News Roundup: CDC Says 3 Vermont Counties Are Now Experiencing High Levels Of Community Transmission Of COVID-19
Vermont reporters provide a roundup of top news takeaways about COVID-19, the border reopening, unemployment insurance and more for Monday, Aug. 9.
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 Dept. of Health reports 89 new COVID-19 cases
Vermont health officials reported 89 new coronavirus infections Monday, along with two new virus-linked deaths.
To date, 262 Vermonters have died from COVID-19 since the pandemic began.
Hospitalizations again rose, with 20 people now hospitalized with the virus, including eight people in intensive care.
The positivity rate is now at 2.9%.
As of Friday, Vermont's vaccination rate stood at 84.2%.
CDC data shows three counties — Chittenden, Franklin and Orleans — are experiencing "high" levels of community transmission. Three others — Essex, Washington and Bennington — have "substantial" levels of transmission. The agency recommends people wear masks in these counties indoors, regardless of your vaccination status.
— Matthew Smith
2. U.S.-Canada border opened Monday to car traffic for first time in over a year
For the first time in over a year, the Canadian border opened to U.S. travelers heading north by car Monday.
Beverly White is the owner of North Country Marketplace in Colebrook, N.H. She says she didn't notice an uptick in customers today, but has hopes traffic will increase when the U.S. opens its borders to Canadians.
"I hope so, because in the past, we have had, you know, customers from across the border. So I do hope that that happens and all, in a positive way," White said.
The U.S. has extended its ongoing border closures with Canada and Mexico until Aug. 21.
— Brittany Patterson
3. Pandemic unemployment benefit set to expire Sept. 6, as cases rise nationwide
Unemployed Vermonters have received one-point-seven billion dollars in jobless benefits over the past 16 months.
But many of the federal supports created during the pandemic are set to expire next month.
15,000 Vermonters currently receive an extra $300 a week in pandemic unemployment benefits.
Starting Sept. 6 though, that weekly add-on will go away.
And for the nearly 4,000 residents who’ve been unemployed for more than 26 weeks, benefits will disappear altogether.
Michael Harrington is the commissioner of the Vermont Department of Labor.
"We’re launching, in terms of reaching out to claimants to make sure they’re notified and fully aware, also encouraging folks to begin that transition back to employment, if they haven’t started that process already," he said.
Harrington says his department will connect people with re-employment services if they don’t have any immediate job prospects, and help people apply for housing, food and childcare subsidies.
— Peter Hirschfeld
4. Grand Isle County courthouse to reduce hours of in-person services due to staffing shortage
The Grand Isle County courthouse will be open just two days a week due to a security staffing shortage.
The Vermont Judiciary, which announced the reduction in hours Thursday, says the change won’t impede the public’s access to court services. But the county’s prosecutor disagrees.
The judiciary says people can file court papers electronically or drop them off in-person on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Papers can also be filed at the Franklin County courthouse.
Hearings, which have been virtual since the pandemic hit, will continue to be held remotely.
Grand Isle State’s Attorney Doug DiSabito says the alternatives won’t work for many people.
"I can tell you that not everybody in Grand Isle County has access to the internet. Some of them don't have computers," DiSabito said.
The judiciary, in a statement, says they’re trying to find a solution to security staff shortage.
— Liam Elder-Connors
5. More than 1,600 solar panels set to be installed on Bristol landfill
Renewable energy co-op Acorn Energy plans to install more than sixteen hundred solar panels on what was once the Bristol landfill.
Energy from 13 of the solar panels will be reserved for the Clemmons Family Farm.
The farm’s panels were funded by donations from members of Vermont Interfaith Power and Light and Addison Country Interfaith Climate Action Network.
All energy generated will be allocated to Green Mountain Power. Members of the co-op will see revenue credited to them through their GMP electrical bills.
Rich Carpenter is with the co-op. He says this project gives people the opportunity to access solar energy without having the physical panels at their residence.
"I just feel it's a way for a lot of people who have wanted to do something around renewable energy to participate, in a way that will be around for 25 years," he said.
Construction is slated to begin by the end of September.
This story was written by Community News Service reporter, Nick Bishop.
You can find Bishop's full story on the Community News Service website.
6. Report details misconduct at the Vermont National Guard
The Vermont National Guard has pervasive issues of misconduct.
That's from a new assessment from the National Guard’s Office of Complex Investigations, which examines the Vermont Guard from 2017 to 2020.
The final assessment details significant failings in sexual harassment response and prevention, equal opportunity, hiring and promotions, command climate & culture, and disciplinary actions.
These range from mismanagement in reporting sexual assault, to favoritism in hiring and promotions.
The Vermont Guard says the assessment is a tool that will allow them to “attack organizational deficiencies.” The report, which is over 100 pages long, outlines 35 recommendations for doing so.
— Anna Van Dine
Abagael Giles compiled and edited this post.