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News Roundup: COVID Variant B117 Confirmed In Lab Samples From Chittenden County

A sign reads COVID ALERT with various instructions around masking, social distancing and where to find testing on a white door, open, to Willys Store in Greensboro.
John Dillon
At Willys Store in Greensboro, a sign directs patrons to testing options, and reminds visitors to wear masks and practice social distancing.

Vermont reporters provide a roundup of top news takeaways about the coronavirus and more for Tuesday, March 9.Want VPR's daily news in podcast form? Get up to speed in under 15 minutes withThe Frequency every weekday morning. How about an email newsletter?Add our daily email briefing to your morning routine.

The latest coronavirus data:


1. Vermont Department of Health reports 87 new COVID-19 cases

Vermont health officials reported three new COVID-19 deaths Tuesday, along with 87 new virus infections.
The state has now seen a total of 211 deaths since the pandemic began.

Of today's cases, 28 were in Chittenden County, with 12 in Franklin and 10 in Washington County.

There are now 30 people hospitalized with COVID statewide, including seven in intensive care.

As of today, more than 127,000 Vermonters – just over 23% of the adult population – have gotten at least one vaccine dose.

- Matthew Smith

New B117 variant detected in specimen collected from Chittenden County

The Vermont Department of Health says the coronavirus variant first identified in the UK last year has been found in Vermont.

Lab tests confirm B117 is in the state – something health officials have said was expected, given its wide circulation throughout the country.

The CDC says the variant is more transmissible, and the agency expects it to become the dominant strain of the virus nationwide.

The variant was detected in a specimen taken from a Chittenden County resident.

- Brittany Patterson

UNH reports two cases of the B117 variant found on its Durham, N.H. campus

The University of New Hampshire says two cases of the B117 coronavirus variant have been found on its Durham campus.

UNH did not disclose if those who tested positive are students or faculty.

The campus cases of variant, which was first discovered in the United Kingdom, come a month after the first case of the mutation was reported in New Hampshire. Since then, five other cases of the variant have been found in the state.

New Hampshire Public Radio reports UNH is engaged in one of the state’s most ambitious testing regimens. In the past week alone, the school performed more than 12,000 tests, revealing 89 positive cases.

- Matthew Smith

More from NHPR: U.K. Variant Of COVID-19 Detected In Two People Connected To UNH’s Durham Campus

Dartmouth College continues to see cases decline

Dartmouth College is easing some of its coronavirus restrictions after case counts declined on campus.

The Valley News reports the college announced plans to relax some restrictions Monday, after the total number of COVID-19 cases on campus dropped to 78 over the weekend. Those in isolation and quarantine also dropped nearly 60%.

The eased restrictions include opening the campus library, gym, and other buildings. In-person classes and student labs are also set to resume.

Students are still barred from visiting one another in their rooms or gathering in hallways. On-campus dining continues to be grab-and-go.

- Matthew Smith

2. Nearly 150 COVID-19 cases now associated with Newport prison outbreak

Six more incarcerated individuals and two more staffers at the state prison in Newport have tested positive for COVID-19.

Nearly 150 people have been infected by the outbreak. Since Feb. 23, 134 people held at Northern State Correctional Facility have tested positive for COVID-19. So far, 12 staffers have also contracted the virus. 

Despite the new cases reported Monday, the Department of Corrections says the spread of the virus seems to be slowing. DOC said Monday that 20 of the incarcerated people who were infected were allowed to leave medical isolation this weekend.

The facility is still in a full lockdown and everyone there was tested again on Monday.

- Liam Elder-Connors

3. At current rate, Vt. won't meet phosphorous reduction goals for Lake Champlain until 2038

The state Agriculture Agency says Vermont farmers cut phosphorus pollution by 27 tons last year, thanks to increased cover cropping and other conservation measures.

But despite the progress, the state is only 13% towards meeting its phosphorus reduction goals for the lake. And, at the current pace, those goals won't be met until 2038.

Water quality activist James Ehlers says the lake can't wait.

“The state of the lake is continuing to decline,” Ehlers said. “And it's declining because we're trying to subsidize an industrial dairy industry with the Vermont landscape.”

The Agriculture Agency says state and federal programs paid out $28 million last year to help farmers implement the conservation measures.

- John Dillon

4. Burlington residents rally to appeal CityPlace zoning permits over parking

The long-awaited CityPlace Burlington development project is facing yet another possible setback.

Developers of the downtown mixed-use housing and retail complex last week received zoning permits from Burlington’s Development Review Board.

That came after the city reached a settlement agreement with the project’s developers last month that included assurances that streets surrounding the site would be redeveloped.

But as Seven Days reports, a group of residents say they will appeal the project’s newly-received zoning permits because developers aren’t going to build enough parking.

They argue the planned 422 parking spaces are not enough to support the 426 residential units, not to mention parking from shoppers and workers.

Dave Farrington, one of the project partners, told the paper he disagrees and says the developers are providing as much parking as they can under current code.

- Brittany Patterson

5. Essex merger proposal fails again upon recount

A recount has confirmed that voters in in the town of Essex rejected a merger with the village of Essex Junction at town meeting last week.

VTDigger reports a recount by the Essex Board of Civil Authority went late into Monday night.

In the end, the recount found the merger proposal lost by 19 votes, two more than the tally reported on Town Meeting Day.

Essex residents could still petition the town to reconsider a merger in a future re-vote. The happened in 2007, when the re-vote process overturned a vote in favor of a merger from the previous November.

- Matthew Smith

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