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News Roundup: Vt. Department of Health Reports 73 New COVID-19 Cases

A sign reads please observe social distancing, in red paint on a white background, posted outside the fence around a series of community garden plots.
Howard Weiss-Tisman
A sign reminds gardners to practice social distancing at the Putney Community Garden.

Vermont reporters provide a roundup of top news takeaways about the coronavirus and more for Wednesday, April 21.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 73 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday

One more Vermonter has died from COVID-19 as the state saw 126 new infections over the last two days.

To date, 243 Vermonters have died from the coronavirus since the pandemic began.

73 cases were reported Wednesday and 53 were counted Tuesday. The health department's coronavirus tracking dashboard did not update on Tuesday due to maintenance.

In Vermont, 27 people are now hospitalized with the virus, three of whom are in the ICU.

The latest state figures show just under 55% of Vermonters 16 and older have gotten at last one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

- Matthew Smith

COVID-19 case counts are trending down in Vermont

After hitting an all-time weekly high earlier this month, COVID-19 case counts in Vermont are trending back down.

Commissioner of Financial Regulation Michael Pieciak says Vermont reported 797 new cases of coronavirus over the past seven days.

That’s nearly 40% lower than the more than 1,200 cases Vermont reported two weeks ago.

“The steady declines in our case rates give us greater confidence that we are now moving in the right direction in Vermont,” Pieciak said.

Pieciak says the drop in cases is the result of fewer younger Vermonters contracting the disease.

Pieciak said the number of residents hospitalized with COVID-19 is also trending downward.

- Peter Hirschfeld

US-Canada border to remain closed for at least another month

The US-Canada border will remain closed for at least another month.

The Department of Homeland Security tweeted Tuesday that the closure would extend to May 21.

Restrictions on non-essential travel will remain. Border crossings for essential trade and travel will continue to be allowed.

American officials say they'll use science and public health data to decide about easing border restrictions with Canada.

- Matthew Smith

Department of Corrections reports outbreak at Newport prison is officially over

An outbreak of COVID-19 at the state prison in Newport is officially over, according to the Department of Corrections.

DOC announced Tuesday that testing conducted at Northern State Correctional Facility last Thursday found no cases among incarcerated individuals.

One staffer at the facility tested positive last week, but DOC says contact tracing shows there was no exposure risk to anyone held at the facility.

A total of 179 incarcerated people, and 27 staffers, were infected during the outbreak, which began in late February.

- Liam Elder-Connors

2. Leaders across Vermont react to Derek Chauvin conviction

Leaders around Vermont are reacting to Tuesday's guilty verdict in the trial of Derek Chauvin. The former Minneapolis police officer was convicted for the murder of George Floyd.

Gov. Phil Scott said the verdict brings "some justice," but "there is still so much more work [to be done] to achieve a truly just society."

Mia Schultz and Steffen Gillom – the two leaders of Vermont's chapters of the NAACP – said while the trial may be over, "the fight for police accountability and respect for Black lives is far from over."

Senator Bernie Sanders said the verdict delivers "accountability for Derek Chauvin, but not justice for George Floyd." He says real justice will come when the nation "fundamentally respects the human dignity of every person."

- Henry Epp

More from Vermont Edition: Live Community Conversation: What Does Derek Chauvin’s Conviction Mean To You, Vermonters?

3. Recent surge in COVID-19 cases among young Vermonters wanes

A recent surge in COVID-19 cases among younger Vermonters appears to be waning.

Commissioner of Financial Regulation Michael Pieciak says infection rates for people between the ages of 16 and 29 fell by more than 30% over the past week.

Pieciak says only a small fraction of that age group has been vaccinated against COVID-19.

“So it seems much more likely that the decrease is due to behavioral changes; whether it’s being more cautious, following the public health guidance, spending more time outdoors,” Pieciak said. “But we do want to thank younger Vermonters for helping slow the spread.”

The number of new cases reported on college campuses dropped by 50% over the past week.

Vermonters 16 and older became eligible to register for vaccine appointments on Monday.

More than 40,000 Vermonters 16-29 signed up for vaccine appointments Monday

On Monday – the first day they were eligible – 40,000 Vermonters between the ages of 16 and 29 registered for the COVID-19 vaccine.

During his coronavirus media briefing Tuesday, Gov. Phil Scott said he was encouraged by the early enthusiasm.

He asked younger Vermonters not to be discouraged by long wait times for vaccine appointments.

“We’re still adding appointments, as are the pharmacies, so you should lock one in now if you can, and you can always change it and move up,” Scott said.

Monday's signups represent 40% of all Vermont residents in that age group.

To date, more than 295,000 Vermonters have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

- Peter Hirschfeld

Frequently Asked Questions (And Answers) About The COVID-19 Vaccine In Vermont

4. Racial disparities in vaccination rates are starting to narrow in Vermont

The racial gap in COVID-19 vaccination rates in Vermont is beginning to narrow.

Jenney Samuelson is deputy secretary at the Vermont Agency of Human Services.

She says targeted vaccine outreach to Black, Indigenous and people of color – also known as BIPOC –communities, is beginning to yield results.

“I’m excited to continue to see the gap close – 18,000 individuals have made appointments and have been vaccinated in the BIPOC population,” Samuelson said.

At the beginning of April, the vaccination rate among BIPOC Vermonters was 13% lower than it was for white residents.

As of Tuesday, the Health Department reports that gap now stands at 8%.

- Peter Hirschfeld

Vermont Multilingual Coronavirus Taskforce Videos: Facts About the COVID-19 Vaccine

5. More than 300,000 Vermonters have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

Nearly 300,000 Vermonters have now received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

But Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine says a tiny fraction of fully vaccinated residents will still contract the disease.

“No vaccines are 100% effective at preventing illness, so there may be some people who get COVID-19 even once they’re fully vaccinated,” Levine said. “But this is a very small percentage.”

Levine says 125 Vermonters have contracted COVID-19 after being vaccinated against the disease.

He says the symptoms those individuals experience are generally far milder than in people who have not been vaccinated.

- Peter Hirschfeld

More from VPR: This Vermonter Is Corralling Vt. Vaccine Info To Help People Get Shots Faster

6. Kids as young as 12 could be vaccine eligible by May or June

Vermonters as young as 12 could soon become eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

Speaking Tuesday at the state's COVID-19 briefing, Commissioner of Health Dr. Mark Levine said Phase 3 trials conducted by Pfizer have indicated that the vaccine is safe and effective in 12- to 15-year-olds.

“The data has yet to be reviewed by independent experts, but if approved, we believe the current timeline might allow us to start vaccinating this age group sometime in May or in June,” Levine said.

Levine said vaccinations for Vermont’s children could help the state achieve herd immunity.

He said it will also increase the chances that schools can return to full time, in-person learning this fall.

- Peter Hirschfeld

7. Public health officials await federal guidance on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine

Public health officials in Vermont are still awaiting word from the federal government on when the state can resume use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Commissioner of Health Dr. Mark Levine says he won’t have clear guidance until after a special committee at the Centers for Disease Control meets on Friday.

“So it’s very hard to give any Vermonter the appropriate advice regarding the vaccine. I would still maintain optimism that the vaccine pause will end,” Levine said.

He said it’s possible that the CDC will recommend resuming vaccinations for some demographics, but keep the pause in place for others.

Two federal agencies asked states to pause use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine last week, while they investigate six cases of a rare blood-clotting disorder tied to the vaccine.

- Peter Hirschfeld

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