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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 26

Friends lie on blankets at the Tunbridge Fairgrounds
Sarah Priestap
(Clockwise from bottom) Life-long friends Tommi Hoyt of Tunbridge, Annabele Lapp of Sharon, Cora Tallman, of Randolph, Emma Hansen, of Tunbridge, and Claire Jenisch of Strafford, hang out together at the Tunbridge Fairgrounds on May 19.

Vermont reporters provide a round-up of ongoing local coverage of coronavirus for Tuesday, May 26.


Vermont reports 15 new cases of COVID-19 over the long weekend

The Vermont Department of Health reported 15 new cases of COVID-19 in Vermont, since Friday, and no additional deaths over the long weekend. Just one person is currently hospitalized with a confirmed case in Vermont, but 24 people are hospitalized under investigation.

To date, 848 people have reportedly recovered from the illness, and the state has now conducted 30,423 tests for active cases of the new coronavirus. 

So far, 54 people have died from COVID-19 in Vermont, and 967 cases have been identified to-date within the state. Of those cases, 848 people have recovered.

Abagael Giles

Chittenden County States Attorney hopes some pandemic protocols can remain

Fewer people in custody and more remote hearings — two changes to Vermont courts from the coronavirus pandemic that one states attorney hopes are here to stay. 

State courts have been under a judicial emergency since mid-March, putting most non-emergency hearings on hold. 

Chittenden County States Attorney Sarah George told Vermont Edition she's worked closely with law enforcement and the Department of Corrections to reduce the state's prison and pre-trial detainee population — both now at their lowest level in years.

"We've done a lot," George said. "I think that there's more we can do. I continuously hear about cases of people being held who don't think they should be. But right now, at least in Chittenden County, the people being held pre-trial are really only for very violent offenses." 

George said returning people to their communities and doing more case updates and status hearings remotely could free court resources for more serious cases. 

Listen to the full episode from today's show, here.

Matthew Smith

None were turned away at Burlington meal distribution Tuesday

The Vermont Foodbank held its latest giveaway Tuesday on Burlington's beltline. While distribution sites in other parts of the state have run out of supplies and turned cars away, volunteers still supplied jugs of milk and boxes of Meals Ready-to-Eat to the last few cars waiting in line.

Megan French was one of the Civil Air Patrol volunteers standing under hot sun. She said they were able to give people meals for not only their families, but for others too.

"People came in their cars, and I'd ask them how many people in their family, and they're saying, 'Well, I have this many people in my family, but I'm also picking up for an elderly neighbor, or an elderly relative,' or another family in their neighborhood," French said. 

The "Farmers to Families" food distribution program is a joint effort by the Vermont Foodbank, the Vermont National Guard and the Abbey Group. There will be events in Brattleboro on Wednesday, Swanton on Thursday and Lyndonville Friday. For the full list of events (and any scheduled changes), head here.

May 27: Brattleboro Union High School, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

May 28: Franklin County Airport: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

May 29: Caledonia County State Airport: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

- Elodie Reed

Vermont Law School expects steady enrollment next year

Vermont Law School is among the campuses preparing to bring students back to the state this fall, after switching to online classes partway through the spring semester. 

Many colleges are bracing for a sharp drop in enrollment due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The University of Vermont recently announced anticipated cuts in classes and teaching hours

President Thomas McHenry said the numbers so far show VLS won't see a drop in enrollment next year due to COVID-19. 

"The appetite from the students to both be on campus and continuing their law school studies seems to be pretty strong," McHenry said. 

He said independent colleges around Vermont are working with the state to develop protocols for students arriving from out-of-state in the fall. 

Amy Kolb Noyes

Congressman Welch is advocating for new legislation to support small businesses

Congressman Peter Welch said he hopes that legislation giving small businesses more flexibility in using COVID-19 recovery funds will pass with bi-partisan support this week. 

Welch said he's heard from many Vermont small business owners that the original federal Payroll Protection Program was mired in unnecessary rules that caused a number of them not to apply.

"There is a consensus that we've got to help the small businesses and the PPP as currently designed doesn't do that for many," Welch said. "The goal is to... give [folks] a fighting chance to stay alive. I think that there's a really good prospect that we'll pass this."

The legislation will mark the first time that the House has considered a bill using remote voting technology.

Welch said it's important to protect small businesses that follow coronavirus safety standards from being sued by a customer who later gets sick.

Welch made his comments to a video meeting of the Vermont Lodging Association.

Several Association members expressed concern that they could get sued even if they adhere to federal regulations. 

"Taking those precautions that the public health experts say need to be taken in this public health circumstance — that is your obligation," Welch said. "If you meet that obligation, you shouldn't suffer liability."

Welch said some of his colleagues support blanket immunity for all small businesses, while others want no immunity under any circumstances.

Members of the Vermont Lodging Industry are among those urging Congress to extend the Payroll Protection Program, which allows them to keep their employees on the payroll using COVID-19 recovery funds.

The program, passed last month, is set to expire early next month.

Brian Maggiotto, general manager at the Inn at Manchester, said many businesses need the program to be extended.

"Most of them will have received their [funds] about seven weeks ago at the earliest, and those funds will have dried up," Maggiotto said. "If they opened this weekend for Memorial Day, they maybe saw 10% of what they would normally forecast or expect for a weekend in Vermont."

The U.S. House is set to vote on the bill later this week.

Bob Kinzel

Vermont real estate agents report heightened interest from out-of-state buyers

Despite restrictions imposted to limit the spread of the coronavirus, Vermont real estate agents say they're showing more property to tou-of-staters these days.

Gayle Oberg, owner of Little River Realty in Stowe, said rules imposed under the state of emergency bar customers from making a day trip to shop for real estate. She said some buyers have signed purchase contracts without seeing the property they are buying. 

Others who had already sheltered here for weeks or months in rental properties or with friends have realized they can do their work remotely without moving back to the city.

"We're seeing people that want to come here and be in a safe environment, a healthy environment and then combining it now with the fact that they can work, it's going to open a lot of Vermont to people that may come here four days a week," Oberg said. "Maybe they'll move here. You know, I'm wondering if their home in Vermont doesn't become their primary, and their home in the metropolitan area might be downsized and become more of a second home."

Real estate agents say they are using video and software that can display 3D floor plans to give virtual house tours to out-of-state clients. Erik Reisner at Mad River Valley Real Estate recently gave a virtual house tour to a Massachusetts family who have decided to move to Vermont.

"It's similar to the post 9-11 effect, I'll call it, where we saw the number of students in our local schools rise post 9-11, due to families moving out of more metropolitan areas," Reisner said.

Under rules designed to limit the spread of the coronavirus, out-of-state clients must self-quarantine for 14 days before visiting a Vermont property. Brokers can show a property to only one customer at a time and everyone must wear masks and maintain physical distancing.

- John Dillon

Mourners adapt to remember, celebrate those who have died

With COVID-19 preventing people from gathering in large groups, even for funerals and memorial services, mourners and funeral homes are coming up with new ways for communities to remember those who have died.

Michelle Acciavatti, a funeral director at Guare and Sons in Montpelier, said that one strategy is using printed obituaries to set up shared moments to remember a loved one.

"Some people have asked for everyone to raise a toast at a specific time.. perhaps you can ask someone to take a picture of themselves raising that toast, or to send you a note after they've done it," Acciavatti said. "So it's a collective experience: You're not in the same room, but you're all doing the same things."

Acciavatti said she thinks some of the changes being made now in how we remember those who have died will continue past the end of the pandemic.

Read the full story, here.

Sam Gale Rosen

As move-in day approaches, out-of-state students are required to quarantine

University of Vermont students returning to Burlington in June to live in off-campus apartments are being advised to follow strict COVID-19 mitigation measures, including quarantining for two weeks. 

June 1 typically marks move-in day for hundreds of out-of-state students returning to Burlington to live off-campus. But this year, with the pandemic, there's concern that the influx could bring a spike in COVID-19 cases.

Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger said the city has worked with UVM to come up with mitigation plans, including pop-up testing sites staffed by the National Guard.

"That would allow additional testing to take place as-needed, to ensure that this flow of people coming back across state lines are able to get tested," Weinberger said.

Burlington Police will also conduct additional patrols to make sure students know about quarantine guidelines.

Weinberger said the city will also offer students "supportive quarantine services." 

"What that's going to mean is the city will check in with them regularly. The city is going to provide some sort of welcoming care package that has a mask, some hygiene supplies, and has some other kind of local products," Weinberger said. 

Liam Elder-Connors

Grand Isle Fishing Festival is on-hold, but not free fishing

Vermont's free fishing day is coming up next month. Saturday, June 13, anyone can fish without a fishing license on the state's streams and lakes. 

The day also kicks off the start of the regular bass fishing season, which runs through the last day of November.

The Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department said the annual Grand Isle Fishing Festival, which is normally held on the annual free fishing day, is on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic.

- Associated Press

Burlington beltline closed from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. for food distribution

In Burlington, the beltline — or State Highway 127 — is closed in both directions from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Tuesday, as the Vermont Foodbank and Vermont National Guard use the roadway to hand out meals to those in need.

To obtain food, drivers can enter the beltline from the north. They will receive food from the distribution center, then can proceed farther south and exit the beltline at Manhattan Drive.

Sam Gale Rosen

Brattleboro's selectboard will meet to discuss resolution requiring masks

The Brattleboro selectboard has scheduled a special meeting Tuesday to discuss its recently adopted resolution to require masks in all commercial and non-profit buildings.

The board voted last week to require the masks during the emergency session, without giving the public or the business community a chance to weigh in. 

Burlington and South Burlington have also adopted resolutions and other towns around Vermont have debated the measure.

More from VPR: Business Owners, Shoppers Hopeful As Brattleboro's Main Street Reopens

Howard Weiss-Tisman


Gov. Scott: 'Buy Local is not just for hippies anymore'

The State of Vermont is launching a marketing campaign to encourage people to shop at local businesses to help them to recover from the impact of the coronavirus.

Many non-essential businesses are starting to reopen on a limited basis after being closed for more than two months.

Scott said if there was ever a time to support local businesses, that time is now.

"It was about ten years ago, when I first became lieutenant governor that I had this campaign going, where I talked about [how] 'Buy Local' is not just for hippies anymore," Scott said. "And it's never been more important than today, so remember that as we work our way out of this, we can help each other out by just looking at the products we buy, and ... [buying] from each other." 

Scott said current restrictions will gradually be lifted if the number of new cases remains low. 

Bob Kinzel

For a timeline outlining Vermont's response to COVID-19, head here.

Gov. Scott says office work will be one of the last sectors to reopen in full

The Scott Administration has no plans to bring most state employees back to their offices in the near future.

Since mid-March, many of Vermont's more than 7,000 state employees have been working at remote locations.

The Department of Labor has been one exception.

Gov. Phil Scott said the state is gradually reopening its economy as the number of new coronavirus cases continues to decline.

But, he said he's in no rush to bring most employees back to their offices.

"We want to continue to encourage remote work and that will be the last sector to [be brought] in," Scott said. "That goes for outside of state government as well... [we'll] just keep encouraging remote working at this point in time." 

It's likely that most of the remote working arrangements will continue during the summer.

Bob Kinzel 


Vermont's immigrant farmworkers push for access to coronavirus aid

Vermont's immigrant farmworkers say they want access to the same coronavirus aid programs that are helping other workers in the state.

The state and federal government have taken extraordinary measures in recent months to help newly jobless Vermonters stay afloat. 

Will Lambek, with Migrant Justice, said migrant farmworkers have been excluded from those programs, because of their citizenship status. 

"Workers who the country is admitting are necessary to keep our food chains going, to make sure we have stocked shelves in the supermarkets, are being left out of government responses to this crisis," Lambek said.

Vermont dairy farms employ an estimated 1,000 to 1,500 immigrant farmworkers.

Seven farms have stopped production since March, according to the Agency of Agriculture. And at least five migrant workers have lost employment and housing as a result.

More from VPR: 'They Should Include Us': Vermont's Immigrant Farmworkers Push For Coronavirus Aid

Peter Hirschfeld


New York State scraps directive to send recovering coronavirus patients to nursing homes

More than 4,500 recovering coronavirus patients were sent to New York's already vulnerable nursing homes under a controversial state directive that was ultimately scrapped amid criticisms it was possibly accelerating the outbreaks.

That's according to an Associated Press tally conducted after the state declined to release its own survey.

Whatever the full number, the March 25 order requiring nursing homes to take recovering COVID-19 patients from hospitals has become a thorny political issue for Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who abruptly reversed the policy May 10. 

New York leads the nation in nursing home deaths with about 5,700 reported.

Associated Press


Vermont officials treat summer tourism season with caution

As Vermont gradually reopens its state economy, officials are taking a cautious approach to the summer tourism season. 

Dept. of Financial Regulation Commissioner Mike Pieciak said that while Vermont has recorded only 25 new coronavirus cases in the past week, there have been more than 8,000 new cases detected in Massachusetts and more than 16,000 in New York State. 

"So that gives you some relative context to the challenges that our neighbors are continuing to face and why it's so important for Vermonters to stay vigilant, and for us to stay vigilant as a state in allowing outside visitors to visit here," Pieciak said.

At this time, state officials are requiring out-of-state visitors to quarantine for 14 days at a Vermont location before traveling around the state.

Bob Kinzel


State officials say Vermont is on track to continue reopening

State officials are cautiously optimistic they'll be able to gradually reopen Vermont's economy in the coming weeks.

Department of Financial Regulation commissioner Mike Pieciak said that's because the state's experience with the coroanvirus has exceeded even the best forecasts that were established two months ago.

"Vermont's data and forecasts continue their favorable trends with less than 20 COVID-positive tests reported during the previous week," Pieciak said. "This means Vermont continues to perform better than forecasted and continues to stand out, both regionally and nationally as a state well-positioned to safely and strategically continue to reopen its economy." 

If the favorable trends continue, the Scott administration is expected to announce the lifting of additional retail industry restrictions by the end of the week. 

For a summary of the latest restrictions lifted in Vermont, head here.

Bob Kinzel


New podcast re-examines a century-old Barre murder

In a new podcast titled The Last Archive, Harvard Historian and New Yorker staff writer Jill Leporeexamines the changing understanding of truth, using a centruy-old Barre murder case as a jumping-off point.

Lepore said she came across the case of Lucinda Broadwell, murdered in Barre in 1919, in a private detective's notes she found in the Harvard Law School Library.

"In the course of my reopening this case, I look at the different rules of evidence that are used by people who tried to solve the case at the time," Lepore told Morning Edition. "That is, the matter of guilt, but also the scientific evidence that was available on the examination of the corpse. And how did reporters, what were their standards of evidence in reporting on this case? And then, what are mine as a historian? There was a way to... take this compelling, creepy crime and use it to open up a whole series of questions about how we know anything about anything."

A conviction was made in the Broadwell case 100 years ago, but Lepore said that she came to disagree with the jury's conclusion.

Read the full story, here.

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