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Vermont Coronavirus Updates For Tuesday, May 12

A person wearing a face mask delivering a paper bag to a car window.
Aliya Schneider
Eileen Rounds, a waitress at Little Harry's Restaurant in Rutland, delivers food to customers at their car on May 7, 2020. Little Harry's reopened for takeout service on April 22.

Vermont reporters provide a round-up of ongoing local coverage of coronavirus for Tuesday, May 12.


Health Department reports one new case out of nearly 400 new COVID tests

The Vermont Department of Health reported 391 new tests and one new case of COVID-19 on Tuesday, bringing the total confirmed cases to 927.

Five people remain hospitalized with the disease, and an additional 13 people are “hospitalized under investigation.”

The state did not report any further deaths today, and the total number of deaths associated with confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Vermont remains at 53.

Vermont has so far conducted 21,262 tests for COVID-19. An estimated 787 people have recovered from the disease.

- Abagael Giles

Facing potential drop in enrollment, UVM plans to increase access for in-state students

The University of Vermont, like colleges across the country, is anticipating a significant drop in fall enrollment. While that's bad news for UVM’s finances, there may be a silver lining for Vermonters looking to study closer to home.

UVM President Suresh Garimella says colleges and universities are bracing for up to a 20% drop in enrollment next year. And he said surveys show students are now far less likely to attend college outside of their home state, due to COVID-19.

Nearly three-quarters of UVM’s undergraduates come from outside Vermont. If those students don't return, Garimella said he hopes to fill empty classroom seats with Vermonters.

“You know, if students want to transfer, that's one thing. But even if they're not transferring, they're staying in the state but want to take courses from UVM, we're making it very easy for them to do so,” he said.

Because in-state students pay lower tuition than their out-of state peers, the increased opportunity for Vermont students will come at a price for UVM.

- Amy Kolb Noyes

State outlines plans for increasing broadband

State officials say they're working on both short- and long-term plans to increase broadband internet access.

Public Service Commissioner June Tierney outlined the parallel tracks to lawmakers Tuesday. In the short term, she said the state will bring wireless service to some 150 students in the Northeast Kingdom who lack internet.

The long-term goal is to use up to $300 million in federal funds to improve service statewide. But Tierney said Congress has not approved that money.

“The plan is built to address what I consider to be a fundamental inequity in this state that's been highlighted by this emergency,” she said. “It has been built with the anticipation, as has happened in prior crises, that what follows is the availability of sizeable federal funding.”

The state is taking comment on the emergency broadband plan until May 26.

- John Dillon

Burlington campsite for homeless shutting down at end of week

A campsite in Burlington that’s sheltered homeless people since March will shut down at the end of this week.

The North Beach site has 25 camper trailers to house individuals who had been staying at a homeless shelter that was closed due to COVID-19 concerns. The campsite was a collaboration between the city, state and the non-profit Anew Place.

Kevin Pounds is executive director of Anew Place. He said 13 people will be moved to motels and about a dozen others will find places to camp outside. He added now that Anew Place has experience managing a campsite, they’re hoping to open a tent site in June.

“Some of the same guests that we had in the campers, instead of them being spread, we can provide some basic things like showers and bathrooms and even a meal per night,” Pounds said.

He said the tent site would probably house 30 people.

- Liam Elder-Connors

Teachers worry about at-home trauma

Many teachers say working remotely without the daily interaction with students has been frustrating.

Rutland High School’s Jennie Gartner said she worries about keeping kids on track academically and emotionally — especially kids who consider school their safe place.

“When we bring kids back, whatever has been going on at their home, for many of them, is going to create a challenge for them emotionally and psychologically just to be able to get back into the groove of school,” she said. “But also, there's going to be all kinds of new traumas that they've experienced that are going to further hinder, you know, their ability to be able to be active in the classroom.”

But Gartner believes schools will also learn from this period of remote learning that may help make teaching more flexible in the future. Read the full story, here.

- Nina Keck 

New Hampshire opens up malls, salons

New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu says he won't hesitate to shut down shopping malls again if safety guidelines aren't followed.

Monday was the first day that non-essential retail stores, hair salons and golf courses could reopen in New Hampshire under new rules aimed at preventing spread of the coronavirus. Among those reopening were Mall at Rockingham Park in Salem, the Pheasant Lane Mall in Nashua, the Mall of New Hampshire in Manchester and the Merrimack Premium Outlets.

Meanwhile, lawmakers advising Sununu on spending the state's $1.25 billion in coronavirus relief aid made their first recommendations Monday.

- Associated Press 

More from VPR: Gov. Phil Scott: Vermont's Retail Sector To Reopen On May 18

COVID-19 silences group singing in public

Until an effective vaccine or treatment is available, public singing in groups, from church choirs to barbershop quartets, has been effectively silenced by COVID-19. 

Stefanie Weigand is past president of the Vermont chapter of the American Choral Directors Association.

“Singers are kind of ‘super-spreaders,’ as we call it, so normally we talk about six feet, but singers move air up to about 16 feet,” Weigand said. “So that’s part of the biggest problem, trying to get people that far away from one another.”

And while other art forms have found their way online, Weigand doesn't know of any web platform that works well for a group trying to sing together in real time.

- Betty Smith

Senate approves bill allowing delayed suspension of license

The Vermont Senate has passed a bill that could delay the suspension of driver's licenses for people charged with driving under the influence.

The bill says the people charged can keep their licenses until a court holds a hearing in the case. Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Sears told his colleagues on Tuesday that courts have postponed many hearings during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This is for those cases where somebody requests a hearing. And you might say, ‘Why would you do this?’” Sears said. “Well, the reason is, you are presumed innocent until found guilty. So the hearing does begin that process for the person.”

Sears said the bill only applies to civil, not criminal, DUI charges. He added those are limited to first and second offenses.

- John Dillon 

Lawyer urges federal court to allow New York presidential primary election to proceed

A lawyer is urging a federal appeals court to let New York state's Democratic presidential primary proceed on June 23rd, over the objections of the state.

Attorney Jeffrey Kurzon filed his arguments late Monday with the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The appeals court is scheduled to hear arguments Friday before deciding whether to let stand a lower-court ruling last week that required the presidential primary to occur next month.

- Associated Press 

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