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News Roundup: Vermont Surpasses 18,000 COVID-19 Cases Since March 2020

A sign on white cloth painted in purple and majenta reads Thank you Essentials on a brown lawn.
Kari Anderson
A sign along Route 15 in Essex Junction thanks essential workers.

Vermont reporters provide a roundup of top news takeaways about the coronavirus and more for Wednesday, March 24.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 89 new COVID-19 cases

Vermont passed a pandemic milestone of 18,000 COVID-19 infections, with the addition of 89 new cases statewide Wednesday and two additional deaths.

That puts the number of virus-linked fatalities to 222 since the start of the pandemic.

Today, 21 cases each were found in Rutland and Chittenden Counties, accounting for the bulk of the new daily cases.

There are 27 hospitalized with the virus. Five of those people are in intensive care.

Fully a third of adult Vermonters – more than 182,000 people over the age of 16 – have started vaccinations against the virus.

- Matthew Smith

State officials urge Vermonters to continue to follow coronavirus safety protocols

While Vermont officials are encouraged by the amount of eligible people signing up to get vaccines, they're urging residents to keep their guard up against the coronavirus after cases ticked up in the state and the Northeast in the last week.

At the governor's update Tuesday, Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine also urged younger populations, particularly those in their teens to age 40, to protect themselves against COVID-19, because of so-called long haul symptoms.

Levine says cases of the virus are now highest in these age groups, and there's more to learn about long-haul COVID-19 – also called post-acute COVID syndrome – where symptoms surface months after the illness.

- The Associated Press

2. Gov. Scott, Vermonters 60 and older, eligible for vaccines Thursday

Gov. Phil Scott says he’s ready for his COVID-19 vaccine.

The health department will schedule appointments with anyone 60 or older beginning Thursday, and the governor, who’s 62, says he’ll get in line for his shot.

“I myself am looking forward to signing up because I believe every Vermonter should sign up when they’re eligible,” Scott said Tuesday. “So I’ll be doing so myself when able to do so on Thursday."

The state has been vaccinating about 5,500 people a day, on average.

After Scott’s age band opens up Thursday, the next group, those 50 and older, will be allowed to sign up on Monday.

Vermont set to receive boost in COVID-19 vaccine alottment next week

Vermont will be getting more COVID-19 vaccine next week as the state plans to open up registration to anyone over the age of 50.

Gov. Phil Scott says the Biden administration on Tuesday told governors that pharmacies, as well as state clinics, will see a boost in supplies.

“That’s about 5,000 more doses this week, than last week. So that’s great news for us,” Scott said.

Scott said the state will be getting more of all three vaccines from the federal government.

Starting next month, Vermonters will be able to choose which vaccine they get

Vermonters will soon be able to choose which vaccine they want when they sign up for their COVID-19 shot.

At the governor’s press conference on Tuesday, Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine said people might be able to choose their vaccine sometime next month.

“When there’s the opportunity for choice, we should allow Vermonters to have some choice so that when they register they know exactly what is available, where, and on the date that they want to sign up for,” Levine said.

When the vaccine rollout started, there was no ability to choose because supplies were so limited.

Levine said as the supply increases, clinics will offer options between the three approved vaccines.

- Howard Weiss-Tisman

3. Vermont sees strong vaccine uptake among older populations

Vermont’s COVID-19 vaccination program is among the strongest in the nation.

At the governor’s press conference Tuesday, Commissioner of Financial Regulation Michael Pieciak said more than 81% of those 65 and older are either partially or fully vaccinated.

“And when we look across the country, we see that Vermont now stands as the second highest vaccine uptake among our most vulnerable population to date,” Pieciak said.

Pieciak also said Vermont had the second lowest per capita fatality rate in the country from the coronavirus.

The number of cases reported daily is expected to drop further over the next few months as more people get vaccinated.

- Howard Weiss-Tisman

4. Children under 16 could wait until early 2022 for vaccines

Gov. Phil Scott says some children might be able to receive the COVID-19 vaccine before school restarts in September.

Scott was on a call with Dr. Anthony Fauci on Tuesday, who said clinical trials have been going well for those younger than 16-years-old.

“We should expect all high school students will be eligible this fall, and young children by the first part of next year,” Scott said.

The COVID-19 vaccines have not yet been approved for people under the age of 16.

Moderna and Pfizer are both conducting trials on children across the country.

- Howard Weiss-Tisman

5. Gov. Scott says he expects border crossings will be open first to vaccinated individuals

While the border with Canada remains closed, there are still a lot of questions about what international travel will look like once it opens up.

Governor Phil Scott said Tuesday he thinks only vaccinated people will be able to travel between the two countries at first.

“I would imagine that both the Canadian government and the U.S government would have some sort of provision for having a vaccine passport of some sort,” Scott said.

Scott said he’s been checking in with government officials in Washington about the border, and stressed that all decisions will be made at the federal level.

- Howard Weiss-Tisman

6. Vermont House advances $150 million local broadband expansion bill

The Vermont House wants to spend big to boost broadband internet statewide.

Lawmakers Tuesday overwhelmingly supported  legislation that would direct about $150 million to local efforts to expand broadband internet.

Dover Representative Laura Sibilia is vice chair of the Energy and Technology and Committee. She told the House that the pandemic proved that broadband services are a necessity.

“We need a paradigm shift in order to build broadband to the last mile in Vermont,” Sibilia said. “This bill intends to provide coordination, to require accountability, to focus on universal service, not just connectivity to the most profitable customers.”

The legislation creates a new state entity, called the Community Broadband Authority, to fund the work with state grants and loans.

The bill advanced on a 145-1 vote. It comes up for final approval later this week.

- John Dillon

7. Vermont Senate advances bill calling for review of public financing law

The Vermont Senate has advanced legislation that calls for a comprehensive study of the state's public financing law to see if changes are needed to encourage more candidates to participate in this system.

Backers of the plan are concerned that current spending caps for qualifying candidates are too low and need to be increased if a candidate hopes to run a competitive campaign for Governor or Lieutenant Governor.

Washington senator Anthony Pollina is a strong backer of public financing and wants the study to also consider including legislative races in the system.

“You know, many other states have public financing that work quite well,” Pollina said. “In Connecticut, about 85% of their legislators rely on public financing to win their elections.”

The legislation also bans corporations from making contributions to all state and local candidates.

- Bob Kinzel

8. Vermont Senate considers bill that would make reimbursement of remote workers permanent

The Vermont Senate is considering a bill that would make permanent a version of a popular incentive program that aims to lure workers to the Green Mountain State.

In 2018, Vermont unveiled its remote worker program, which provided $10,000 in moving reimbursement for new residents who moved in and could work remotely.

Seven Days reports that the Senate Committee on Economic Development, Housing and General Affairs is now proposing a $1 million program that would provide up to $5,000 in moving reimbursement for new residents who work full-time.

That could rise to $7,500 for someone who moves to an area with a higher-than-average unemployment rate or lower-than-average annual wages, the paper reports.

- Brittany Patterson

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