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News Roundup: Vt. Officials Report 122 New COVID Cases, 1 Additional Death

A sign reading face coverings required per gov. phil scott outside a general store entrance
Abagael Giles
At Emmon's Supermarket in Grand Isle, a sign instructs shoppers to wear a mask when they enter, per Gov. Phil Scott's executive order.

Vermont reporters provide a roundup of top news takeaways about the coronavirus, recent debates in the Statehouse over a bill that would update the state's sexual assault laws and more for Thursday, Feb 11.

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The latest coronavirus data:


1. State reports 122 new COVID cases, 1 additional death

Health officials recorded 122 new COVID-19 cases across Vermont Thursday, and one additional death.

The state’s coronavirus fatalities now number 188. Currently, 48 people are hospitalized, including 10 in intensive care.

The Department of Health is reporting more than 12% of Vermont's population has gotten at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

- Matthew Smith


Special enrollment period for uninsured vermonters opens Feb. 16

Uninsured Vermonters will have an additional opportunity to enroll in a qualified health plan.

Department of Vermont Health Access Commissioner Cory Gustafson says the special enrollment period will help Vermonters who have lost employment-based health insurance during the pandemic.

Those who meet eligibility requirements will also get help with premium payments.

The period will run from Feb. 16 to May 14. Enrollees will have to call the state’s customer support center at 1-855-899-9600. There will be no online enrollment. 

- Steve Zind


Co-op employees lobby for restoration of hazard pay

Workers at the Burlington grocery co-op City Market are calling for the restoration of hazard pay after the bonus lapsed last month.

VTDiggerreportsmore than 200 co-op employees signed a petition last week calling on management to implement a $5 per hour raise as part of extra compensation for workers amid the heightened risks of the pandemic.

In the last two weeks, two City Market workers at different stores tested positive for COVID. Several more had to quarantine.

Workers successfully petitioned for hazard pay last March, but it lapsed in January.

Co-op representatives did not comment on the petition but say past hazard pay was "not sustainable" during a time of "unprofitability" during the pandemic.

- Matthew Smith

2. Legislature debates updated sexual assault bill

 Some key Vermont lawmakers say it’s time to update the law that criminalizes sexual assault. 

The proposed legislation would make it illegal to engage in sexual activity with someone who’s too intoxicated to give consent. Prosecutors say the existing statute has made it difficult to hold offenders accountable.

Washington County State’s Attorney Rory Thibault told lawmakers that can make it difficult to obtain a conviction in sexual assault cases.

“And the areas that really come into play are when you have someone who is impaired by alcohol or asleep or unconscious or somewhere in that type of state,” he said. “Unfortunately, there are many cases where this is an issue.”

The consent provision is part of a wider-ranging bill, H. 183, that’s under review by the House Judiciary Committee. The legislation would improve data collection on sexual assault cases, and also create a taskforce to address sexual violence on college campuses.

Backers of the legislation say the council would recommend strategies for violence prevention.

They say the council would also provide legal advice to survivors of sexual violence.

- Peter Hirschfeld

3. Gov. Scott wants major investment in state IT systems

Gov. Phil Scott has proposed spending $53 million to upgrade or replace various information technology systems in the state government. On Wednesday, lawmakers got a quick tour through some of the existing systems that are decades old.

At the Agency of Human Services, for example, officials use 15-year-old software to track and pay for child care services. Secretary of Digital Services John Quinn says the system frequently crashes.

“This system has gone down several times over the past year,” he testified. “I've gotten calls in the middle of the night saying 'oh, we're having issues again.’”

Other state departments with antiquated IT infrastructure include the Department of Motor Vehicles and the Department of Labor.

Quinn says that in addition to the one-time appropriation of $53 million, the Scott administration will propose a funding source to raise revenue for continued upgrades.

- John Dillon

4. UVM basketball arena delayed again

 Construction of a new basketball arena at the University of Vermont is facing another delay.

UVM’s Board of Trustees last week approved resuming the $95 million overhaul of the school’s athletic facilities.

But the board will wait to secure $30 million dollars in bonds to start building the new basketball arena called the Tarrant Center.

The Burlington Free Press reports the project was delayed last spring, when the school cited financial uncertainty from the coronavirus pandemic.

In December, UVM announced plans to phase out 27 academic programs as it addresses an $8.6 million budget deficit.

- Associated Press

5. State tax credits go to businesses and projects across Vermont

Vermont has awarded more $770,000 in state tax credits to nine businesses and projects across the state.

Among the businesses reaping the benefit are Almond Blossoms Schoolhouse, a St. Albans child care center getting more than $35,000 in tax credits for upgrades to expand into the building's second floor, doubling its capacity.

Randolph House, a senior apartment facility in Randolph, will get more than $108,000 in tax credits for an elevator and other code-related upgrades.

And Winooski's Four Quarters Brewing got $125,000 in tax credits toward its $1.6 million rehab of an historic 1824 building and former bank. Its credits go toward an up-to-code brewery with indoor and outdoor seating, and space to brew beer.

- Matthew Smith


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