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Two Records In One Week: Vermont Sees New Daily High Of 148 COVID Cases

People wearing face coverings walk past a sign saying they must wear them
Elodie Reed
A sign informs customers at the Berlin Walmart that they must wear facial coverings on Thursday, Nov. 19.

Vermont reporters provide a roundup of top news takeaways about the coronavirus, a recount in Speaker of the House Mitzi Johnson's legislative race and more for Thursday, Nov. 19.

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The latest coronavirus data:


1. Vermont sees a new single-day record for new COVID-19 cases

The Vermont Department of Health reported another record-breaking number of COVID-19 cases Thursday and another death.

Vermont reported its sixtieth and sixty-first COVID-19 deaths this week. Three people have died in November alone, following three months without a single COVID-19 death.

The Department of Health reported 148 new positive cases of the disease. As it stands, it's the highest daily total reported since the start of the pandemic, a record which has been repeatedly broken in the past week. The number of COVID-19 tests that are positive has risen to 2.1%

50 of the new coronavirus cases are in Washington County, which has seen more cases than any other county in the past two weeks. 36 new cases were also identified in Chittenden County. All other counties had at least one new case.

17 people are hospitalized, one of whom is in the ICU.

- Anna Van Dine

Three residents at Rutland residential care facility have died

Three residents at a residential care facility in Rutland have died in a COVID-19 outbreak.

The outbreak at Rutland Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center includes 26 residents and 13 staff members, as of Thursday. According to Genesis HealthCare, the national company that owns the facility, Rutland Health and Rehab is now testing for the virus three times per week, and screening residents three times daily.

As of Wednesday, an outbreak at Four Seasons Home Care in Northfield numbered 20 positive cases, including 17 residents and three staff.

- Matthew Smith and Anna Van Dine

State health officials ramp up messaging in Washington, Orange counties

Washington and Orange counties are responsible for 40% of all the COVID-19 cases in Vermont over the past two weeks.

State health officials are asking local leaders to help stem the tide.

Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine held a conference call with city officials in Barre on Monday evening.

And Barre City Fire Chief Doug Brent called it the most somber meeting of his career.

"One of the things that they were most worried about is that their information that they've been handing out at the state level seems to be falling on deaf ears, or people are just becoming immune to hearing it," Brent said.

Brent said Levine wants municipal leaders to amplify the governor's COVID safety messages.

And he said the Department of Health will be providing city leaders with new communication strategies.

- Peter Hirschfeld

Nursing home staff 'strained beyond capacity'

The state office that regulates nursing homes and long-term care facilities says the worsening coronavirus pandemic means staffing at such facilities has been "strained beyond capacity."

Those words were from Monica White, director of the Department of Disabilities, Aging and Independent Living, or DAIL.

WCAX reportsDAIL has called for volunteers for licensed nurses and health care providers, anyone willing to help with maintenance, food service and other tasks.

White said some staff are working double or triple shifts.

She said her department continues to send inspectors to the facilities, to ensure residents are protected and workers are safe, despite the staffing strains.

- Matthew Smith

2. Vermont's top health official reiterates: Vermonters should stay home for Thanksgiving

Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine says it's critical Vermonters avoid gathering with people outside their household this Thanksgiving.

New state restrictions that limit social gatherings are now in place. Levine said data shows new infections linked to outbreaks happen in small social gatherings of ten or fewer people.

Levine said it's crucial that Vermonters deny the virus any foothold in their community.

"Banning these gatherings and the travel bans are really gonna be the measures that do the trick," he said.

The restrictions were put in place due to a surge in the number of COVID-19 cases in Vermont.

New health guidelines cover outdoor recreation too

State health officials say new coronavirus restrictions that limit social gatherings to just one family or household are necessary, even for activities like outdoor recreation.

Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine said even exercising outside has led to small group gatherings that could pose a risk.

"I think prior to this new guidance, you could go out on the bike path or multiple walking paths throughout the state, and you'd have people without masks, in groups, not always respecting the distance between each other," Levine said. "We do not want to invite that kind of behavior."

The restrictions were put in place due to a surge in the number of COVID-19 cases in Vermont.

Listen to the full story.

- Matthew Smith

3. House Speaker's race headed for a recount

There will be a recount Friday for the House seat currently held by House Speaker Mitzi Johnson.

On election night Johnson narrowly lost her race by 20 votes and she requested a recount.

Grand Isle County Clerk Sue Bohannon said ballots from six towns in the district will be examined by hand and then placed in an optical scan tabulator.

"So we have them in the vault, until the morning of. We've got the sheriff's department transporting them from the vault to the community hall, and there will be a deputy there until the count is complete," she said.

Bohanon said a group of six Republicans and six Democrats has been appointed to oversee the process. a final result is expected late Friday.

- Bob Kinzel

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