to have high speed broadband, same standard as New York City or Boston, in Greensboro, in Walden,” he said, “if we make that decision then the implementation flows from that."   

Welch said the bill could be considered in the next month.

- Bob Kinzel

Lawmakers pass eviction-prevention bill

A bill that protects renters from evictions during Vermont’s COVID 19 state of emergency is on its way to Gov. Phil Scott.

The Senate agreed to amendments proposed by the House and gave the bill final approval on Tuesday.

Sen. Michael Sirotkin, D-Chittenden, sponsored the bill. He said the legislation won support from both landlords and tenants.

Gov. Phil Scott has indicated support for the legislation, but says he wants to review the final version.

- John Dillon

Addison County Fair and Field Days is cancelled

This year’s Addison County Fair and Field Days events have been cancelled. The fair's board of directors made the announcement on its Facebook page.

Saying the decision caused "sadness in their hearts," board members announced the week-long event in August would be too dangerous given the coronavirus pandemic.

The board said the decision will jeopardize the non-profit organization's finances.

- Mark Davis

Welch wants new stimulus money with no strings attached

Congress is considering another major stimulus package, and Congressman Peter Welch said he wants states to be able to use these new funds to offset budget deficits.

The first $2.2 trillion stimulus bill only allowed states to pay for coronavirus-related expenses. Welch said states should be able to spend the new stimulus funds as they see fit.

“I'd like those decisions to be made by governor Scott and by the General Assembly,” he said.

Welch said he’s hopeful Congress will pass out another stimulus package by the end of the month.

- Bob Kinzel

Vermont State Colleges campuses plan to reopen in fall

The plan is for all campuses of the Vermont State Colleges System to reopen in the fall.

The announcement came in an email from VSC on Monday. In the email, interim chancellor Sophie Zdatney expressed appreciation for a statement of support for the colleges system from legislative leaders.

"We are eager to move forward with plans to address our current financial challenges so that we can assure everyone in the VSCS family that we are open and secure now and well into the future,” Zdatny said.

- Sam Gale Rosen

Dartmouth: Not enough room for all students to return in fall

Dartmouth College administrators say there won't be enough space for all students to return to campus in the fall.

The Valley News reports the college's president and provost told the campus community this week that they want as many students, faculty and staff to return as can be safely accommodated amidst the coronavirus pandemic.

However, "there is not enough room for all students to return."

The college expects to decide how the fall semester will operate by the end of June.

The announcement is a stark contrast to theUniversity of Vermont announcement last week that students will be welcomed back in the fall.

- Amy Kolb Noyes

GMCB denies Northwestern Medical Center rate increase request

The Green Mountain Care Board has unanimously denied an emergency request from Northwestern Medical Center in St. Albans to raise its rates for medical care by 15%.

VTDigger reports that board members said a large, immediate increase would unfairly burden health insurers and Vermonters.

In response, hospital spokesperson Jonathan Billings said the hospital would need to more aggressively cut services and staff.

- Sam Gale Rosen

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