News Roundup: 11K Vermonters 30 And Older Sign Up For Vaccines Within Hour of Eligibility Opening
Vermont reporters provide a roundup of top news takeaways about the coronavirus and more for Monday, April 12.Want VPR's daily news in podcast form? Get up to speed in under 15 minutes with The 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 91 new COVID-19 cases
Two more people have died from COVID-19 in Vermont today, as the state reports 91 new infections statewide.
The new deaths bring Vermont's pandemic total to 233.
Vermont also surpassed 21,000 total infections over the weekend, after Saturday and Sunday saw a combined 370 cases.
Currently, 29 people are hospitalized with the virus, four of whom are in intensive care.
Today the state opened vaccine registration to Vermonters 30 and older. In a week, the final age band opens up, allowing any Vermonter 16 or older to sign up for a shot.
To date, just shy of 46% of Vermont adults have gotten at least one dose a COVID vaccine.
- Matthew Smith
Vermonters 30 and up now eligible for vaccine appointments
Starting at 8:15 this morning, Vermonters 30 and older can sign up for a coronavirus vaccine with the state and its pharmacy partners like Kinney Drugs, CVS and Walgreens.
Sign-ups can be made online at healthvermont.gov/MyVaccine or by calling 855-722-7878.
State health officials say there are enough slots for everyone who is now eligible.
A week from today, Vermont will open up vaccines to all residents 16 and older.
Other groups who have been eligible and can still sign up include BIPOC Vermonters – those who identify as Black, Indigenous or people of color – who are 16 or older, plus any members of a BIPOC household. Parents and primary caregivers of children with high-risk health conditions can also sign up.
- Matthew Smith
Health commissioner warns high case counts will continue among unvaccinated populations
Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine says he expects the state will continue to record a high number of COVID 19 cases in the coming weeks.
Last week, the state experienced the highest number of weekly cases since the beginning of the pandemic, 13 months ago.
Levine says several variants of the COVID virus are spreading throughout the state and are primarily infecting people who haven't been fully vaccinated yet.
“With variants in the picture, Vermonters should know that high case counts and outbreaks are likely to continue in the very near future, primarily affectingly people who are not fully vaccinated,” Levine said. “That means our younger populations who are not eligible for vaccination yet."
Today, Vermonters 30 and older and sign up for a vaccine. And a week from today, those 16 and older will be able to sign up.
- Bob Kinzel
Vermont saw nearly 400 new COVID-19 cases over the weekend
The Vermont Department of Health reported almost 400 new cases of COVID-19 over the weekend. As Health officials say this trend was not unexpected.
Contributing to the infection rate are at least three COVID-19 variants, some of which are highly transmissible.
State officials have said high case numbers are likely to continue. On Saturday, 149 new cases were reported, with an additional 222 on Sunday. Chittenden and Rutland Counties continue to have high numbers of new positive cases, followed by Orleans and Caledonia Counties.
As of Sunday, about 30% of Vermont's adult population was fully vaccinated. Those who are only partially vaccinated can still contract COVID-19.
- Anna Van Dine
Quebec province reports rising cases
Quebec saw more than 3,200 new COVID-19 infections over the weekend, continuing a steady rise in new cases since since late March.
The Montreal Gazette reports provincial health officials are especially concerned because more than half of the new cases were among Quebecers younger than 40.
Montreal also re-instituted its 8 p.m. curfew this weekend.
Five more people died from the virus over the weekend. Quebec has now seen more than 10,700 deaths since the pandemic began last year.
Hospitalizations also rose over the weekend, with the number of people in intensive care spiking by 20% in the last week.
Quebec currently outpaces Canada's national average when it comes to vaccinations, with nearly 18% of eligible residents having started the vaccine process.
- Matthew Smith
2. Vt. Legislature takes up proposed constitutional amendments regarding slavery, abortion rights
Senate lawmakers on Friday advanced two proposed amendments to the Vermont Constitution.
It appears increasingly likely that Vermont voters will get to weigh in on the proposed changes in next year’s general election.
One of the proposed amendments would clarify the state’s prohibition against slavery.The other would enshrine abortion rights in the Vermont Constitution.
But as Senate President Becca Balint said Friday, lawmakers won’t have final say over whether Vermont rewrites its founding document.
“Our constitution dictates that such momentous questions must go directly to Vermont voters, to weigh in on their own governance,” Balint said.
The only thing standing in the way of that public referendum now is a vote in the Vermont House of Representatives. And lawmakers in that chamber are expected to approve both proposed amendments before the end of the legislative session.
Vermont last amended its constitution in 2010, to allow 17-year-olds to vote in primaries, so long as they turn 18 before the General Election.
Proposed amendment would clarify Vermont’s prohibition against slavery
Chittenden County Senator Kesha Ram says the existing constitutional language appears to allow for the enslavement of minors.
“The prohibition is profoundly muddled; qualified by age, supposed consent and debt bondage,” Ram said.
Racial justice advocates have spent years pushing for the proposed change.
If the amendment is approved by the House this year, as is expected, then the proposal will go before voters in next year’s general election.
Senate advances proposed amendment enshrining abortion rights
Chittenden County Senator Ginny Lyons says the move is a preemptive defense against any future attempts to overturn Roe versus Wade.
“Times are turbulent, and reproductive liberty is under serious attack,” Lyons said. “Clarity is needed.”
The proposed constitutional amendment now heads to House.
If lawmakers there approve the measure, they're expected to later this month, the proposal will go before to Vermont voters in the 2022 general election.
- Peter Hirschfeld
3. Vermont's restaurant industry calls for employees to be prioritized for vaccines
Vermonters age 16 and over will be able to sign up for COVID-19 vaccines starting on April 19.
The state’s restaurant industry wants to make sure its workers get advanced access to vaccine appointments.
Jed Davis owns seven restaurants in Vermont. He says his servers, cooks and other workers are uniquely susceptible to contracting COVID-19.
“Hospitality workers work in an unmasked environment,” Davis said. “Guests are obviously unmasked when they’re dining at a table.”
The state will open up vaccine appointments to Vermonters 16 and over later this month.
And Davis and other restaurant owners want Gov. Phil Scott to give their workers a 48-hour head start on scheduling appointments.
Scott though said Friday that he has no plans to grant the request.
He said the state would have no way of confirming whether an individual who signs up early actually works in a restaurant or not.
- Peter Hirschfeld
4. Families of those lost to COVID-19 can now apply for federal funds to cover funeral expenses
Families of people who died from COVID-19 can now apply for federal funds to cover funeral expenses.
As of Monday, 233 people in Vermont have died from the coronavirus.
Vermont’s Secretary of Human Services Mike Smith says families can get up to $9,000.
“And those who have lost more than one family member can qualify for up to $35,000 in reimbursement,” Smith said.
Smith says families can get more information and apply by calling 844-864-6333.
- Liam Elder-Connors
5. Scott Administration renews calls for schools to reopen classrooms full time by end of April
The Scott Administration is urging local school officials to reopen classrooms to full time in-person learning by the end of the month.
Many schools have been using a hybrid model during the pandemic, where only half of all students are in school at any given time. Some schools have been operating on a remote basis for the entire school year.
Deputy Education Secretary Heather Boucher says new CDC guidelines reducing social distancing rules in all schools — from six feet to three feet — will make it much easier for many high schools to safely reopen on a full time basis for the rest of 2021 school year.
“So I think we're all committed to really getting as many students as we can back to a sense of normalcy,” Boucher said. “Even if it is for the last few months of this year, it's still really important. So I think we're on a good trajectory for that."
The state is scheduled to release reopening safety protocols for all schools in about a week.
Scott Administration unveils plan for “summertime enrichment” progams
The Scott Administration has unveiled a plan to provide "summertime enrichment" programs to students throughout the state.
The goal of the initiative is to provide grants to local groups that offer a wide variety of learning and recreational activities for students.
The plan will be coordinated by the Vermont AfterSchool organization and will be funded with several-million dollars of federal stimulus money.
Deputy Secretary Heather Boucher says the program is a way to help students who have experienced a difficult school year because of the pandemic.
“We know that everyone is tired and certainly needs a rest after navigating this year, but this summer also presents a critical, critical opportunity for us to further assist students and their families in healing and well-being,” Boucher said.
An interactive website will be created to help families identify opportunities that will be available in their part of the state.
- Bob Kinzel
6. Vt. hospice workers say they are experiencing PTSD from their experiences during the pandemic
Hospice focuses on the comfort and emotional well-being of people near the end of their lives. Ideally it includes a patient’s family and friends.
But during this last year, the job has looked much different and many are still processing the emotional toll while continuing to work in a pandemic.
Heather McAllister, is a nurse with Bayada, a private home health care company that employs about 400 hospice workers in Vermont.
McAllister loves her job, but says the isolation of the past year meant hospice providers were often the only ones in the room with patients, who were dying in alarming numbers.
“COVID just hit us all so hard. The PTSD from COVID – you’re going to see for years and years to come,” she said. “There’s just so much trauma that we’ve experienced.”
Even before COVID-19, a study published by the National Library of Medicine found nearly 40% of hospice workers experience burnout.
- Nina Keck
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