News Roundup: All But One Vermont County Now Experiencing 'High' Or 'Substantial' COVID-19 Transmission, Per CDC
Vermont reporters provide a roundup of top news takeaways about new coronavirus cases, food insecurity, the impact of climate change on Vermont's forests and more for Friday, Aug. 13.
While Vermont's pandemic state of emergency has ended, the delta variant is now circulating around the state. Click here for the latest on new cases, and findthe latest vaccination data online any time.
1. Vermont Dept. of Health reports 107 new COVID-19 cases
Vermont health officials reported 107 new COVID-19 infections Friday.
The new cases push Vermont beyond 26,000 total coronavirus cases since the pandemic began.
Several counties saw around a dozen cases today, including Addison, Bennington,Franklin and Rutland Counties, while Chittenden had more than two-dozen cases.
A total of 23 people are hospitalized due to the virus, seven of whom are in intensive care.
As of of today, monitoring by the CDC shows every Vermont county, except Grand Isle, is now experiencing "high" or "substantial" community transmission of the virus.
The CDC recommends people in areas with such widespread transmission wear masks indoors, regardless of their vaccination status.
— Matthew Smith
Maine to require COVID-19 vaccines for all health care workers
All health care workers in Maine will be required to get vaccinated against COVID-19 by Oct. 1.
The new emergency rule applies to anyone employed by a hospital, multi-level health care facility, home health agency, nursing facility or residential care facility.
The vaccination rule also covers those employed by emergency medical service organizations or dental practices.
Exemptions are allowed for medical reasons.
Earlier this month, Massachusetts mandated COVID-19 vaccinations for all staffers working in the state's long-term care facilities.
— Matthew Smith
2. Heat advisories remain in effect throughout the North Country Friday
The National Weather Service says heat advisories for dangerously hot weather remain in effect for portions of the North Country Friday.
Heat indices — or how hot it feels when both the temperature and humidity are factored in — are expected in the mid 90s.
That means hot temperatures and high humidity could cause heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
The heat advisories are for northern New York, as well as central, northwest and southern Vermont.
The warmest temperatures are expected between noon and 6 p.m.
— Matthew Smith
3. SunCommon is the latest employer to require vaccination for all staff
One of Vermont's largest solar companies is the latest private employer to announce that it will require its workers to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
Waterbury-based SunCommon will require all 200 of its employees to show proof of vaccination by Aug. 23.
Suncommon co-president Duane Peterson says his employees can get vaccinated on company time.
"We'remaking this as easy and convenient as we can. So they've got a reasonable amount of time to do this but with the delta variant kind of raging through our beloved state of Vermont, like, now's the time for our people to get protected."
Peterson says they will allow exemptions to the policy for those with certain medical conditions or religious beliefs. Those who receive an exemption will face weekly testing.
— Henry Epp
4. New study finds one in three Vermonters experienced food insecurity during the pandemic. Many still do.
Over the course of the pandemic, nearly one in three Vermonters experienced food insecurity.
And many continue to skip meals, or worry about affording food, according to recent research from the University of Vermont.
After the 2008 recession, it took nearly a decade for food insecurity rates to recover.
The same may be true in the aftermath of the pandemic.
That’s according to Meredith Niles, a professor of food systems at UVM.
"Even with more of 80% of Vermonters vaccinated, there will be a lingering impact on food insecurity that we will see for years to come, most likely in this state and across the United States," Niles said.
She and a team of researchers surveyed a group of Vermonters over the first year of the pandemic.
They found that many people were newly food insecure and have remained so.
"I look at this data all the time," she said. "And I have to constantly remind myself that these are real people. These are my neighbors; these are fellow Vermonters. And it's really sobering."
That’s as fewer people utilize food assistance programs and unemployment benefits, despite job disruption.
— Lexi Krupp
5. New census data show Vermont is getting more diverse, but remains the second-whitest state in the country
The latest U.S. Census figures show that Vermont is the second whitest state in the country, but the state's non-white population is growing.
Data released Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau showed the Hispanic population in Vermont grew by more than 68%, or about 6,300 people — the third largest percentage increase in the country.
The Black population grew by just under 44%, more than 2,700 people — the seventh largest percentage change in the country.
Despite the increase in the non-white population, more than 89% of Vermont's population is white, second only to Maine.
Census data released earlier this year showed that in the last decade, Vermont's overall population grew 2.8%, to just over 643,000 people.
— The Associated Press
6. University of Sherbrooke launches year-round water quality observatory on Lake Memphremagog
The University of Sherbrooke is launching a series of buoys as part of a new observatory that will provide year-round monitoring of water quality in Lake Memphremagog.
Céline Guéguen, a chemistry professor leading the project, says there have been concerns about the lake's health for years.
But she says the discovery of cancer-causing PFAS chemicals on the Canadian side of the lake last fall made it more urgent.
"Those have been detected close to the intake of the water drinking plant for Sherbrooke water. But we have very little data to make a case for it. So that's why we launched the observatory," she said.
About 70% of Lake Memphremagog is in Quebec, where more than 175,000 locals who rely on the lake for drinking water.
The first buoy in the observatory project is set to launch this month.
— Mitch Wertlieb
7. New research finds widespread intervention may be warranted to help Vermont forests adapt to climate change
New research from the University of Vermont finds Vermont’s forests might look very different in 200 years, thanks to climate change.
The studyfocused on 140,000 acres in Windsor County and used modeling to look at how climate change could alter the species makeup of Vermont’s forests, as well as how two new management approaches might help them adapt.
Tony D’Amato is an author on the study. He says species that now thrive south of Vermont — like red oak, bitternut hickory and black birch — could eventually replace some of the space held now by trees like eastern hemlock, beech and even sugar maples.
"The problem is, you know, oak can’t just, like, walk across the landscape and move to where it will be future suitable habitat in 100 years," D'Amato said. "And even kind of natural seed migration – and we know that occurs – it just can’t keep pace with the rapidity of change that we’re seeing in terms of climate.”
Research is underway into what the best way to do this might be.
— Abagael Giles
Abagael Giles compiled and edited this post.