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News Roundup: Fully-vaccinated tourists can now drive into Vermont from Canada

A red 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, the U.S. opening its land borders to fully-vaccinated tourists and more for Monday, Nov. 8.

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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 findthe latest vaccination data online any time.

1. Health officials report 235 new COVID infections

Vermont health officials reported 235 new COVID-19 infections Monday.

That tops a weekend that updated figures show topped more 660 new cases, with 288 on Saturday and 375 on Sunday.

The number of people hospitalized jumped to 55 people.

Vaccination data, last updated Saturday, shows 81% of Vermonters 12 and older are now fully vaccinated.

- Matthew Smith

Nearly 70 COVID cases reported at St. Mikes since Friday

Nearly 70 cases of COVID-19 have been reported at St. Michael’s College since Friday.

WCAX reports administrators reported 55 infections Friday, and another 14 on Sunday.

In all, the new cases represent about 90% of the college's total cases so far this semester.

College officials say students are quarantining either on campus or at home out of state, and blame Halloween parties for the outbreak.

No students are being hospitalized at this time, and in-person classes are set to resume Monday. Faculty may choose to offer classes virtually through Thanksgiving.

A new testing center is being set up on campus, and in-person student gatherings have been suspended through Thanksgiving.

The college is requiring all students get tested after the Thanksgiving holiday.

- Matthew Smith

Dept. of Corrections reports nine more COVID cases among people incarcerated at St. Johnsbury prison

The Vermont Department of Corrections says nine more people incarcerated at the Northeast Correctional Complex in St. Johnsbury have tested positive for COVID-19.

WCAX reports that 16 cases in all have been found at the facility, which remains in lockdown.

The first case was detected Oct. 25, and nine more cases were identified through testing on Friday.

Officials said the nine incarcerated people lived in three adjacent housing units.

 - Matthew Smith

State requiring unvaccinated employees to use personal sick time to quarantine if exposed to COVID on the job

The state of Vermont is requiring unvaccinated state employees to use personal sick time if they are exposed to someone with COVID-19 through their jobs and have to quarantine.

If someone exhausts all their sick time, they could be required to quarantine without being paid.

Fully vaccinated employees forced to quarantine will be paid without needing to use sick time.

The Scott administration says it's unclear how many people have had to use sick leave or if anyone has gone unpaid yet.

Steve Howard, executive director of the Vermont State Employees Association, said the union has filed a grievance, saying the new policy was implemented without working through the details with the union.

The state's previous policy allowed state workers who had to quarantine to be paid while out of work.

Of more than 9,100 state employees, the administration says more than 8,000 are fully vaccinated.

- Associated Press

2. U.S. allowing vaccinated tourists to travel over international land borders once again

The U.S. is easing restrictions on travel from a long list of countries Monday, including Canada.

Starting today, the U.S. is accepting full-vaccinated tourists from Canada, Mexico and most of Europe at airports and land borders, doing away with COVID-19 restrictions dating back to the Trump administration.

The new rules allow air travel from previously restricted countries as long as the traveler has proof of vaccination and a negative COVID-19 test.

Land travel from Mexico and Canada will require proof of vaccination but no test.

The CDC says the U.S. will accept travelers vaccinated with any vaccines approved by the World Health Organization, not just those approved in the U.S. That means that the AstraZeneca vaccine, widely used in Canada, will be accepted.

Canada reopened its land borders to fully-vaccinated Americans in August.

- Associated Press

3. Burlington is suspending its search for a new police chief

Burlington is suspending its search for a new police chief, after officials said they received too few qualified applications.

WPTZ reportsMayor Miro Weinberger announced the move Friday, saying he'll recommend changes to the selection process to encourage more applicants.

Some 21 people have applied for the job since it was last advertised last month. Of those, none were women and only two met the job's minimum requirements.

Weinberger said the city may want to raise the chief’s salary to make it competitive with other cities of similar size, and should also consider using a search firm to find qualified applicants.

The position’s current salary ranges up to $132,000.

Former Chief Brandon del Pozo resigned in 2019 over his use of a fake social media account to heckle a critic.

His successor, Jan Wright, also used a fake Facebook account to engage citizens about police policy and later resigned. T

The department is now led by acting Chief Jon Murad, who has said he has applied to take the job permanently.

- Associated Press

Downtown Burlington will have expanded safety program through holidays

A downtown safety program in Burlington is being expanded and will run through the holidays.

The Burlington Business Association says the Green Mountain Concert Services will provide so-called ambassadors to offer retail, restaurant and hospitality staff safe escort to or from their vehicle, building, or workplace within downtown Burlington from 2 p.m. to midnight, Wednesdays through Sundays.

The ambassadors will also be additional “eyes and ears” downtown and interact with police, Howard Center Street Outreach and other community partners, and the association says they'll also work to de-escalate disruptive disturbances downtown.

The program is funded by the city and private donations.

- Associated Press

4. Franklin County judge tosses out pandemic backlog of 350+ low-level criminal cases

A Franklin County judge has tossed a pandemic backlog of more than 350 low-level criminal cases.

Seven DaysreportsSuperior Court Judge Martin Maley made the decision Thursday, dismissing all criminal cases filed before January of this year for six different offenses: driving with a suspended license, misdemeanor drug possession, violating conditions of release, unlawful trespass, retail theft, or disorderly conduct.

Judge Maley says dropping the cases is necessary as the court wades through a docket of some 2,400 cases, which is several times more than its regular caseload of about 400.

The judge says the judiciary's difficult rollout of its new electronic case management system was also to blame.

Judge Maley notes the court has never issued such an order before, but says it’s "necessary" to let the court focus on its oldest and most serious cases.

 - Matthew Smith

5. Vermont's state climatologist speaks at 26th U.N. Climate Change Conference

Vermont’s state climatologist was tapped by the Biden administration to speak at a major international climate conference last week.

There, President Biden laid out the U.S.'s plan to become a “net-zero emissions economy" by 2050.

UVM professor Dr. Lesley-Ann Dupigny-Giroux is the President of the American Association of state climatologists.

She told delegates it’s important to keep adding to the long term-data we have about our climate, so we can identify climate change in real time.

“One of the pieces that is critically important for us, is to see how these observations show us, for example, that the rates of change that we thought were going to occur are actually occurring faster than we thought they would occur,” Dupigny-Giroux said.

The 26th U.N. Climate Change Conference runs through Nov. 12, in Glasgow.

- Abagael Giles

6. Vermont Professionals of Color Network launches redesigned website

A community-based network for BIPOC Vermonters has redesigned their website to increase access for business owners and others statewide.

New additions to the Vermont Professionals of Color Network website include a directory of BIPOC-owned businesses, a jobs board, and an events calendar. These features hope to make the work of Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) in the state more visible.

Co-founder Weiwei Wang says they want to transform the website into a community resource.

“We wanted to have one consolidated location for all of our news and work,” Wang said. “In relaunching the website, we really wanted to have it be, first of all, community-focused, and make sure that it reflected the needs of our members.”

To celebrate the launch, the Vermont Professionals of Color Network will host an event on Wednesday, Nov. 17 at the Vermont Comedy Club.

- Marlon Hyde

7. For first time in over a year, Vermont counties not experiencing drought

Not a single Vermont county is experiencing drought right now for the first time in over a year. That's according to the latest data from the U-S Drought Monitor.

In recent weeks, parts of Franklin, Orleans, Lamoille and Essex counties were still experiencing moderate drought. But last week, conditions improved.

The U.S. Drought Monitor now ranks those counties as “abnormally dry” – along with parts of Washington and Caledonia counties.

And while streams are flowing above normal levels in most of the state, groundwater levels in the Northeast Kingdom remain abnormally low.

One year ago, 55% of Vermont was experiencing moderate drought.

- Abagael Giles

8. Montreal reelects mayor Valérie Plante

Montreal's incumbent mayor Valérie Plante has been reelected for a second four-year term.

First elected in 2017, Plante won another term Sunday night under the progressive "Project Montreal" banner.

Plante defeated "Ensemble Montreal" challenger Denis Coderre, the former one-term Montreal mayor who Plante first defeated when she was elected four years ago.

CBC Montreal reportsPlante won her second term by 14 points, winning 52% of the mayoral vote to Coderre's 38%.

Plante's pledges for a second term included more money for public transit, a pledge to build 60,000 units of affordable housing, hire 250 more police officers, and to focus on countering climate change.

- Matthew Smith

Elodie Reed compiled and edited this post.

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