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News roundup: Four more Vermonters die from COVID-19, bringing death toll to 339

An orange 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 the coronavirus, nurse shortages and more for Tuesday, Oct. 12.

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1. Four more Vermonters die from COVID-19

Another four Vermonters have died from COVID-19, the Health Department reported Tuesday, as the state added 132 new COVID cases to its tally.

The state's coronavirus deaths now number 339, and Vermont passed 36,000 total infections since the start of the pandemic, the last 2,000 coming since the start of October.

Hospitalizations increased again today to 49, marking the highest number of people hospitalized for the virus in Vermont since early February.

To date, 88.7% of eligible Vermonters have gotten at least one vaccine jab.

- Matthew Smith

Barre school district reinstitutes daily health screenings as COVID-19 infections rise

A growing number of COVID-19 infections in Barre has led the school district to bring back daily health screenings.

The Times Argusreportsinterim superintendent Chris Hennessey announced the policy would be revived across the Barre Unified School District starting this week.

So far this school there, there have been more than 70 positive cases reported in the district’s two pre-K-through-8 schools in Barre Town and Barre City, where most students are too young to get vaccinated. Hundreds have had to quarantine as a precaution.

Hennessey says re-instituting health screenings is necessary because there are too many positive cases coming into schools.

- Matthew Smith

2. Vermont’s largest hospital experiencing a staffing shortage

Nurses at Vermont’s largest hospital say a staffing shortage has begun to affect the quality of patient care.

Tracy Daneen provides bedside care to patients at the University of Vermont Medical Center. She says the units she works in often don’t have enough health care workers to staff the overnight shifts.

“Yeah, I mean I think you’re seeing a dramatic decrease in the quality of patient care, which equals dissatisfaction in your own job," she said. "I mean, I don’t feel great when I come home."

The Vermont Federation of Nurses and Health Care Professionals is asking UVMMC to boost its members base pay by 10% to address the staffing shortage. That's according to Deb Snell, the president of the Vermont Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals.

“And I know that that sounds like a lot, but when you look at what other places are paying around the country now, 10% didn’t seem totally off the mark,” she said.

Snell says many nurses are leaving UVMMC to earn higher wages as traveling nurses.

The union says hospital administrators have so far rejected the pay raise request. UVMMC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

- Peter Hirschfeld

3. Health Department warn Vermonters about fall cyanobacteria blooms

Summer may be over, but the Health Department is advising Vermonters that cyanobacteria blooms, also known as blue-green algae, can still occur on lakes at this time of year, due in part to climate change.

Within the past week, blooms were reported on Lake Champlain in places like Charlotte and North Hero. They’ve also been seen on Lake Memphremagog.

According to the Health Department, Lake Champlain is several degrees warmer than it was 50 years ago. And that creates better conditions for the toxic algae to spread.

Blue-green algae can cause health problems in humans and animals. Blooms have been spotted as late as November in past years.

- Henry Epp

4. A viral disease has been confirmed in Vermont deer

A viral disease has been confirmed in Vermont deer for the first time.

The Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife says it's confirmed the presence of epizootic hemorrhagic disease in deer in Rutland County.

The disease is common in North America, and there are widespread outbreaks in New York.

Deer with the disease may appear to have a swollen head and have reduced appetite, weakness, and a loss of fear of humans.

There are current or suspected cases in Castleton and West Haven, the agency said. State officials suggest not hunting in areas with confirmed cases, though deer harvested in these areas are safe to eat.

Outbreaks of the disease do not have a significant long-term impact on deer abundance. The rest of the state does not appear to be affected.

Sightings of sick or dead deer should be reported to the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department.

- Anna Van Dine

5. Gas prices rose across northern New England over the past week

Gas prices have risen in all three northern New England states over the course of the past week.

GasBuddy, which does a daily survey of more than 1,200 stations in the states, says prices in Maine rose 9.5 cents to $3.20 per gallon.

Prices are now more than a dollar per gallon higher in Maine than they were a year ago. Prices in Vermont went up more than 7 cents to $3.19 per gallon.

New Hampshire saw its price for a gallon of gas also jump 7 cents, now up to $3.11.

- Associated Press

6. Plattsburgh officials marked Indigenous Peoples' Day by placing new sign near Champlain monument

Plattsburgh officials marked Indigenous Peoples’ Day Monday by placing a new sign near the base of the Champlain monument overlooking Lake Champlain.

Rather than remove a statue of European explorer Samuel De Champlain, WAMC reports city officials last year began placing markers below the monument that points out and corrects its errors.
Now a series of plaques, markers and artwork is being installed to explain more than 10,000 years of Indigenous history of the region.

Mohawk Emily Kasennisaks Cecilia Stacey says she's pleased by efforts to educate people about Indigenous heritage.

“My family has been here since before colonization and yet for some reason people don’t know that," she said. "They don’t understand that.”

On Monday, a new sign was revealed that will outline efforts to revitalize traditional native medical practices.

- Matthew Smith

Marlon Hyde and Elodie Reed compiled and edited this post.

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