News Roundup: Vermont Logs 162 New COVID-19 Cases, 2 New Deaths
Vermont reporters provide a roundup of top news takeaways about the coronavirus and more for Wednesday, March 30.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 Dept. of Health reports 162 new COVID-19 cases
Health officials reported 162 new coronavirus infections across that state on Wednesday, as Vermont continues to see near-record numbers for new cases.
The Health Department also reported two new virus-related deaths today, bringing the state's total to 227.
Sixty of today's new cases are spread across Chittenden County, with a dozen or more cases in Caledonia, Franklin, Orleans and Rutland Counties.
Coronavirus hospitalizations also rose to 31 people today, including two people in intensive care.
To date, just over 37% of Vermonters 16 or older have started the vaccination process with at least one shot.
- Matthew Smith
Vermont officials urge residents to get vaccinated
Vermont officials are urging the state's residents to get vaccinated against COVID-19 to help reduce the spread of the virus.
Vermont is continuing to set or approach records for the number of new cases of the virus reported in the state, but many of those new cases are among young people who are less likely to suffer serious consequences or death from COVID-19, and who have not been vaccinated.
Vermont leads the nation for the percentage of the population 65 and older who have been partially or fully vaccinated.
New cases in that age group are down 118% compared to the first week in January.
- The Associated Press
2. Parents, caregivers of children with high-risk conditions are now eligible for vaccines
Parents and those caring for young children with high-risk conditions are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine beginning today, March 31.
The vaccine hasn’t been approved for children under 16 – so some kids who would qualify due to their health conditions can’t get the shot.
But Health Commissioner Mark Levine says letting parents and caregivers get vaccine will help protect those children.
“We need to ensure these parents and caregivers remain healthy enough to care for the child and do not risk bringing the virus into the home,” Levine said.
Levine also announced that on Thursday all Vermonters 16 and older who identify as Black, Indigenous or as a person of color and their households will be eligible to sign up for a vaccine.
- Liam Elder-Connors
3. State pledges to vaccinate all those incarcerated in Vermont by mid-April
State officials say all incarcerated people in Vermont will have at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine by the week of April 19 – the same time that all residents 16 and older will be eligible to sign up.
Advocates have called on state officials to vaccinate all people in prison, regardless of age, but officials decided not to do that.
Human Services Secretary Mike Smith said Tuesday individuals in prison who are eligible based on their age or a health condition have received the shot.
“And we hope to have all age tiers completed by May 13,” Smith said. “That includes second doses.”
All corrections officers, regardless of age, have been able to get a vaccine since the beginning of March.
As of Tuesday, there were two cases of COVID-19 among incarcerated people, according to the Department of Corrections. Both cases are at Northern State Correctional Facility, where an outbreak infected 179 inmates.
- Liam Elder-Connors
4. UVM asks Legislature for an additional $98 million in federal coronavirus relief
The University of Vermont is asking state lawmakers for another $98 million in federal coronavirus relief funds.
UVM President Suresh Garimella told lawmakers this on Tuesday afternoon that the lion’s share of the money would go toward financial aid and tuition freezes.
“Our enrollments have been relatively steady, but the need for financial aid for the families has greatly increased due to job losses and such,” Garimella said.
Garimella says the relief funds would also go toward expanded technology for remote learning, and improving air ventilation on campus buildings.
UVM has already received about $50 million from previous coronavirus relief packages.
- Peter Hirschfeld
5. Senate advances controversial bill amending unemployment benefits
The Vermont Senate has advanced a controversial bill dealing with unemployment benefits.
The legislation has two parts. It provides a one year tax freeze for businesses that's projected to save about $66 million.
And it provides an additional $50 per week per dependent for recipients who have children.
Senate Economic Development chairman Michael Sirotkin said it was a balanced bill.
“What we are trying to do is to come up with an appropriate balance for both the business and workers where we can have a win-win situation,” Sirotkin said.
But Franklin senator Randy Brock disagreed. He said the business benefits are short term while the individual benefits are long term.
"But this doesn't just do that,” Brock said. “What it does is it creates a permanent long term benefit that has not been well-thought out."
The bill is up for final approval in the Senate today, Wednesday.
- Bob Kinzel
6. Vermont State Police pledge to recruit, retain more women
Vermont State Police have committed to a nationwide pledge to hire and retain more women by the end of the decade. One captain says improving the equipment for female officers will be part of that effort.
State police signed the “30x30” pledge this month, committing to advancing women in the department and making sure 30% of incoming recruits are women by the year 2030.
The initiative is led by police leaders and researchers who say social science research finds women officers use less force when compared to their male counterparts, and their interactions result in better outcomes for crime victims.
Captain Julie Scribner, co-director of fair and impartial policing and community affairs, says the department is also looking at better equipment designed for women in their ranks.
“It's really a struggle for getting boots to fit women's feet when, you know, the best boots out there are fit for a man,” Scribner said. “It's a little hard to believe sometimes, that in 2021 we have challenges still with getting things to fit.”
Currently, women make up about 13% of the Vermont State police, and Scribner says there's still a ways to go. She said white men make up 84% of the Vermont State Police.
“It's still nowhere near what we should be,” Scribner said. “The 30x30 Initiative has a goal of 30% women in recruit classes by 2030. You know, in order to be truly representative of the communities we serve, we should be about 50%.”
Scribner said the department has also purchased a portable nursing pod to give nursing moms at any barracks a private and sanitary space when they return to work.
- Matthew Smith
7. Rumors and questions cloud excitement over proposed senior care development in Rutland
City leaders in Rutland say they’re excited by the potential economic impact and job creation of a proposed $63 million senior living community at the former College of St Joseph.
But some have expressed reservations about out-of-state real estate developer Stuart Mills, and his abrupt cancellation of a deal with the Rutland Free Library, which would have relocated the library to the former college campus.
Mills said that deal fell through because of concerns he had over Act 250 delays. But he is pushing ahead with the project.
“What we know is there’s an incredible need to serve seniors,” Mills said. “So we’re going to stay true to it and get it done, unless we’re driven away by the attitude of the people of the area.”
He said he expects to close on the 98-acre campus property in May.
- Nina Keck
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