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

Vermont News Updates For Monday, August 10

A customer wearing a mask picks up an ice cream cone to-go at the Burger Barn
Abagael Giles
Much has been canceled this summer, but not ice cream. On a hot day in late July, a customer picks up a scoop of Island Ice Cream to-go at the Burger Barn in Jeffersonville.

Vermont reporters provide a roundup of ongoing local coverage of the coronavirus, the August 11 primary election and more for Monday, August 10.

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The latest coronavirus data:


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

The Vermont Department of Health reported three new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, with one new case in Chittenden County, one new case in Rutland County and one new case in Bennington County. So far, 1,462 cases have been identified in Vermont.

No one is currently hospitalized with a confirmed case of the virus, though 11 people are hospitalized with symptoms under investigation. To date, 1,282 people have recovered from the disease, and 58 people have died. The state did not announce any new deaths on Monday or over the weekend.

So far, officials have tested 103,353 people for active cases of COVID-19. Additionally, 945 travelers are being monitored for symptoms and 31 people are currently being monitored as close contacts of confirmed cases.

- Abagael Giles

UVM President responds to criticism of plan to return students to Burlington

The President of the University of Vermont said he expects students living off-campus will follow public health guidelines to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Students are set to return to campus this month, raising concerns that the influx could bring new cases of coronavirus to the area.

Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger raised a number of concerns last week about UVM's reopening plan, and said the school needed to do more to discourage off-campus students from throwing parties.

UVM's reopening plan includes a pledge that students have to sign, saying they'll follow physical distancing and other public health protocols, and could face sanctions if they break those rules.

UVM President Suresh Garimella said the school is also trying to educate students.

"We're working with our student government leaders to serve for both undergra and grad students as peer inflencers in following the expected protocols," Garimella said Monday. "So we're also working with our fraternities and sororities about ways in which they can support the health and safety of our communities."

Garimella says Burlington residents can also file reports with UVM if they see violations of the state guidelines.

Garimella said he thinks the school's COVID-19 testing strategy will be enough to contain any outbreaks on campus.

All students will be tested before returning to campus, once they arrive and then weekly until Sept. 18, when the university will reassess its strategy.

That plan has faced pushback from Weinberger and others, and Garimella said UVM does not currently have a threshhold for when it would shut down the campus due to high rates of coronavirus.

"Of course, we would decide whether any adjustments are advised, but there are so many ways this could proceed that... I think there's no way we can plan for every sort of combination of outcomes," he said.

Garimella said UVM will work with the state health department and city of Burlington to adjust its strategy as needed.

- Liam Elder-Connors

More from VPR: If Returning UVM Students Are Following Public Health Guidance

Health commissioner says updated back-to-school guidance will be released Tuesday

The Agency of Education released safety and health back-to-school guidance in June, requiring there to be six feet between student seating and desks.

Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine told Vermont Edition Monday that updated school guidance would be released at Tuesday's press conference, which might include requiring only three-to-six feet between students.

"Even if a three-to-six-foot range became the new norm, I can assure you that would only be the norm for the younger student population," Levine said.

Levine said high school students should be treated as adults when it comes to their ability to transmit COVID-19.

Listen to the full conversation, as heard on Vermont Edition.

- Emily Aiken

University of Vermont president defends plan to bring students back to campus

The University of Vermont said its COVID-19 testing strategy for students returning to campus is one of the "most aggressive in the entire nation."

As VPR's Liam Elder-Connors reports, the university's defense of its reopening plan comes after Burlington's mayor raised concerns last week.

UVM says all students returning, including ones from Vermont, will be tested when they arrive on campus. Students will also have to take weekly tests until September 18, when the university will reassess its strategy.

Last week, Mayor Miro Weinberger, in a letter to UVM's president, said he was concerned that UVM changed its plan from testing students twice a week, to only once per week. Weinberger also said UVM should share its test results daily.

In a response to Weinberger, UVM President Suresh Garimella said the school's plan exceeds state requirements for reopening and that they have "rigorous quarantine and isolation protocols" if anyone tests positive.

More from VPR: If Returning UVM Students Are Following Public Health Guidance

- Liam Elder-Connors

Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department establishes 100th Wildlife Management Area

The Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department has established its 100th Wildlife Management Area. The 526-acre property is in Shrewsbury.

Fish and Wildlife Commissioner Louis Porter said it's a "key parcel in a strategic, state-significant wildlife corridor, connecting state land to the north with federal and privately conserved land to the south."

Officials said the area is used by black bear, bobcat, moose and deer, as well as upland bird species and migratory songbirds. It contains small wetlands, vernal pools and mast-producing trees.

- The Associated Press

Scott says high school fall sports will go on

Gov. Phil Scott said COVID-19 will not result in a cancellation of the fall sports season at Vermont schools.

But Scott said competition won't look the same during the coronavirus pandemic.

"Kids, coaches and parents should prepare themselves," Scott said Friday. "Things will look much different, especially when it comes to high-contact sports."

Scott said his administration is working with the Vermont Principals Association on fall sports guidelines.

He said he expects those guidelines to be issued this week.

Colleges and universities across the region have already cancelled their fall sports seasons.

Two people with the University of Vermont basketball program tested positive for COVID-19 last week.

Read the full story.

- Peter Hirschfeld

Vermont could be affected by nationwide shortage of testing supplies

Commissioner of Health Mark Levine said Vermont may soon encounter new hurdles when it comes to testing residents for COVID-19.

Levine said demand for testing supplies across the country is outstripping supplies.

"As many states struggle with a resurgence of cases, we can expect, possibly predict, a slowdown or shortage of the supplies needed to both collect samples from people at test sites, and to analyze the specimens in the lab," Levine said.

Levine said Vermont is stockpiling testing supplies to avoid a shutdown in testing turnaround times. As of this week, Vermont has conducted more than 100,000 COVID-19 tests.

Read the full story.

- Peter Hirschfeld

Child care centers now eligible for $12 million in COVID-19 relief

Gov. Phil Scott said during a media briefing Friday that the new program will be accepting grant applications through Aug. 26.

"This will help childcare providers with losses and additional expenses due to COVID-19," Scott said.

Child care and afterschool programs, as well as summer day camps and parent-child centers, are all eligible for grants.

Money for the program comes from the federal coronavirus relief bill passed by Congress earlier this year.

Read the full story.

- Peter Hirschfeld

Agency of Commerce, Department of Taxes award $70 million in small business grants

Vermont's small businesses are struggling in the coronavirus economy - and commerce officials say even the current $500 million relief package falls short.

A VPR-Vermont PBS poll found 93% of Vermonters are concerned about the future of the state's small businesses in the coronavirus pandemic.

Ted Brady, deputy secretary at the Agency of Commerce and Community Development, said in the last month, his agency and the Department of Taxes gave out $70 million in grants to more than $2,000 Vermont businesses.

He told Vermont Edition recently that it's just not enough.

"We estimate that every month of this crisis is costing our economy about $1 billion, having a negative economic impact to these businesses of about $1 billion," Brady said.

Brady said he's hopeful additional grant programs will be on offer within the month, including programs for businesses run by a sole proprietor.

Listen to the full conversation, as heard on Vermont Edition.

- Matthew Smith

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