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News Roundup: Vermont Dept. Of Health Reports 99 New COVID-19 Cases Wednesday

A yellow background with vermont news round up written, with a small green graphic of vermot on the "R" of roundup
Elodie Reed

Vermont reporters provide a roundup of top news takeaways about COVID-19 and more for Wednesday, Aug. 18.

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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 find the latest vaccination data online any time.

1. Vermont Dept. of Health reports 99 new COVID-19 cases

State health officials recorded 99 new COVID-19 infections in Vermont Wednesday. More than one-third were in Chittenden County.

Three more Vermonters have died from the coronavirus, as the state reported its 267th death of the pandemic.

Twenty-nine people are hospitalized due to the virus, including nine people in the ICU.

Vermont's vaccination rate is unchanged today, at 85.1%.

The CDC reports the number of Vermont counties experiencing what it calls "high or significant" community spread of the virus has fallen.

Now only Chittenden and Orleans Counties have high spread. Franklin, Washington, Addison, Rutland and Bennington Counties have substantial spread.

The CDC recommends wearing masks indoors in those areas, even if fully vaccinated.

All other counties are seeing low moderate spread of the virus, except Essex County, which is seeing low community transmission.

Matthew Smith

Brattleboro select board reinstates mask mandate

The Brattleboro select board has voted to re-institute the city's mask requirement in public spaces.

VTDigger reports the move comes two months after the Southern Vermont city lifted a mask mandate in place for about a year.

Theselect board voted 4-1 to restore the city's mask order. It comes as Vermont's cases and hospitalizations rise, and after Windham County had seen days of what the CDC calls "substantial" community spread of the virus.

As of this Wednesday, the CDC shows spread of the virus in Windham County had fallen to "moderate" levels.

Matthew Smith

Gov. Scott says he won't reinstate mask mandate

The arrival of colder weather this fall means more Vermonters will soon be gathering indoors.

But Gov. Phil Scott says he has no plans to re-impose capacity limits or masking and distancing requirements on Vermont businesses.

Scott says Vermont’s 85% vaccination rate gives him confidence that the state can avoid a resurgence of COVID-19.

“Now, if I was the governor of another state that had half that rate and saw that their hospitals were filling up and being overwhelmed, I might look at this differently," Scott said. "But we’re not in that state.”

COVID-19 case counts have been on the rise in Vermont for six straight weeks.

But Scott says state modeling shows numbers are expected to come down again next month as the impact of the Delta variant wanes.

Peter Hirschfeld

2. Some 630 fully vaccinated Vermonters have contracted COVID-19, out of more than 430,000 fully vaccinated residents

People vaccinated against COVID-19 can still get sick, but Vermont's health commissioner says vaccines remain the best weapon against the coronavirus.

Some 630 vaccinated Vermonters have tested positive for COVID-19, a small fraction of the more than 430,000 Vermonters now vaccinated.

Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine says he doesn't like calling these "breakthrough" cases, because the term fails to capture how vaccines prevent serious illness or death among the vaccinated.

"We do truly have, throughout the country, a pandemic of the unvaccinated now," he said. "And the last thing we want is for anyone to lose faith or confidence in the vaccine because they hear that people who have been vaccinated are getting infections."

Levine expects the CDC to provide guidance this week about making vaccine booster shots available to more people in the months ahead.

Listen to the full conversation.

Matthew Smith

Health commissioner urges even those who have recovered from COVID-19 to get vaccinated

The state health commissioner is urging all Vermonters to get vaccinated against the coronavirus, even if they've already gotten sick with COVID-19.

Dr. Mark Levine says both the quantity and type of antibodies the immune system produces to fight the virus can be boosted through inoculation.

He says that's true even if someone's been sick with COVID-19.

"So it's not that you don't have any protection after getting a case of COVID-19 — you do — but you can really boost that significantly, and more broadly, with a vaccine."

Levine's comments came as the federal government announced it will recommend that American's receive a booster starting in late September.

Matthew Smith

3. 2020 Census shows southern Vermont resort towns saw substantial population gains

The 2020 Census shows southern Vermont resort towns saw some of the largest population gains in the region over the last decade.

The Bennington Bannerreports the town of Dover, location of the Mount Snowresort, added more than 670 new residents, swelling to almost 2,000 people.

A similar increase was seen in nearby Marlboro..

The Stratton Mountain ski resort town in Winhall added more than 400 residents, for a total of nearly 1,200.

Statewide,Vermont grew by 2.8%, adding some 17,000 new residents for a total population of more than 643,000 people.

Matthew Smith

4. New report shows climate change could soon create dangerous work conditions that disproportionately impact people of color in Vermont

Fifty years from now, climate change could create days where Vermont’s 66,000 outdoor workers are exposed to hazardous heat, according to a report released by the Union for Concerned Scientists.

If no action is taken to reduce global carbon emissions, the report says Vermont could experience an average of five days annually where it is too hot to safely work by 2070, compared to zero right now.

The report points out that outdoor workers, such as those in construction, maintenance and agriculture, are up to 35 times more likely to die from heat exposure than the general population. They are also disproportionately Black and Latino.

The report suggests reducing greenhouse gas emissions, accommodating work schedules to cooler parts of the day and reducing workload to protect workers.

— Elodie Reed

5. Agency of Natural Resources to meet with local activist group next week over water quality concerns in Lake Memphremagog

Vermont's Agency of Natural Resources will meet with a local activist group next week to discuss the health of Lake Memphremagog.

The group, known as DUMP — or Don't Undermine Memphremagog's Purity — delivered a petition earlier this year of more than 3,800 signatures calling on the state to designate the lake as a body of waterin crisis.

The Caledonian Recordreports the agency declined the designation, saying Memphremagog doesn't meet the state's strict requirements for the label.

ANR Secretary Julie Moore will offer an update on the lake, and meet with DUMP advocates and other members of the public, at the meeting from 5:30-7 p.m. next Tuesday, Aug. 24 at Newport's Gateway Center.

Matthew Smith

More from VPR: Reporter Debrief: State Starts PFAS Testing In Lake Memphremagog

Abagael Giles compiled and edited this post.

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