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News roundup: Vt. lawmakers consider paid family leave policy, governor renews opposition

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, paid leave legislation, Winter Olympics results and more for Tuesday, Feb. 8.

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While Vermont's pandemic state of emergency has ended, the omicron variant is now circulating around the state.Click here for the latest on new cases, and findthe latest vaccination data online any time.

1. Five more Vermonters have died from COVID-19

Five more Vermonters have died from COVID-19, according to state officials.Vermont’s death toll is now 558 lives lost.

Vermont’s COVID-19 dashboard shows 83 people are currently hospitalized, including 20 in the ICU.

The state documented 206 COVID cases today, and a seven-day positivity rate of 8.2%.

- Elodie Reed

2. State lawmakers consider paid family leave policy, governor renews opposition

Paid family leave is emerging once again as a top priority for Senate Democratic leaders at the Statehouse

Lawmakers passed a family leave bill last session, but it was vetoed by Gov. Phil Scott and efforts to override him fell one vote short.

Chittenden Sen. Michael Sirotkin, chairman of the Senate Economic Development Committee, says it's time to revisit this issue.

"For my dime, I think the whole COVID thing and where we are now with omicron highlights the need for some sort of paid leave. We've got a minimal paid sick day law in Vermont, but we're hearing that some people are really hurting,” he said.

Sirotkin has asked the Scott administration to determine if any federal COVID money might be available to fund this program for the first few years.

Recently, Financial Regulation Commissioner Mike Pieciak told the committee that the governor hasn't changed his views on this issue.

"Our governor is still opposed to a mandate, is still in favor of a voluntary program, so nothing I guess has changed from that perspective on that front,” he said.

Pieciak says the Scott administration is working to set up a voluntary paid leave program for state employees in the coming weeks.

- Bob Kinzel

3. Vermonter wins silver medal in Winter Olympics super-G ski race

Vermonter Ryan Cochran-Siegle has won a silver medal in the super-G ski race at the Winter Olympics.

His podium finish in Beijing comes 50 years after his mother, Barbara Ann Cochran, won Olympic gold in slalom skiing. The family owns Cochran's Ski Area in Richmond.

Cochran-Siegle is the first American to win an Olympic medal in Alpine skiing since 2014.

One year ago, he fractured his neck after a downhill crash, costing him nearly a full season of skiing.

- Mark Davis

Mixed results for Vermont Olympians in Beijing

We're a few days into the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing and the competition is heating up.

Arguably the most famous Vermont Olympian competing this year is alpine skier Mikaela Shiffrin. She's the defending champion in the giant slalom, but on Monday in Beijing she fell during her first run, and was disqualified. Shiffrin still has opportunities to medal in other events.

Biathletes Sean Doherty and Susan Dunklee both train in Vermont, and formed half of the biathlon team that finished seventh in the mixed relay. It's the best ever result in that event for the U.S.

Vermont Army National Guard member Deedra Irwin also set a Team U.S.A. record, with her seventh place finish in the 15-kilometer individual biathlon.

In the 15-kilometer skiathlon, cross country skier Jessie Diggins finished sixth. She has a number of other events coming up this week and next, as do many of the other athletes with Vermont ties.

- Mikaela Lefrak

4. Shelburne startup raises venture capital money

A Shelburne-based startup that's developing wireless charging technology raised over $9 million in a recent round of fundraising.

The company Resonant Link is making a charging system that allows things like medical devices and electric vehicles to power up wirelessly. In a press release, the company says it has customers in "every sector."

Resonant Link's new funding comes from several different venture capital firms.

Last month, the company also received initial approval for up to $760,000 from a state business incentive program. It will receive that money over several years if it expands.

Resonant Link currently lists 10 open jobs in the Burlington-area on its website.

- Henry Epp

5. The Red Cross continues to experience its worst blood shortage in a decade

The Red Cross continues to experience its worst blood shortage in a decade.

To keep up with the need in Vermont, the group says 560 people would need to donate blood every week. For the past four months, that hasn't been happening.

But a spokesperson for the Red Cross in Vermont says there is short-term improvement: appointments have started to fill up for the next two weeks.

- Anna Van Dine

6. Former Danville Rep. Kitty Toll kicks off lieutenant governor campaign Monday

Former Danville Rep. Kitty Toll kicked off her campaign for lieutenant governor at her family’s farm on Monday.

Toll says her experience as chair of the House Appropriations Committee will serve Vermonters well, if she’s elected to statewide office.

“My time on appropriations gave me a fundamental understanding of all of state government, and only deepened my sense for fiscal responsibility,” she said.

Former House Speakers Shap Smith and Mitzi Johnson have endorsed Toll’s candidacy.

Toll joins three other declared candidates in the race for the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor. Incumbent Lt. Gov. Molly Gray is stepping down to run for Congress.

- Peter Hirschfeld

Elodie Reed and Kevin Trevellyan compiled and edited this post.

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