News Roundup: State Officials Report 42 New COVID Cases
Vermont reporters provide a roundup of top news takeaways about more COVID cases, the infrastructure bill in U.S. Congress and more for Monday, Aug. 2.
As Vermont's pandemic state of emergency has ended and coronavirus restrictions lifted statewide, we will no longer be reporting daily case numbers at the top of this post. Click here for the latest on new cases, and findthe latest vaccination data online any time.
1. Vermont officials report 42 new COVID cases
State health officials reported 42 new COVID-19 infections Monday. The latest cases push Vermont past 25,000 total COVID infections since the pandemic began.
On Friday, the state reported one new virus-linked death. That means a total of 260 Vermonters have died from the coronavirus since March of last year.
Four people are now hospitalized with the virus. The state's vaccination rate remains just under 84%.
- Matthew Smith
Officials asking Vermonters to take care after traveling to states with high infection rates
Health officials are urging Vermonters to be cautious if they visit states that are experiencing a surge of COVID-19 cases.
Currently, Vermont has the highest vaccination rate in the country — roughly 84% of all eligible people have received at least one dose of the vaccine.
But there are a number of states with vaccination rates below 50%, and many are reporting a surge in cases.
State Epidemiologist Patsy Kelso says Vermonters should be aware of the current conditions in any state they're visiting.
"Take some common sense precautions,” Kelso said. “You know, think about wearing a mask if the place you're going to has higher infection rates than Vermont. Consider getting a test when you get back, just to reassure yourself that you weren't exposed while you were traveling."
Kelso says the state is maintaining active testing centers in all parts of Vermont.
- Bob Kinzel
State studying long-term side effects from COVID-19 infection
The Vermont Health Department is conducting a special study to monitor Vermonters who have experienced long-term side effects from being exposed to the coronavirus.
Recent reports indicate that as many as 20% of people infected by the virus have also suffered from a variety of conditions that linger months after the initial illness. They include things like heart issues, anxiety, high blood pressure and depression.
State Epidemiologist Patsy Kelso says the Health Department is closely monitoring this situation.
"One of the challenges is that this virus has only been around for about a year and a half, and so we just globally haven't been able to study this phenomenon in detail yet,” Kelso said. “But that work is underway, even in Vermont."
Kelso says it will be at least six months before the study will yield any meaningful results.
- Bob Kinzel
2. Leahy says bipartisan infrastructure legislation will have generational impact
Sen. Patrick Leahy says a bipartisan agreement on a $1 trillion infrastructure package will have a generational impact on Vermont.
After months of negotiation, Senate Democratic and Republican leaders this week came to an agreement that will pump hundreds of billions of dollars into road and bridge repair projects and expand high speed broadband services.
It's estimated that Vermont will receive roughly a billion dollars for these various projects.
"I think it could make a great deal for us,” Leahy said. “Obviously we have roads, bridges and a number of other areas where we need help. This is something that is not just this year and next year, it's really for the next generation."
Both the House and the Senate are expected to vote on the legislation in the next few weeks.
- Bob Kinzel
3. Economic forecast shows Vermont with $200M in extra revenues
An economic forecast unveiled on Friday predicts that Vermont will have $200 million more in revenues this year than elected officials previously thought.
And Gov. Phil Scott’s Finance Commissioner, Adam Greshin, says the administration is eager to talk with lawmakers about how to spend the money.
“The governor’s hope is that we can work with the Legislature to figure out some good projects to do, some one-time projects that we can put together for the benefit of Vermonters,” Greshin said.
Economists say the speed of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, as well as the enormity of federal stimulus bills, will lead to higher-than-expected revenue growth this year.
Economists are predicting the strong revenue growth to continue into 2023.
- Peter Hirschfeld
$120M in federal pandemic aid to go to Vermont towns and cities instead of counties
More than $120 million in federal pandemic aid designated for Vermont's counties will be distributed instead to cities and towns.
Vermont has minimal county government, with no clear way of administering millions in federal funding.
Vermont has received a total of over $1.2 billion from the American Rescue Plan Act passed by Congress earlier this year.
- Henry Epp
4. Vermont hospitals submit proposed budgets to Green Mountain Care Board
Vermont’s 14 hospitals have submitted their proposed budgets for next year to the Green Mountain Care Board. While federal aid is helping struggling hospitals in the short term, the board’s chair says long-term issues haven't gone away.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, some hospitals were losing millions of dollars a year. And during the pandemic, most of the hospitals lost revenue because people were not doing elective procedures.
Board chairman Kevin Mullin says that federal aid might have helped the hospitals in the short-term, but challenges remain.
“Being sustainable as a rural hospital is very difficult,” Mullin said. “And we’ve seen that across the whole United States, it’s not a Vermont-specific problem.”
The board will vote on the hospital budgets in September.
- Howard Weiss-Tisman
5. St. Albans breaks ground on new, year-round pool
The city of St. Albans has broken ground on a new year-round community pool that's expected to be completed in May of next year.
WPTZ reports that the $5 million project includes a dome that will keep the pool covered and heated during winter, and will be taken down during the summer.
City Manager Dominic Cloud says having a year-round pool is part of the effort to make St. Albans a community of distinction.
- Associated Press
Elodie Reed compiled and edited this post.