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Latest local updates on COVID-19

Last updated at 1:40 p.m., Sunday, July 5

Sunday, July 5

11 new COVID-19 cases reported in Vermont; no new cases in Windham County

BURLINGTON — The Vermont Department of Health reported Sunday that there are now 1,249 people who have tested positive for COVID-19 in Vermont, including 97 people in Windham County.

Fifty-six people have died so far in Vermont, according to the Health Department, with no deaths reported since June 16. Eleven new COVID-19 cases were reported in the state on Sunday.

Chittenden County leads the state with 629 cases and 39 deaths. Franklin County has the second-highest number of cases in Vermont with 110 cases and six deaths. Windham County’s 97 cases are the third-highest in the state, with a total of three reported deaths due to the virus. Bennington County reports 73 cases and one death.

As of Sunday morning, the Health Department says 70,024 Vermonters tested negative for COVID-19. There are 1,696 travelers being monitored, and 2,323 people who have completed monitoring. The Health Department is also monitoring 38 people who may have been in contact with someone with the virus.

One patient was hospitalized with COVID-19 in Vermont as of Sunday, and there are 14 patients hospitalized who are under investigation for the virus. A total of 1,007 people have recovered from the virus.

In the weekly by-town count of cases released on July 2 of Vermonters who have tested positive for COVID-19, there were 27 identified lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Brattleboro as of that date. No new cases were reported in the previous seven days.

Wilmington had 12 cases, while Vernon reported nine cases and Rockingham and Whitingham each reported eight cases. Putney had seven cases. All these towns saw no new cases in the previous seven days.

Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine said at a press conference last week that the state is continuing its aggressive testing efforts, and that a new analysis that researchers at Harvard conducted for NPR that found Vermont was one of only four states doing enough testing to subdue the virus.

Public health officials agree testing is critical to bring new cases down to a low enough level to allow everyday life to return to some semblance of normalcy. The other three states were Alaska, Montana, and Hawaii.

However, the Health Department reminds everyone to not let up on the simple actions needed to take to keep COVID-19 from spreading in Vermont: Wearing a face mask when around others if you are able, keeping 6-feet apart, washing/sanitizing your hands frequently, and staying home when you’re sick.

For additional COVID-19 health information, guidance, and case data, visit www.healthvermont.gov/covid19.

Farmers to Families food box program resumes this week

BRATTLEBORO — The Farmers to Families food box program will resume food distribution in Bennington on July 7 and Brattleboro, Londonderry, and Springfield on July 8.

Each share will include produce, meat, and dairy products, while supplies last.

The next phase of this program in July and August, which is administered by the state of Vermont, the Vermont National Guard, the Abbey Group, and the Vermont Foodbank, will be done by reservation only. This helps the organizers better plan for both the amount of food to distribute and the safety and efficiency of the distribution process.

Registration for each site closes by 4 p.m. the day prior, and you are welcome to pick up food for other families who are not able to make it to the pickup site, just be sure to include those shares in your reservation.

Distribution times are between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., with appointments clustered every 15 minutes. No personally identifying or financial questions will be asked. Reserve a time by visiting humanresources.vermont.gov/food-help.

The Bennington distributions will take place on Tuesdays in July and August. The Brattleboro, Londonderry, and Springfield distributions will take place on Wednesdays.

Additional distribution sites include Wilmington and Ludlow; both will take place on July 15.

In between distributions, anyone struggling to access healthy and nutritious food during the COVID-19 outbreak is encouraged to look into these other resources in Windham County:

• Brigid’s Kitchen, St. Michael’s Church, 47 Walnut St., Brattleboro, 802-254-6800 or 802-558-6072. They offer grab-and-go lunches and fruit/nuts on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, 11:30 a.m. to 12:20 p.m.

• Loaves and Fishes, Centre Congregational Church 193 Main St., Brattleboro, 802-254-4730. Grab-and-go lunches on Tuesdays and Fridays at noon.

• Vermont Foodbank’s Veggie Van Go will be at Brattleboro Union High School on Fairground Rd., in the parking lot, on the first and third Monday of the month, from 10 a.m.to 2 p.m. Drive-up, touchless pick-up, but walkers welcome, too. Call Vermont 2-1-1 for more information.

• Foodworks, the food shelf program of the Groundworks Collaborative, groundworksvt.org, 802-490-2412, or ccolascione@GroundworksVT.org. Households in need of food are asked to call or email to coordinate delivery. There is an urgent need for volunteers, and Foodworks has set up protocols to keep staff, volunteers, and clients as safe as possible. Email them at volunteer@GroundworksVT.org if you are able to help.

• Guilford Food Pantry, Every Thursday from 5-6 p.m. at the Broad Brook Community Center, 3940 Guilford Center Rd. All are welcome to come and take home fresh produce, staples, meat, and products.

• Putney Food Shelf, Putney Community Center, 10 Christian Square, 802-387-8551. www.putneyfoodshelf.org. Curbside pickup on Saturdays, 9 to 11 a.m.

• Townshend Community Food Shelf, Townshend Congregational Church on the Common, 802-365-4348. Open Mondays, 6 to 7:30 p.m.

• Deerfield Valley Food Pantry has its food distribution on the third week of the month, Thursdays, from 1 to 3 p.m., and Saturdays, from 9 to 11 a.m. Delivery will be made directly to vehicles. For more information, call the Food Pantry and leave a message at 802-464-0148.

• Jamaica-Wardsboro Community Food Shelf, 802-896-6178. Upcoming distribution dates are June 24, July 29, Aug. 26, and Sept. 30. Distribution takes place from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the Wardsboro Vestry.

• Our Place Drop-In Center, 4 Island St., Bellows Falls, 802-463-2217. Our Place’s food shelf is open from 9:30 a.m. until 4 p.m. on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Lunch is served as a to-go meal at noon. Call ahead so staff can put together the food pantry boxes, and stay in your car until there is no one else at their “take out” windows.

If you are looking for additional food resources:

• 3SquaresVT: Shop at a grocery store or online when you want, for the food you want. Visit www.hungerfreevt.org/how-do-i-apply to find out more and for application assistance, or call 2-1-1, or text VFBSNAP to 855-11.

• WIC: Healthy food and support for you if you are pregnant or a parent or caregiver for a child under the age of 5. Call 2-1-1 or text VTWIC to 855-11.

• If you are age 60 or older, call 1-800-642-5119 to get personal assistance with 3SquaresVT, getting meals delivered free to you at home, and more. Call 2-1-1 or visit the USDA Meal Finder at www.fns.usda.gov/meals4kids to find their nearest location for meals for children 18 and under.

• The Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP) is a federal nutrition program which offers free monthly nutrition information and nutritious foods to income-eligible older adults. Learn more at vtfoodbank.org/csfp.

Route 5 bridge in Putney Center closes for repairs on Monday

PUTNEY — Beginning Monday, July 6, at 7 a.m., the Vermont Agency of Transportation will close the Route 5 bridge in Putney Center over Sacketts Brook.

The closure will remain in place until the evening of Saturday, July 20. This 14-day closure is for the replacement of the bridge deck. A signed detour will be in place utilizing Interstate 91 and Route 5.

Foot traffic is currently restricted until Sunday, July 26. A free shuttle service is now available from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily to help transport pedestrians around the bridge.

Masks needed for local schools by August

BRATTLEBORO — With the Windham Southeast School District schools in Brattleboro, Dummerston, Guilford, Putney, and Vernon planning to reopen for in-person learning for the 2020-21 school year, face masks will be needed for students, teachers, school personnel, and bus drivers.

If you can sew masks to fill this need, donate cotton fabric or 1/8 to 1/4 inch elastic, cut out masks (if given material and a pattern) or donate bandanas, your help is requested to make hundreds of masks are needed in all sizes, from kindergarten through adult-sized by mid-August.

If you are capable of sewing masks, here are some samples of mask patterns:

• Rectangular pleated mask, adult and child sizes: www.deaconess.com/How-to-make-a-Face-Mask/Documents-Mask/Mask-Information.

• Contour face mask, several sizes: drive.google.com/file/d/1O3IvcoVqyYqSTekwzLlnLI0t0GxSm-zA/view.

Keep in mind that child size masks should have elastic loops, not ties, and that alll masks should be made of at least two layers of fabric.

Completed masks can be dropped off in marked bins, Monday through Friday, at any of these locations, and will be distributed to students and staff in the school district:

• Brattleboro: Windham Southeast Supervisory Office, 53 Green St., or Oak Grove School, 15 Moreland Ave.

• Dummerston School, 52 Schoolhouse Rd.

• Guilford Central School, 374 School Rd.

• Putney Central School, 182 Westminster Rd.

• Vernon Elementary School, 381 Governor Hunt Rd.

For more information, contact Green Street School Nurse Julia Duke at jduke@wsesdvt.org. For ready-made kits for sewing, or if you need elastic, contact Judy Siler at 802-275-2627 or jsilervt@yahoo.com.

Businesses, nonprofits can apply for Vt. relief grants starting Monday

MONTPELIER — Vermont’s businesses and nonprofits will soon see additional economic relief coming their way to ease the pain of losses from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Vermont Emergency Economic Recovery grant program, which is funded through the federal CARES Act, will be administered by the Agency of Commerce and Economic Development (ACCD) on a first come, first serve basis with a one-time grant of up to $50,000 available.

The grant program will start taking applications on Monday, July 6. The specifics on how to apply are listed at accd.vermont.gov/covid-19/economic-recovery-grants.

People looking for grant money related to health care and agriculture will be handled outside ACCD, through the Agency of Human Services and Agency of Agriculture, respectively. Details are still being worked on for those grants.

While he said the funding is not as much as he asked for in his initial stimulus proposal and that the Legislature put more strings attached to it, Gov. Phil Scott said the money will help businesses that are struggling through the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

Tuesday, June 30

Extra 3SquaresVT food benefits available in July, August

WATERBURY — The Department for Children and Families (DCF) announced today that many 3SquaresVT households will get a higher benefit in July and August.

According to DCF, this extra help is part of the federal Coronavirus Relief Bill. It will not permanently change a household’s monthly benefit. It is a temporary increase to help during the health crisis.

Households already getting the maximum 3SquaresVT benefit, or a zero benefit, will not get an increase. Everyone else will get an increase that brings them to the maximum benefit for their household size: one person, $194; two people, $355; three people, $509; four people, $646; five people, $768; each additional person, $146.

3SquaresVT households don’t need to do anything to get the increased benefit. If eligible, they’ll automatically get it the same way they get their benefits now: on an EBT card, through direct deposit, or by check. Learn more about 3SquaresVT at dcf.vermont.gov/benefits/3SquaresVT.

Monday, June 29

Legislature, Scott differ on COVID-19 economic relief plan

MONTPELIER — Gov. Phil Scott and the Vermont Legislature are still at odds over how federal COVID-19 economic relief money will be disbursed.

On June 26, the Legislature approved spending $576 million of the money Vermont got from the federal government. Lawmakers said they did not want to spend all the money out of concern that a second wave of the virus might hit the state, or if more gaps in the state budget need to be filled.

Vermont received $1.25 billion from the federal government’s Coronavirus Relief Fund under the federal CARES Act in April. This money must be spent by the end of December.

The Legislature’s plan contains about $300 million for the state’s health care industry, $35 million for Vermont’s farms, and additional money for businesses, for broadband expansion, and for assistance for renters, landlords and programs for homeless people.

Scott said Monday that he will likely sign the spending bills, but he believes they don’t include enough funding for businesses in need.

In May, Scott had urged the Legislature to adopt his proposal for $400 million in economic relief for businesses, which included about $250 million in grants and loans.

The Legislature’s proposal comes close to what he wanted, but Scott said his administration is reviewing the bills before they receive his signature.

Scott said relief money could start flowing to sectors that need in within the next few days, and that his administration and the Legislature will likely look at additional relief money when lawmakers return to Montpelier in a few weeks.

Friday, June 26

State expands ‘trusted travel’ policy to allow quarantine-free travel from additional designated counties

MONTPELIER — As state data and expanded testing and tracing capacity for COVID-19 continue to support reopening, Gov. Phil Scott today announced he will expand the number of states covered under Vermont’s county-by-county quarantine-free travel policy, which allows direct travel from designated counties without a 14-day quarantine requirement.

In early June, Scott, in close consultation with the Vermont Department of Health, opened up travel to and from counties in New England and New York with less than 400 active cases of COVID-19 per one million residents without a quarantine requirement.

Effective July 1, this policy will be expanded to counties below this threshold in Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia, as well as the District of Columbia. Quarantine requirements remain in place for those traveling to and from other regions.

“Our hospitality sector and the thousands of jobs it provides Vermonters has been one of the worst hit by this pandemic, and even as we’ve reopened, it hasn’t been enough to help them make ends meet or put all of their employees back to work,” said Scott on Friday. “With this data-based approach to determine low-risk counties, we can welcome more people to Vermont and support these jobs while continuing to limit spread of the virus in Vermont.”

A map of the approved counties is posted on ACCD’s website, accd.vermont.gov, and is updated weekly with the latest county designations. Vermonters planning to travel to other states should understand that each state may have its own quarantine policy and they should be familiar with, and respect, the quarantine policies of those states.

Visitors are strongly encouraged to register with Sara Alert at the Vermont Health Department’s website for daily symptom reminders from the Vermont Department of Health and must attest to meeting the travel requirements.

State parks reopened Friday, but they will not be offering cabins, cottages, or indoor space rentals. Playgrounds will be closed, and there will be no rentals of camping and fishing gear.

Also Friday, restaurants, arts, and entertainment venues can increase their capacity to 50 percent, or up to 75 customers or guests inside and 150 people outside.

Scott says if the COVID-19 data remain favorable, all sectors of the Vermont economy could be open to 50 percent in time for the July 4 holiday weekend.

Thursday, June 25

Health Department investigating cluster of COVID-19 cases in Windham County

BRATTLEBORO — The Vermont Department of Health is continuing to investigate and respond to a small cluster of COVID-19 cases in Windham County.

Seven people tested positive for the virus late last week, but Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine said Wednesday that the cases were confined to one family, and testing and contact tracing has shown that the virus has not spread beyond that family.

Deputy State Epidemiologist Laura Ann Nicolai said in a news release on Tuesday that there does not appear to be additional community spread associated with this situation.

Because COVID-19 spreads easily from person-to-person, these types of investigations are becoming more common ─ especially as more sectors open back up, and more people are getting together with family and friends and others in their communities.

A cluster of cases has also been identified in Fair Haven, in Rutland County, at a place of business. Levine said Wednesday that 12 cases are associated with that cluster so far, and that testing and contact tracing is in full swing.

“We’ve seen that COVID-19 cases can crop up anywhere, that’s the nature of this virus,” said Laura Overton, director of the department’s Brattleboro Local Health Office. “But if we work together, we can protect one another within our community.”

The Health Department encourages the members of the greater Brattleboro community ─ and all Vermonters ─ to continue to follow the four steps to protect themselves and prevent spread of the virus: wear face coverings, keep a 6-foot distance from others, wash hands frequently, and stay home when sick.

Anyone interested in getting tested at one of the Health Department’s pop-up sites across the state can sign up for an upcoming appointment at humanresources.vermont.gov/popups.

Wednesday, June 24

Despite COVID-19, Vermont sugar makers had record-breaking season

WESTFORD — According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Survey 2020 Maple Syrup Report (for the Northeastern Region), once again, Vermont is the top producing state in the nation for the 93rd straight season.

Despite COVID-19, this was a record setting season with 2.22 million gallons of maple syrup made. Vermont’s production increased 7 percent from 2019 and accounted for 51 percent of the crop in the United States, while overall U.S. production jumped 4.6 percent from 2019.

For sugaring operations in many Vermont counties, the season ran from late February to the middle of April, with a report of at least one sugar maker boiling as late as April 28.

Statewide temperatures were slightly above average in March and slightly below average in April, which allowed operations at higher elevations to keep producing.

In general, sugar makers reported that their sap had low to average sugar content, but the healthy sap runs allowed most to have average or record years for production. Along with the favorable weather conditions, Vermont’s new record tap count of 6,150,000 helped gather more sap than ever.

With the season wrapped up, Vermont sugar makers are now busy getting their products to consumers here at home, nationwide and beyond through online stores, curbside, delivery and through local farmers’ markets.

To find your Vermont maple syrup online, visit vermontmaple.org/buy-pure-maple.

Lydia Taft Pratt Library now open

WEST DUMMERSTON — The Lydia Taft Pratt Library has reopened to the public, with several operational changes enacted in response to the COVID-19 crisis in order to make the library a safer place to visit. Among these:

• A hand sanitizing station has been set up for people entering and leaving the library.

• Everyone entering and leaving the library is expected to wear a mask or face covering. Children under 5 years old are exempt.

• Only four people (including library staff) will be permitted in the library at any time. Family units and/or households quarantining together will also be permitted. Library users will be limited to no more than 30 minutes in the library at a time.

• Regular cleaning and sanitizing of high-touch areas will happen, and returned library materials will be quarantined and in some cases sanitized before being returned to shelves.

Established 1914, the Lydia Taft Pratt Library is located in the Dummerston Community Center at 150 West St. The library is open Tuesdays from 2 to 6 p.m., and on Wednesdays and Thursdays, 1 to 5 p.m.

Curbside delivery of library materials will continue to be an option for vulnerable people as well as home delivery of materials to homebound individuals. For more information, call the library at 802-258-9878 or email dummerstonvtlibrary@gmail.com.

Tuesday, June 23

Return of Amtrak train service to Vermont on hold

BRATTLEBORO — Amtrak’s plans to resume service north of New Haven, Conn., for the Vermonter and the Ethan Allen Express, its two daily passenger trains to Vermont, are now on hold.

Earlier this month, Amtrak.com was currently accepting ticket reservations for rail travel to and from Vermont starting on July 1. They stopped doing so last week, and are not accepting any reservations until Aug. 3 — the tentative new start-up date.

The Vermonter, which normally runs between St. Albans to Washington, D.C., with stops in Bellows Falls and Brattleboro, suspended service north of New Haven as of March 26, because of COVID-19 concerns.

Amtrak also suspended service in late March on its Ethan Allen Express, the train that runs between Rutland and New York City.

Both trains are funded by the Vermont Agency of Transportation, which has yet to make an official announcement on both trains’ status.

“The Governor’s office and VTrans continues to watch the numbers and be guided by the science. VTrans and Amtrak do not have a date certain for resuming the service back to Vermont,” Director of Rail & Aviation Dan Delabruere said last week in an email to the Vermont Rail Action Network, a rail advocacy group.

Last week, Amtrak announced that it was cutting back service for its long-distance trains to three days per week. It made no mention of the Vermont trains in its announcement.

Currently, the rail option open to southern Vermont travels is the Valley Flyer, a passenger train subsidized by Massachusetts and Connecticut, that is currently running once-a-day between Greenfield, Mass., and New Haven, with connections to Amtrak and Metro North trains to New York City.

Weekday southbound trains leave Greenfield at 7:35 a.m., and arrive in New Haven at 10:18 p.m., while weekend trains depart at 9:15 a.m., and arrive in New Haven at 11:56 a.m.

Weekday northbound trains leave New Haven at 7:35 p.m. and arrive in Greenfield at 10:23 p.m., while weekend trains leave New Haven at 5 p.m. and arrive in Greenfield at 7:53 p.m.

There is a second weekend train that leaves Greenfield at 8:10 p.m., and arrives in Springfield at 9:18 p.m. to connect to a CTRail shuttle train that arrives in New Haven at 11:18 p.m.

Monday, June 22

Summer meals program has begun

BRATTLEBORO — Windham Southeast Supervisory Union will be providing free breakfast and lunch daily for kids and teens under 18 through the Summer Food Service Program, Monday through Friday, through Aug. 14.

Meals will be provided on a first come, first serve basis but, this year, they are asking families to sign up for meals by visiting www.wsesu.org/covid-19-student-meals.html and clicking on the “Student Meal Survey: Summer Meals” link on the left, and select a meal site to receive meals to help ensure they have enough meals for all children.

All sites will be grab and go, include breakfast and lunch and be served at the sites and times as follows:

• Brooks Memorial Library, 224 Main St, Brattleboro, 11 to 11:30 a.m.

• Retreat Farm, 45 Farmhouse Sq., Brattleboro, 11:05 to 11:35 a.m.

• West Brattleboro Fire Station, 16 South St., West Brattleboro, 10:30 to 11 a.m.

• Central Fire Station, 103 Elliot St., Brattleboro, 10:55 to 11:25 a.m.

• Dummerston Town Offices, 1523 Middle Rd., Dummerston Center, 11 to 11:30 a.m.

• Guilford Fire Station, 108 Guilford Center Rd., 11 to 11:30 a.m.

• Putney Public Library, 63 Main St. 10:45 to 11:30 a.m.

• Vernon Recreation Center, 381 Governor Hunt Rd., and Vernon Fire Station, 2842 Fort Bridgman Rd., 11 to 11:30 a.m.

Deliveries in Brattleboro will be made at the following times and locations: 130 Birge St., 11 to 11:10 a.m., Mountain Home Trailer Park, 11:45 a.m. to noon, Black Mountain Trailer Park, 12:10 to 12:20 p.m., 83 Sherwood Circle, 11:30 to 11:40 a.m., 94 Canal Street (auto parts store) 10:45 to 10:55 a.m., Oak Grove School 10:30 to 10:40 a.m., Green Street School, 11:15 to 11:25 a.m., and Landmark Hill (back parking lot), 12:25 to 12:35 p.m.

The district is still looking for volunteers to help distribute meals. There are still many open shifts to be filled. Volunteer shifts are short, with the meal station times ranging from 30 minutes to an hour. The van routes are longer if you have more time to give. Questions about volunteering can be directed to Ali West at awest@wsesdvt.org.

If you have questions about the program, contact West at 802-451-3558 or at bratfood@wsesdvt.org.

Friday, June 19

Increased capacities now allowed for Vermont’s restaurants, venues

MONTPELIER — The Scott administration announced Friday that, as of June 26, the state will raise occupancy limits for event venues, arts, culture and entertainment venues, as well as restaurants.

Under new COVID-19 guidelines, the cap for indoor establishments is now 75 people, and 150 people for outdoor operations, or 50 percent of their total approved fire safety occupancy — whichever is less.

Requirements to encourage physical distancing between guests remain in place.

Commerce Secretary Lindsay Kurrle said Friday that “the hospitality industry continues to be one of the hardest hit. Capacity limits and quarantine requirements are making it hard for them to reopen and, in many cases, restrictions do not allow them to operate in ways that make ends meet.”

Vermont is also giving the green light for interstate travel to more areas in New England. Berkshire, Hampshire and Franklin counties in Massachusetts are off the 14-day quarantine list and all but one county in New Hampshire and two in Maine are under the 400 active cases per million people threshold.

For details on the increased capacity size for event venues and restaurants, visit accd.vermont.gov/news/update-new-work-safe-additions-stay-home-stay-safe-order.

Thursday, June 18

Mount Snow opens for limited summer activities

WEST DOVER — Mount Snow Resort today announced that it is now open for limited summer recreational opportunities.

In response to COVID-19, the resort said in a news release that, in addition to complying with local orders, “we are enforcing our own safety measures — consistent across all of our resorts — including daily health screens for our employees and requiring face masks be worn by employees at all times and guests in areas where social distancing is not possible, like loading and unloading our lifts.”

The Mount Snow Golf Course is now open, and its Fairways restaurant is also open with a limited grab-and-go menu. Scenic chairlift rides will run Friday through Sunday, starting June 26. The Bullwheel restaurant will be open, on the same schedule as scenic rides, for grab-and-go food and outdoor dining.

Guests are welcome to come hike and bike on the mountain, but they will do so entirely at their own risk, as patrol services will not be available.

The resort will not be operating the Mount Snow Bike Park, Outdoor Exploration Camp, or Daycare this summer. Also, their annual July 4 celebration, Fireworks for Freedom, will not be taking place this year. For more information, visit www.mountsnow.com.

Vermont gets $2 million for mental health, substance abuse treatment

BURLINGTON — Vermont has received a $2 million federal emergency grant to make sure people with mental health and substance use disorders can access care during the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to a news release, the Departments of Health and Mental Health will use the funds from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to expand services and supports for Vermonters who need them. The grant will also allow for increased access to mental health care for health care workers.

State officials say the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted many essential services, such as in-home supports and interventions, in-person recovery support, overdose prevention, detoxification and treatment, such as receiving medication assisted treatment (MAT) for opioid use disorder.

“It’s easy to forget that COVID-19 stresses our mental health as well as being a risk for serious physical illness,” said Sarah Squirrell, Commissioner of the Department of Mental Health. “While we are fortunate that only a small percentage of Vermonters have gotten sick with COVID-19, all of us are under the strain of uncertainty, risk and the need to practice universal precautions to stay healthy — stresses that can lead to anxiety and depression.”

Squirrel emphasized that the ability to provide support for the emotional and mental well-being of Vermont’s health care workers is critical.

The use of technology to provide telehealth services will be key to supporting Vermonters, especially when it comes to the 24-7 emergency services needed by those with severe mental illness, Squirrell said.

Vermonters can contact VTHelplink.org for free, confidential and personalized information and referrals to substance use prevention, treatment and recovery services throughout the state.

Wednesday, June 17

Limited outside visits be allowed at long-term care facilities, nursing homes starting June 19

MONTPELIER — Gov. Phil Scott announced today changes to policies that have restricted access by visitors to long-term care facilities and nursing homes.

Starting June 19, up to two visitors per day will be allowed to visit patients. The visits will take place outdoors, and visitors will need to be masked, observe social distancing protocols, and must be screened for the virus before visitation.

Facilities can either adopt the new guidelines, or opt to remain closed to visitation.

Older Vermonters have not been allowed to have in-person visits at nursing homes and long-term facilities since March 13. Agency of Human Services Secretary Mike Smith said the decision to lock down “was the right one” but was also “one of the hardest decisions we’ve had to make.”

More than half of the 55 deaths associated with the COVID-19 outbreak took place at two nursing homes in the Burlington area. People over age 65 are considered to be the most at risk for contracting the virus.

Restrictions inside long-term care facilities have not been lifted, however. Indoor group gatherings and dining are still not allowed.

Some changes to hospital visitation guidelines were also announced today. One visitor at a time will be allowed in serious health situations, and two visitors will be permitted for pediatric and end-of-life care.

Tuesday, June 16

Twin Valley School District offers summer meals

WHITINGHAM — The Twin Valley School District is offering free two-day “Grab & Go” meals for students of all ages on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at these locations:

• Readsboro Bandstand and Halifax School, 11 to 11:20 a.m.

• Stamford School, Searsburg Town Office, Whitingham Post Office, Whitingham Free Public Library in Jacksonville, the old Wilmington High School, and Deerfield Valley Elementary in Wilmington, 11:40 a.m. to noon.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has issued an area eligibility waiver for the summer, meaning all summer meals in Vermont will be offered to all children free of charge Windham Southeast, Windham Northeast, and the Springfield School District are all continuing their programs this summer as well.

If you have any questions, contact Twin Valley Food Service Director Lonny Paige at lpaige@tvhs.k12.vt.us.

Monday, June 15

Scott extends COVID-19 emergency order through July 15

MONTPELIER — At his media briefing on Monday, Gov. Phil Scott announced he was extending the state’s COVID-19 emergency order until July 15. The emergency order, first announced March 13, had already been extended once.

While Scott said last week that he hopes Vermont will get to 100 percent open in the next two to three months, that will depend on the number of new cases of COVID-19 reported throughout the Northeast. He said Monday that there are still 130,000 cases within a five-hour drive of Vermont.

Scott stressed that things are far different than they were in March when the emergency order was first issued. He said that everyone knows more about how to prevent the spread of the virus, and medical facilities are better prepared in case of a second outbreak happens. Increased testing and contact tracing has played a big role in keeping new outbreaks under control, he said.

While the order is still in place, Scott said every sector of the economy has been opened in a limited way and, if the data continues to show improvement, more sectors may be fully opened. For example, campgrounds can operate at 100 percent capacity starting this week.

Limited, no-contact youth sports also were permitted to begin today, but actual games between teams will not be allowed until July. Travel restrictions have also eased to and from Vermont.

Sunday, June 14

Turning Point seeks cellphone donations for clients

BRATTLEBORO — Although the Turning Point of Windham County recovery center is temporarily closed as a gathering place due to COVID-19, they are offering remote support via meetings and individual connections.

But not everyone has a working phone on which to access these services. Your unused cellphone can help those who don’t have one.

Thanks to the generous offer from the Brattleboro Area Mutual Aid Tech team (BAMA) and the help of Steve West, Turning Point of Windham County plans to provide refurbished pre-used cellphones for as many participants as possible so they can access online and phone recovery supports.

Bring your used, but still functional, cell/smart phones to the Brooks Memorial Library’s main entrance from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday. Remember to disinfect and factory reset your phone(s) before donating.

For more information on remote services offered by Turning Point of Windham County, visit their Facebook page or call 802-257-5600.

Thursday, June 11

State says Southern State Correctional Facility is clear of COVID-19

SPRINGFIELD — COVID-19 test results from Southern State Correctional Facility (SSCF) in Springfield detected no cases of coronavirus. The Vermont Department of Health performed a total of 336 inmate tests and 181 staff tests at the facility on June 8.

According to a news release, SSCF is the sixth and final facility to have all staff and inmates tested for novel coronavirus under the state’s COVID-19 mitigation strategy for Vermont’s prisons. Northwest State Correctional Facility in St. Albans is the only facility to have any positive inmate tests since the virus was first detected among the population.

AARP Tax-Aide Program cancelled, online service available

BRATTLEBORO — The AARP Foundation Tax-Aide Program for the Brattleboro community has determined that it will not re-open for this tax season.

In a news release, local organizers said that “the health and safety of our volunteers, staff, and taxpayers is our top priority. The decision not to re-open was made with their protection in mind.”

AARP Foundation Tax-Aide is offering online options to assist taxpayers affected by the suspension of in-person services.

A self-prep option, providing taxpayers with free access to software so they can prepare taxes on their own, is available at signup.aarpfoundation.org/preparing-your-taxes-online.

If taxpayers would like help completing their own taxes, they can request the assistance of a volunteer to coach them through the process via phone or computer screen-sharing. Visit aarpfoundation.org/taxaide or call 888-227-7669 for information and updates. AARP membership is not required.

Westminster Cares cancels Garden Tour fundraiser

WESTMINSTER — Due to several factors regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, Westminster Cares has cancelled its 19th annual Westminster Garden Tour fundraiser planned for Aug. 1 and 2.

The Westminster Garden Tour has been the major annual fundraiser for Westminster Cares for the last 18 years. The Garden Tour Committee said it “is working on a plan to commemorate the weekend and remind past attendees that we will fully expect to continue this successful fundraising event in 2021.”

Preliminary plans include a virtual garden tour and online workshops. If you would like to be notified of upcoming Garden Tour-related activities, send an email to wecares@sover.net. Announcements about virtual events will be made on their website, www.westminstercares.org, and Facebook page.

United Way of Windham County ceases all 2020 VITA services

BRATTLEBORO — The United Way of Windham County has ceased all 2020 Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) services.

In spite of the newly relaxed restrictions on businesses and social distancing and the new tax filing deadline of July 15, 2020, United Way of Windham County will not be able to reengage its VITA programming.

For alternative methods of preparing your 2019 income taxes you can visit these online services: www.irs.gov/filing/free-file-do-your-federal-taxes-for-free or www.myfreetaxes.com.

Local service groups continue grocery delivery service

BRATTLEBORO — Brattleboro VFW Post 1034 and Brattleboro Elks #1499 banded together back in April to buy groceries and other essential items for those who cannot not venture out.

Volunteers purchased items, bagged or boxed them, and delivered them to homes where needed in Brattleboro, Dummerston, Guilford, Putney, and Vernon.

They are still taking names of folks who need help. If you need groceries, call VFW Post 1034 Quartermaster Lisa Lofting at 802-257-0438.

More than $6,000 in donations have taken in over the past two months to fund this program. Cash donations are always welcome, with 100 percent of the proceeds to be used to purchase items.

Make checks payable to VFW Post 1034, and include a return address so a receipt can be mailed. Mail to VFW Post 1034, P.O. Box 8233, Brattleboro, VT 05304.

Putney Public Pool will not open this summer

PUTNEY — Putney Town Manager Karen Astley announced last week that the Putney Public Pool will not open this summer.

The Selectboard and the Town Manager agreed at a June 3 board meeting that the current condition of the pool makes it impossible to open at this time. Estimates, options, and means to finance repairs will be sought.

“Our office is working swiftly to seek options and estimates to repair the community pool,” Astley said in a news release, adding that the pool “will require major repairs that may not be financially feasible nor in the budget to meet a 2020 summer opening.”

Astley said that she and the Selectboard “will revisit the pool discussion once information is readily available. We are optimistic and realistic.”

Moore Free Library reopens

NEWFANE — The Moore Free Library, 23 West St., is now open to the public. Hours are Tuesdays and Thursdays, 1 to 5 p.m., Wednesdays and Fridays, 2 to 6 p.m., and Saturdays 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The library is located at in Newfane.

Ten people are allowed in the building at one time and patrons are asked to maintain a 6-foot distance from others, wear a mask, and limit indoor library visits to 30 minutes. There is ample outdoor seating and strong wi-fi outdoors and the public is encouraged to use the outdoor space for longer visits.

Library laptops are available to borrow for outdoor usage and the library’s catalog is browsable online at moorefreelibrary.org. For those who don’t want to enter the library, curbside service is available during library hours by calling 802-365-7948.

Wednesday, June 10

State officials say Vermont schools will reopen this fall

MONTPELIER — Gov. Phil Scott said the state is committed to getting schools open for in-person instruction this fall.

At his news briefing on Wednesday, Scott said the Education Department has been working with the Health Department to come up with protocols and guidelines for reopening schools. The full guidelines will be released next week.

“We know how vital it is for kids and their development for schools to reopen,” Scott said.

Education Secretary Dan French said Wednesday that in-person instruction will look different, with protocols to keep COVID out of buildings through daily disinfection and stricter hygiene measures. There will be daily health checks for students and staff and screenings before boarding buses.

Scott said he did not want to forget about the Class of 2020 “who have endured a lot” this spring with the closure of schools and the disruption of graduation celebrations.

With that in mind, Dan Smith of the Vermont Community Foundation announced that every Vermont high school graduate in the Class of 2020 will be eligible for one free course at Community College of Vermont.

The McClure Foundation is partnering with CCV to make this offer to graduating seniors.

Monday, June 8

Scott: Low-contact sports can resume June 15

MONTPELIER — Gov. Phil Scott announced Monday that some organized, low-contact sports may resume around Vermont, starting June 15.

Recreational sports such as baseball, softball, soccer and lacrosse for children and adults can begin on that date, but with certain COVID-19 prevention measures in place.

No more than 25 people will be allowed on the playing field, including coaches and officials. No more than 25 spectators will be allowed at games. The use of face coverings and other public hygiene measures will be in effect.

Competition between teams can begin by July 1, but professional or college-level sports are still not allowed in Vermont for now.

Today is the first day for restaurants in Vermont to offer indoor dining on a limited basis, and for lodging establishments and campgrounds to also expand their bookings to 50 percent of capacity. Interstate travel is also being opened today to and from certain New England and upstate New York counties with low numbers of COVID-19 cases.

Friday, June 5

Scott: Limited indoor dining can resume June 8; lodging capacity to increase to 50 percent, some travel restrictions set to be lifted

MONTPELIER — While expressing concern over an cluster of COVID-19 cases in Winooski this week, Gov. Phil Scott announced changes on Friday regarding restrictions for indoor dining and out-of-state tourism.

On Thursday, the Vermont Health Department reported 36 new cases statewide, the highest one-day increase since early April, with the Winooski cluster accounting for 34 of the new cases, about evenly divided between adults and children.

However, Scott said he still believes that it is safe to move forward with plans to allow restaurants to offer indoor dining starting Monday, June 8.

The Agency of Commerce and Community Development (ACCD) has issued health and safety requirements and procedures to allow limited indoor dining at restaurants and bars beginning on June 8.

Occupancy is limited to 25 percent of legal capacity with distance requirements between tables. Other measures include reservation or call-ahead seating, disposable menus, no bar seating, and more.

Lodging establishments, including campgrounds, can increase capacity to 50 percent starting June 8.

ACCD has issued health and safety requirements and procedures for restaurants and lodging establishments. To view their specific safety guidelines and protocols for businesses, as well as additional resources, visit accd.vermont.gov.

As for reopening Vermont to tourism, state officials say that the 14-day self-quarantine guidelines will no longer be necessary for travel to and from 55 counties in northern New England, upstate New York, and parts of Massachusetts that report 400 cases or fewer of COVID-19 per million people. A map of the approved counties will be updated weekly and posted on the ACCD website.

Thursday, June 4

Experienced Goods limits donations to one day a week

BRATTLEBORO — Due to an overwhelming amount of generous donations, Experienced Goods, the thrift store for Brattleboro Area Hospice, will limit accepting donations each week to Tuesdays, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., beginning Tuesday, June 9.

The storage space at the CF Church building, 80 Flat St., which is the space next to the location for the Winter Farmers’ Market. has reached capacity after just two weeks.

Their retail store at 77 Flat St. remains closed, and donations must not be dropped off or left at our store location. Also, do not leave donations outside the 80 Flat St. location during non-donation hours. They will keep the public informed as to when they will be opening the retail store.

While they are grateful for your donations and support of Brattleboro Area Hospice, the store staff says it is vital that donors adhere to their standards for clean and sellable items. For a full listing of what is allowable to donate, refer to the Experienced Goods section of the Brattleboro Area Hospice website, brattleborohospice.org.

Wednesday, June 3

Sheriff’s Dept. to reopen lobby to public

NEWFANE — Windham County Sheriff Mark Anderson said his department has resumed all civilian fingerprinting services by appointments, with cleaning protocols and a health screening questionnaire prior to being fingerprinted.

People will need to bring and wear a mask and a pen to write with, as they will not be provided. Appointment offerings will be expanded to accommodate the back log. The lobby will be opening as well with limited occupancy.

Anderson said in a news release that deputies “will continue to physically respond to emergencies where life, limb, or property are in jeopardy” and “will continue to handle non-emergency calls via electronic communication when possible.”

Deputies may be wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves or masks as a precaution when responding to calls, and may request for people meet them outside of their homes or businesses.

Tuesday, June 2

Scott establishes racial equity task force

MONTPELIER — Gov. Phil Scott has signed an Executive Order to form the Racial Equity Task Force as a component of a broader state effort to promote racial, ethnic and cultural equity, including in its response to COVID-19.

“We cannot continue to treat racism and examples like the one in Minneapolis as uncomfortable and rare events, which is why we’ve been working on a Racial Equity Task Force in recent months,” Scott said at a news briefing Monday. “A task force is not the cure-all for what ails us. It is going to take some soul searching and real change — individually and systemically — to make a difference.”

The task force will undertake three major projects including:

• Evaluating structures of support for racially diverse populations, including a focus on the racial disparities in health outcomes highlighted by COVID-19;

• Reviewing current state and federal law on hate speech and freedom of speech and considering changes to state law to clarify the path for prosecuting harassment, hate speech, and other bias-motivated crimes; and

• Studying and presenting options to encourage Vermonters from diverse, marginalized, or underrepresented racial and ethnic groups to run and serve in public office at all levels.

It will submit recommendations to the Governor on the first project by Aug. 15 and preliminary recommendations on the second and third by Dec. 15. The group will also provide guidance as needed by the Governor.

“This task force will contribute to advancing equity in Vermont, and yet it is only one piece of that effort,” said Executive Director of Racial Equity Xusana Davis, who will chair the task force. “The group will shine further light on existing disparities, but it is up to individuals, institutions and local and state government to make it happen. This is such important work, and it is everyone’s work.”

Monday, June 1

Scott: Officers involved in George Floyd killing should be prosecuted

MONTPELIER — Gov. Phil Scott started his Monday news briefing on the COVID-19 outbreak by addressing a subject that has overshadowed the virus — police violence and systemic racism.

Scott said that the four Minneapolis police officers involved in the killing of George Floyd should be prosecuted, calling their actions “barbaric and totally inexcusable.”

Hundreds of protesters turned out in Brattleboro, Burlington, and Montpelier over the weekend as part of nationwide protests sparked by the killing of Floyd.

Scott, who joined the Vermont State Police in condemning the Minneapolis police actions on May 29, said the anger of protests was justified, and that they were the result “of calls for help for centuries that have gone unheard.”

“I respect those who are doing so,” Scott said. “I only ask that you do so peacefully and safely, especially considering the public health crisis we’re facing.”

At the same time, he said that hate and ignorance “is a far greater risk than COVID-19” to the health and general welfare of nation.

Scott also announced the launch of a racial equity task force to explore policies to combat systemic racism in Vermont. He acknowledged a task force is not a cure-all, encouraging Vermonters to take time to reflect on what role every person can play to end hate, racism and bigotry.

In his remarks at Monday’s news briefing, Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine asked Vermonters who engage in public protests and other civic activities to be aware that the same COVID-19 safety precautions apply as with any other gathering.

DMV to resume driver’s license testing

MONTPELIER — Gov. Phil Scott and the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) on Monday announced a restart plan for resuming driver’s license tests and a new service for Vermonters to receive their learner’s permit online as the state begins limited resumption of services paused due to COVID-19.

Vermonters can now take the learner’s permit test online at the DMV website, dmv.vermont.gov. Those who pass will receive their learner’s permit in the mail within three weeks. This new online test is for a standard learner’s permit only and does not include motorcycles or commercial vehicles.

Additionally, the DMV will resume offering driver’s license examinations. Customers who had a driving exam cancelled due to COVID-19 during March or April will be contacted by the DMV to reschedule their exam.

Brattleboro Police return to normal operations

BRATTLEBORO — The Brattleboro Police Department has returned to normal operations as of June 1, with some modifications.

According to a news release, officers “are responding to all calls for assistance in person, unless the caller requests to be contacted by other means.” Officers “will wear masks during all interactions with the public and will follow the best practice guidelines and directives” from state and local authorities.

Motor vehicle enforcement will mainly consist of moving violations, police said, and the police facility on Black Mountain Road will remain locked and closed to the public except for emergencies and appointments.

Diocese of Burlington to resume church services

SOUTH BURLINGTON — As of June 1, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington is reopening its churches to celebrate daily and Sunday Mass.

In a message from Bishop Christopher Coyne to parishioners, he said that the obligation to attend Sunday Mass remains lifted until further notice, “especially if you are part of a vulnerable population and/or have an underlying health condition.”

The diocese advised parishioners to stay home if they are sick or not feeling well, to wear a mask and sanitize one’s hands upon entry and sit in designated pews and respect social distance between others of 6 feet or more unless you are one family unit.

They further advised to refrain from congregating in tight areas or entering cordoned off areas, to follow the protocols to receive Holy Communion as directed at Mass, and to follow local church protocols regarding registration if necessary due to the 25 percent capacity limit.

For more details about church protocols, visit vermontcatholic.org/covid-19.

Friday, May 29

Scott announces more loosening of social gathering restrictions

MONTPELIER — In the latest relaxation of his administration’s COVID-19 emergency order, Gov. Phil Scott announced Friday that social gathering size limits in Vermont will be expanded from 10 to 25 people.

Existing occupancy limits for operations — including retail, recreation, dining, worship, and event spaces — remain in place.

At his news briefing, Scott also spoke about reopening other sectors of the economy. He said the Agency of Commerce and Community Development (ACCD) has issued health and safety requirements and procedures for the resumption of close contact businesses such as gyms, fitness centers, nail salons, spas and tattoo parlors, as well as cleaning services and other businesses that require home visits, beginning on June 1.

Additionally, overnight youth summer camp programming can resume in a limited capacity and with strict safety and travel procedures, beginning June 7. Reopening of these businesses is dependent on established occupancy limits and physical distancing requirements, as well as health, sanitation, and training measures.

And the Vermont Department of Health has issued guidance allowing for some additional dental procedures, allowing for aerosol-generating procedures in compliance with CDC and Health Department safety standards and precautions.

Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine said Friday that the state will soon be able to meet CDC requirements to move into Phase 3, the final health standard states should meet before reopening most businesses.

Hair stylists and barbers resumed operations on Friday, but with restrictions. Customers will also have to book appointments, as walk-ins business is not allowed. Social distancing requirements will be in place, as well as limits on the number of people who can be inside a business at once. Barbers and stylists must keep track of the customers they see, so that contact tracing is possible in the event of an outbreak of illness.

To view the ACCD’s specific safety guidelines and protocols for businesses, as well as additional resources, visit accd.vermont.gov.

Thursday, May 28

Newfane Heritage Festival is canceled for 2020

NEWFANE — Newfane Congregational Church has decided to cancel the Newfane Heritage Festival, scheduled for Oct. 10 and 11, 2020, and postpone the festival’s 50th anniversary celebrations until 2021.

“We feel that with the looming threat of COVID-19 we cannot ensure the safety of our vendors, our volunteers, or the thousands of patrons we attract every year,” church volunteers said in a news release. “We would love our 50th anniversary celebration to be just that — a celebration of all that makes Newfane and Southern Vermont special. Hopefully, in 2021, everyone’s health and wellbeing will be more secure and we can properly celebrate together.”

The church said that money raised through the festival makes it possible to provide assistance to residents of all ages from Newfane and the surrounding communities.

Wednesday, May 27

Selectboard tweaks emergency mask order

BRATTLEBORO — At its May 26 meeting, the Brattleboro Selectboard reaffirmed and slightly modified its Emergency Order requiring that face coverings be worn by all employees, customers, and visitors in any store, office, or other indoor setting where business is conducted.

The modification clarified that children under 5 “are not required” to wear face coverings. The original order stated that masks “should not be placed on” children under 5. The remainder of the order is unchanged and it continues to apply equally to businesses, non-profit organizations, and governmental facilities anywhere in Brattleboro.

According to a news release, the Selectboard made this decision after lengthy discussions on May 19 and May 26 that included substantial public input on the GoToMeeting platform where Selectboard meetings are currently being held without any specific physical location due to the COVID-19 public health emergency.

The order will remain in effect until the Selectboard amends, rescinds, or suspends this order, or until the Governor declares an end to the COVID-19 State of Emergency in Vermont, whichever occurs first.

For full guidance on wearing face masks, including how to make one, visit www.healthvermont.gov/sites/default/files/documents/pdf/COVID-19-VDH-mask-guidance.pdf. Need to buy a face covering? Visit vem.vermont.gov/covid19/facecovering.

White River Junction VA to reintroduce services

WHITE RIVER JUNCTION — The White River Junction Veterans Administration (VA) Medical Center has been actively working on plans to reintroduce health care services as Vermont and New Hampshire start moving forward after some COVID-19 restrictions are being lifted.

According to a news release, the facility will begin reintroducing some face-to-face services on Monday, June 1.

Across the Veterans Health Administration, each Veterans Integrated Service Network (VISN) selected facilities as Lead Sites to be the first to implement a phased approach to reintroducing health care services while ensuring a safe environment.

White River Junction is selected as the Lead Site for the VA New England Healthcare System (VISN 1) which includes eight VA medical centers in Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Maine.

The White River Junction VA says it will carefully expand time-sensitive surgical cases as well as select specialty services based on clinical need of Veteran patients.

Primary care, mental health and specialty services will continue full operations delivering care predominantly as virtual visits (telehealth, phone consults, and wellness checks).

Veterans, stakeholders, and families must continue to call prior to coming on station unless it is a medical emergency. Visitor restrictions remain, walk-in appointments are discouraged, and pharmacy will continue to maximize mail-order prescriptions.

For those who do come on site, you will be screened, there will be a reduced number of patients in waiting areas, additional signage to ensure safe social distancing, and everyone will be required to wear a face covering.

These adjustments will remain in effect until further notice. For more information, visit www.whiteriver.va.gov.

Friday, May 22

Hospitals, dental offices get OK to reopen for one-on-one care

MONTPELIER — Vermont health officials gave the go-ahead Friday for in-patient surgeries and procedures at hospitals to resume, as well as dental practices and many other in-person medical services.

At a news briefing, Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine said that many health care services can again offer one-on-one care under new COVID-19 safety guidelines. This also includes outpatient services, alcohol and drug counselors, dieticians, psychologists, social workers, chiropractors, and diagnostic imaging.

Levine said dental services can resume, but under stricter rules since there are greater risks for spreading COVID-19. Chiropractic work, massage therapy, and acupuncture services will remain closed for now.

As for non-medical services, Gov. Phil Scott said that salons and barber shops can reopen May 29, as long as safety measures are in place to protect workers and customers.

Churches will be allowed to reopen, but will be limited to 25 percent of capacity. Gyms and spas will still have to wait a while longer reopen. Scott said he expects to announce a reopening schedule for those businesses by the end of next week.

Scott said his goal is to have most of Vermont’s businesses open to at least 25 percent capacity by June 1. He is confident that goal can be met as data gathered by the Health Department shows that Vermont’s number of new infections is among the lowest in the nation.

However, Scott says the state will still be cautious when it comes to allowing larger gatherings. He announced the cancellation of all summer fairs and large festivals this season, but fairgrounds can still hold events that meet state rules. The Guilford Fair already announced its cancellation for 2020 earlier this week.

3SquaresVT goes online as part of nationwide pilot program, extra benefits coming

WATERBURY — Vermont recently become the latest state to join a pilot program for the use of 3SquaresVT food benefits (food stamps) to purchase food online.

According to the Department for Children and Families (DCF), Vermonters can use now their 3SquaresVT benefits to buy eligible food items online with EBT food benefits at amazon.com (delivery available throughout Vermont) or walmart.com (pick up currently available only at the Bennington store. Other stores may be added later).

For information about how it works, go to dcf.vermont.gov/benefits/EBT/online.

Thursday, May 21

Restaurants in Vermont can offer outdoor dining, with restrictions, starting Friday

MONTPELIER — Restaurants in Vermont can open for outdoor dining starting Friday, but they will need to follow guidelines aimed to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Under the latest guidance issued by the Scott administration Wednesday, customers must make reservations or call ahead before going out to eat. Takeout-style service is recommended, while table service is discouraged.

Tables will need to be at least 10 feet apart and, at each individual table, the number of people is capped at 10. Diners at each table can only be from two different households. The total number of customers a restaurant can serve at one time will be limited to 50, or the restaurant’s maximum licensed capacity — whichever is less.

Restaurants will need to provide customers with disposable menus and are encouraged to provide single-use condiment packets. Cashless and touch-less transactions are also encouraged. They will also need to keep a log of all customers and their contact information for 30 days, in case the state needs to trace the contacts of someone exposed to the virus.

Restaurants were ordered to close their dining rooms on March 16, and have been limited to takeout service since that date.

Wednesday, May 20

Selectboard passes emergency order requiring face coverings in stores, offices

BRATTLEBORO — The Brattleboro Selectboard issued an emergency order at its meeting Tuesday night requiring that face coverings be worn by all employees, customers, and visitors in any store, office, or other indoor setting where business is conducted.

This requirement is effective immediately and applies equally to businesses, nonprofit organizations, and governmental facilities anywhere in Brattleboro.

The Selectboard made this decision after a lengthy discussion that included substantial public input on the GoToMeeting platform, where Selectboard meetings are currently being held without any specific physical location, due to the COVID-19 public health emergency.

Exceptions to the order include children under age 5, anyone who has trouble breathing, or anyone who is unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.

Scott announces $400 million economic relief package

MONTPELIER — Gov. Phil Scott and Commerce Secretary Lindsay Kurrle on Wednesday announced a $400 million economic relief and recovery package for small businesses around Vermont that have been hit hard by the COVID-19 outbreak.

The money will come from the $1.25 billion of economic aid from the federal government that the state recently received.

Legislative leaders have worked with Scott to come up with a plan to use the federal money to help Vermont’s employers and small businesses. The money will come in two phases, starting with $310 million for immediate emergency relief to the most affected sectors and businesses. It will be followed by $90 million in long-term recovery investments.

Also announced were additional changes to the state’s emergency order that allow low-contact workers — such as attorneys, accountants, and real estate agents — to be able to open their offices to the public on a limited basis. Previously, they had been allowed only one-on-one contact.

Nonprofits and municipal offices may also open under the new rules, which also call for physical distancing and the wearing of face masks.

Tuesday, May 19

Guilford Fair is canceled for 2020

GUILFORD — A local Labor Day tradition is the latest victim of the COVID-19 global pandemic.

The Guilford Fair Association Trustees announced today that announce that the 2020 Guilford Fair has been canceled.

According to Fair Association Secretary Belinda Lashway, the Trustees met on Monday, May 18, “and after much discussion, decided that the safety of our fair patrons, vendors, exhibitors, and the community needed to be our first priority right now.”

Lashway wrote in a letter to The Commons that “this decision did not come easily and we will miss seeing all of our Guilford Fair friends this September, but will look forward to seeing everyone next Labor Day Weekend!”

The Guilford Fair started in 1942 and has been a popular attraction ever since.

State to waive penalties, interest for second quarter estimated tax payments

MONTPELIER –The Commissioner of Taxes, under the Governor’s directive, exercised his authority to waive penalties and interest for estimated income tax payments that are originally due June 15, so long as they are paid by July 15.

This relief applies to Vermont personal income tax, corporate and business/pass-through income tax, and fiduciary and estate income tax.

The Vermont Department of Taxes previously announced relief for estimated income taxes due April 15, so long as they were paid by July 15, 2020. This new announcement extends relief for any tax year 2020 estimated income tax payments due between April 15 and before July 15 to be payable by July 15 without any penalty or interest.

For the most up to date guidance, visit www.tax.vermont.gov.

Friday, May 15

Scott extends emergency order through June 15, but loosens some of its restrictions

MONTPELIER — Gov. Phil Scott said Friday that he is extending Vermont’s state of emergency order through June 15.

The order, which was first issued on March 13, was to have expired May 15. Scott said while the trends are promising in terms of the low rate of new COVID-19 cases, the need for the emergency order still remains.

Scott outlined four metrics his administration is monitoring as it continues restarting Vermont’s economy. They are:

• Syndromic surveillance: The percentage of visits to emergency care with either COVID-19-like illness or flu diagnosis.

• Viral growth and reproductive rates: Case growth measured by daily, 3-day, 7-day, and effective reproductive rate.

• Percentage of new positive tests: Percent of tests resulting in a new positive case.

• ICU and critical care beds: Number of occupied and unoccupied medical surgical and ICU beds.

While tracking those metrics, the Scott administration is slowly easing up on some of the emergency order’s restrictions, starting with a plan for a gradual reopening of Vermont’s hotels and motels, starting May 22. This also includes short-term rentals, campgrounds, and marinas.

Under the new rules, lodging facilities would be allowed to take in Vermonters, as well as out-of-state guests who can prove they have met the 14-day quarantine requirement for non-residents visiting Vermont. Short term rentals, cottages, and camps are exempt from that guideline. Reservations at Vermont State Parks remain canceled through June 25.

Hotels can only be at 20 percent capacity. Other restrictions include limit contact with guests, with food service only available for take out or delivery. Lodging establishments will also have t0 keep a 30-day log of guests so the state can perform contact tracing if needed.

To view the full guidelines, visit the Agency of Commerce and Community Development’s website at accd.vermont.gov.

The state’s hospitality industry has been virtually shut down since mid-March in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Only essential personnel, such as out-of-state medical workers, have been allowed to stay in Vermont’s hotels. Other lodging has been used as emergency short-term housing for people experiencing homelessness.

Thursday, May 14

Families to get food benefit to make up for missed free or reduced-price school meals

WATERBURY — The federal government has authorized the Vermont Department for Children and Families (DCF) and Agency of Education (AOE) to provide a temporary food benefit to eligible children in Vermont.

About 35,000 K-12 students are eligible because they were participating in the free or reduced-price meals program at their schools before April 1, 2020.

Households with eligible children will receive a benefit of $387.60 per eligible child. It is called a Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (or P-EBT).

Households that currently get 3SquaresVT on an EBT card will be issued this additional benefit on their cards by May 27. Other households will be issued special P-EBT cards. They should receive their cards in the mail by May 27.

P-EBT benefits may be used to buy eligible food items anywhere 3SquaresVT is accepted. Benefits will be active for a year from the date of issuance and are non-transferable.

If a household’s economic situation has changed since schools closed, they can apply for free and reduced-priced meals for their school-aged children. If they are determined to be eligible, they may receive a P-EBT benefit.

Apply for free and reduced-price meals at education.vermont.gov/student-support/nutrition/school-meals-information-for-families-and-caregivers/apply-for-free-and-reduced-lunch. Learn about the benefits available from DCF at dcf.vermont.gov/benefits.

Wednesday, May 13

Vermont State Police investigates bias-related incident in Hartford

MONTPELIER — The Vermont State Police is investigating a bias-related incident that occurred late last week in Hartford during which a man was harassed and threatened regarding his family’s presence in Vermont.

According to a news release, state police received a report of a hate/bias-motivated incident from the victim’s family at noon on May 8. The victim reported that at about 10 a.m. that day, he was driving near his residence in Hartford in his vehicle, which has New York registration plates, when two unknown vehicles, possibly pickup trucks, approached him and flagged him down. The victim, thinking someone needed assistance, stopped and spoke with a white male.

State police said the victim, who is black, was advised that he was not wanted in Vermont and told to leave. There were significant racial undertones to the interaction. The victim, whose 11-year-old son was with him in the vehicle at the time, was in fear for the physical safety of him and his son. He was able to verbally deescalate the situation and drive home. No physical altercation occurred.

State police, with the assistance of the Hartford Police Department and Chief Phillip Kasten, continues to investigate this incident. Capt. Garry Scott, director of fair & impartial policing and community affairs for the Vermont State Police, has been in contact with the victim and his family for several days. The victim’s name is being withheld at this time due to concerns about his and his family’s safety.

At his news conference on Wednesday, Gov. Phil Scott addressed the incident, saying that he personally called the family to apologize. Scott said he has has no tolerance for this kind of behavior.

The state police asks anyone who might have more information about the incident and the people or vehicles involved to call the Royalton Barracks at 802-234-9933.

Monday, May 11

Scott: Retailers can open on a limited basis on May 18

MONTPELIER — Gov. Phil Scott said Monday that Vermont retailers will be able to reopen on May 18 as long as they follow strict new guidelines.

At a news conference, Scott said the precise details are still being worked out, but retailers that do reopen will need to limit the number of customers in their stores — no more than 25 percent of the maximum legal capacity — and require mask wearing and social-distancing.

Vermont now has the third lowest rate of COVID-19 case growth in the country, but Scott says it is critical that residents remain cautious, saying that within a 350-mile radius of Vermont, there have been 45,000 deaths due to the virus.

Scott said the state is increasing its testing for coronavirus, with a goal of testing up to 1,000 people a day.

The current emergency and stay-at-home orders are set to expire on May 15. Research shows Vermonters are still following those guidelines and Scott said on May 8 that if that trend continues, he expects to announce more openings later this week.

Friday, May 8

Scott: Day care centers can reopen June 1; data indicates continued decline in new COVID-19 cases

MONTPELIER — Gov. Phil Scott announced Friday that all child care facilities will be able to reopen by June 1, if they choose to do so, and that staff can go back to work by May 18 to prepare to meet more stringent health protocols.

Further guidance is expected next week, but Scott said that up $6 million in re-start grants will be available to child care centers to make the programs safer for children and staff.

That decision came in the wake of continued good news on the COVID-19 front.

Michael Pieciak, commissioner of the Department of Financial Regulation and a member of the COVID-19 team, said Friday that Vermont is among a handful of states that is seeing projections of a doubling of COVID cases in months as opposed to weeks.

According to the latest data, Pieciak said the rate of doubling in Vermont now stands at about three months. That compares just two weeks in New Hampshire, where the number of new COVID-19 cases continues to rise at a rapid pace.

Scott also announced Friday that summer day camps will be allowed open if they abide by health guidelines that include physical distancing, the wearing of face masks, and stricter hygiene procedures.

Overnight camps may also be allowed, but the final guidelines from state health officials for summer and overnight camps are still in progress and are expected in the coming weeks.

Schools will still remain closed for the remainder of the current school year, and education officials say they plan to stick with plans to continue remote learning until the end of the academic year.

Vermont education officials say traditional high school graduations will not be allowed because of potential crowd sizes. Current health guidelines call for gatherings must be smaller than 10 people, so graduations will like have to be done virtually.

Wednesday, May 6

Scott: Small groups will be allowed to gather, with precautions; additional outdoor activities allowed

MONTPELIER — Gov. Phil Scott today announced at his tri-weekly COVID-19 briefing some modifications to his “Stay Home, Stay Safe” emergency orders.

Starting today, small social gatherings of friends and families up to 10 people will be allowed, as long as physical distancing and hygiene precautions are maintained. The elderly and medically vulnerable are advised to continue to self-isolate.

Also starting today, 0utdoor recreation and fitness activities — such as hiking, biking, golfing, or tennis — will be allowed all over Vermont, as long as physical distancing is observed.

Vermonters were also asked to explore some of the lesser-frequented state parks and trails as to not overwhelm the more popular sites, as well as visiting during non-peak hours.

2020 Marlboro Music Festival canceled

MARLBORO — The trustees of Marlboro Music today have decided to cancel their 2020 season due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

According to a news release, the trustees said “this decision was made to protect the health and safety of our musical community, our audiences, and our southern Vermont neighbors.”

Season ticket holders for 2020 may receive a full refund, or convert their tickets into donations to our Artists’ Assistance Fund, Building the Future Campaign, or Annual Fund Drive through this link or by contacting boxoffice@marlboromusic.org.

Throughout the summer, Marlboro Music said it will continue — by virtual and other means — to enable audiences to connect with Marlboro and its music-making.

They will be sharing videos and recordings of past performances, artist interviews, photographs, and — in print and online — a special 70th Anniversary publication: A Cause That Transcends Time: Discovery and Renewal at Marlboro. Their website, marlboromusic.org, offers a trove of interesting material as well.

Tuesday, May 5

Economic Injury Disaster Loans now available for agricultural businesses

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Small Business Administration announced this week that agricultural businesses are now eligible for SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) and EIDL Advance programs.

SBA’s EIDL portal, covid19relief.sba.gov, has reopened as a result of funding authorized by Congress through the Paycheck Protection Program and Healthcare Enhancement Act.

Eligible agricultural businesses must have 500 or fewer employees. The SBA will begin accepting new EIDL applications on a limited basis only.

Monday, May 4

Scott: Some elective health care procedures may resume in Vermont

MONTPELIER — Gov. Phil Scott today announced limited elective procedures would resume, which had previously been put on hold as Vermont’s health care system focused on preparing for, and responding to, COVID-19.

Scott’s decision comes as the state’s modeling continues to show spread of COVID-19 has slowed — thanks to Vermonters’ physical distancing efforts — and the state’s ability to track and trace outbreaks of COVID-19 has become more robust.

Health care providers who recommence these procedures have been provided guidance and must meet specific mitigation criteria to protect patients and clinicians from possible infection.

Sunday, May 3

Elwell: Town offices to reopen for on-site activity on Monday

BRATTLEBORO —All town offices will resume daily on-site office functions starting Monday, May 4.

Town Manager Peter Elwell said last week that the offices will have to adhere to the follow guidelines:

• The exterior entrances to all town facilities will remain locked at all times. Signs will be posted at all exterior entrances clearly indicating that no one may enter the building if they have any symptoms of respiratory illness (fever, cough, and/or shortness of breath).

• There will be only one employee in each office at any one time, except when more than one employee is necessary to complete a required task.

• Employees who are not in the office will continue to work from home in the same manner as they have been during the full closure of town offices since March 27.

Ewell asked that the public should continue to do as much town business as possible remotely— by email, internet, phone, or mail. This includes the payment of property taxes and utility bills. Those can be paid by mail or online.

They can also be paid by dropping an envelope containing your check (no cash) into a locked black dropbox that will be attached to the large wooden light pole in the parking lot behind the Municipal Center.

Visit the town’s website at www.brattleboro.org for more details about town operations during the COVID-19 crisis.

Saturday, May 2

VPA cancels spring high school sports season

MONTPELIER — The Vermont Principals’ Association (VPA) waited as long as they could, but on April 30, it made a decision that was all but inevitable — there will not be a high school spring sports season in 2020 due to concerns around COVID-19.

In a news release, the VPA’s Activities and Standards Committee said that ”given the Governor’s executive order “Stay Home Stay Safe” still extending at least through May 15th, and with no known expectation to return to in-person school for the 2019-20 school year, the difficult decision to cancel the 2020 spring sports season has been made.”

Vermont’s schools have been closed since mid-March, but the VPA stated they delayed a final decision for “as long as possible in hopes that some version of a season could be salvaged, but now it is too close to the end of the school year for that to occur.

Inclusion Center continues its meetings via Zoom

BRATTLEBORO — Inclusion Center has been meeting remotely via Zoom for the past few weeks.

“We felt it was important to stay connected with everyone who counts on our Monday and Friday sessions, especially now, when many are feeling isolated, stressed and anxious,” they said in a news release.

On Mondays and Fridays, they meet from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. During those sessions, participants share feelings, play silly games, do improvisation, and end with music and dance. They have also added a Wednesday Conversation Café session, which meets from 10:30 a.m. to noon, and discusses a topic of interest each week.

Connect to their Zoom meetings by emailing Inclusion Center for their Zoom link at inclusioncenter2013@gmail.com. You can also find our calendar for each week at inclusioncenter.webs.com/apps/calendar.

Inclusion Center is open to people with disabilities, whether mental or physical, medical issues, or those who suffer from depression or anxiety.

Friday, May 1

Scott further loosens restrictions on manufacturing, construction work

MONTPELIER — Manufacturing, distribution, and construction companies in Vermont will be able resume full operations by May 11, but under stringent new health and safety restrictions to keep the spread of the COVID-19 virus under control.

In a news conference on Friday, Gov. Phil Scott announced that those three business sectors will be able to increase the number of people allowed to work together from five to 10, starting on May 4.

The goal, Scott said, is that by May 11, “manufacturing, construction, and distribution operations may restart with as few employees as necessary to permit full operations while continuing to maintain health and safety.”

In an addendum to his original “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order, businesses that do reopen will be required to have employees complete a COVID-19 safety training program developed by the Vermont Occupational and Safety Adminstration (VOSHA).

The state Agency of Commerce and Community Development has also been working with industry leaders and the Vermont Department of Health to establish workplace safety measures, which include curbs on employee gatherings, a requirement to wear face masks, and regular body temperature checks.

On March 24, Scott ordered non-essential businesses, including many in manufacturing, to suspend their operations to limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Over the last two weeks, the governor loosened some of those restrictions, including allowing two people to return to work at the offices of low-contact professional services, such as real estate, municipal offices, and attorneys.

Farmers’ Market compiles local food source listings

BRATTLEBORO — Are you looking for sources for local food? The Brattleboro Area Farmers’ Market has compiled a online list of its vendors who offer direct sales to customers.

The list will have current food offerings at farm stands and CSAs, information on curbside pickup, and more.

Visit www.brattleboroareafarmersmarket.com/shop-local-covid-19 for more information. The list will be updated regularly.

Thursday, April 30

State seeks to increase testing for COVID-19 virus

MONTPELIER — At a news conference on Wednesday, Gov. Phil Scott, Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine and State Epidemiologist Patsy Kelso detailed a phased-in approach to have the state conduct up to 7,500 tests per week — more than triple the current number.

The increase will take place in stages over the next month, each expanding on the targeted populations to be tested. Scott also announced the establishment of the Vermont Enhanced Testing and Tracing Task Force to help monitor new developments and recommend new strategies.

The Health Department says it will enhance its contact tracing efforts using SARA Alert technology, a text-based illness monitoring system that will allow us to keep in touch with contacts and help them manage symptoms. The state plans to handle 300-900 cases and contacts per week under the new strategy.

Tuesday, April 28

WIC program is still open and ready to serve Vermonters

BURLINGTON — The Vermont Department of Health’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), and other public programs, remain open to serve Vermonters.

Vermont WIC provides healthy foods, nutrition education, and breastfeeding support to pregnant and postpartum Vermonters and infants and children up to their fifth birthday to support a strong immune system.

The Health Department says Vermont WIC is open and invites new and returning families to join. Since March 16, more than 600 new participants joined WIC for the first time. If you are pregnant, postpartum, or are the caregiver for an infant or child under 5, apply today. Medical providers, with patient permission, can refer patients to WIC here.

To keep families and staff safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, all appointments are being done by phone. WIC staff are primarily working remotely. WIC has also expanded its approved foods list to make it easier to find WIC foods in the grocery store. These changes include larger bread loaf sizes, more varieties of eggs, and shredded cheese. WIC is beginning to offer breastfeeding classes online.

If your family financial circumstances have changed due to a job loss or reduced hours, you could be eligible for WIC. For more information on food access, visit hungerfreevt.org/coronavirus.

Monday, April 27

Applications reopen in Vermont for Paycheck Protection Program loans

MONTPELIER — Vermont officials said Monday that applications are once again being processed for the federal Paycheck Protection Program established under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) has been popular in Vermont and operates through lenders approved by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). To date, approximately 6,800 Vermont businesses have secured loans totaling more than $1 billion. Vermont ranked third in the country in total loan commitment on a per capita basis.

PPP stopped accepting applications on April 17, when it ran out of funds. However, an additional $310 billion appropriation was signed into law on April 25, and applications are now being accepted for the additional monies.

The program is operating on a first-come, first-served basis. Commissioner of Economic Development Joan Goldstein said Monday that Vermont businesses that have already applied for PPP, but missed out on the first round of funding, should confirm with their lenders that they’re still in the application queue.

Vermont businesses can visit the SBA’s website to confirm that their lender is approved and participating at www.sba.gov/paycheckprotection/find.

Friday, April 24

Scott further loosens restrictions on selected businesses as COVID-19 outlook improves

MONTPELIER — As the rate of new cases of COVID-19 in Vermont continues to slow, Gov. Phil Scott on Friday gave the green light to further loosen regulations on certain businesses.

Calling it a “a very measured and moderate approach,” Scott said at a news conference that construction, manufacturing and some other outdoor employers can now deploy crews of up to five people for outdoor work or work in unoccupied structures as long as they follow social distancing guidelines, such as remaining 6 feet apart.

Scott said that manufacturing and distribution operations will be allowed to open with a maximum of five employees, as long as there is sufficient space for social distancing, and that businesses doing curbside pickup or delivery must continue operating with as few employees as possible.

Outdoor retail facilities, such as garden centers and greenhouses, can allow customers into those spaces, but with no more than 10 people in the facility, including staff and customers.

Thursday, April 23

HCRS opens free phone support line

SPRINGFIELD — Health Care and Rehabilitation Services (HCRS), southeastern Vermont’s community mental-health agency, has opened up a phone support Warm Line (800-917-1622) for the community.

The expansion of the nonprofit agency’s Warm Line to the community is in response to the increased need for support to manage the stress and anxiety associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. The warm line is staffed with trained professionals offering support seven days per week from 7:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. The phone support line is anonymous and open to anyone in Windsor and Windham counties.

HCRS is also working with some rural communities to host online workshops about managing stress and anxiety as well as understanding suicide signs and risk. These one-hour online workshops are designed to be informative and interactive. Stay tuned to the agency’s Facebook page (www.facebook.com/HCRSVermont) for more details on these upcoming workshops.

The agency continues to accept new clients seeking to receive mental health, substance use, or developmental disability services. Although many services are currently provided remotely, the use of telehealth is very effective. In addition, critical outreach staff have been identified and are available to provide face-to-face support when necessary.

Community members who want to sign up for services can contact HCRS on the following toll-free lines: Brattleboro area (855-220-9428), Springfield area (855-220-9429), and Brattleboro area (855-220-9430). There are currently minimal wait times to access services and supports. Additional information regarding services can be found at www.hcrs.org.

HCRS’ 24-hour crisis hotline (800-622-4235) for mental health emergencies, continues to support members of the community. Anyone who lives in Windsor or Windham counties may call this toll-free hotline if they or someone they know is experiencing thoughts of intent to harm, either themselves or others.

Wednesday, April 22

Thompson House employees get tested after staffer tests positive for COVID-19

BRATTLEBORO — All employees at Thompson House Rehabilitation and Nursing Center are undergoing testing today for the COVID-19 virus after a staff member at the facility tested positive for the virus.

“This is just a precaution and it may seem extreme, but one thing we are all learning is what is extreme one day is policy the next,” facility administrator Dane Rank wrote in a letter sent to residents, families, staff, and friends on Tuesday. “I thought it prudent to get a handle on anyone at this point who might be infected and get them isolated ASAP, as long as the opportunity is open for us.”

According to Rank’s letter, during the facility’s routine monitoring for the virus, they identified a staff member who had someone in their household with an elevated temperature. Both were sent for testing. Rank wrote that the family member tested positive while the employee did not have symptoms and was not initially tested.

Rank wrote that the employee agreed to self-quarantine for two weeks and was expected to come back to work on April 20 wearing a mask and gloves.

The employee is continuing to self-quarantine for two weeks, after which two more negative COVID-19 tests will be needed before they are allowed to return to work, Rank wrote.

Nursing homes and long-term care facilities in Vermont have seen the most of the infections and deaths from COVID-19, according to the Vermont Department of Health.

AG to debt collectors, creditors, banks: Vermonters’ stimulus checks are off limits

MONTPELIER — Attorney General T.J. Donovan is putting debt collectors, creditors, and financial institutions on notice that, in Vermont, federal stimulus money is protected from garnishment or collection.

According to the directive issued today by the Attorney General’s Office, payments authorized by the federal government’s Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, are exempt from garnishment or collection under Vermont law.

The Attorney General is also urging the banking community to voluntarily suspend collection activity for overdrafts or other administrative fees that could otherwise jeopardize the receipt, reallocation, and circulation of stimulus monies issued to Vermonters as a result of the COVID-19 public health emergency.

The CARES Act, signed into law on March 27, provides emergency assistance for individuals, families, and businesses affected by the COVID-19 crisis.

Under the Act, eligible individuals and families can receive a one-time cash payment from the U.S. Treasury Department based on means-tested eligibility criteria. These payments come in the form of a refundable tax credit, identified as a “recovery rebate” in the Act.

On April 13, Attorney General Donovan joined a bipartisan group of attorneys general in calling on the federal government to issue guidance to the banking industry and creditors directing that emergency stimulus payments issued through the CARES Act be designated “benefit payments” thereby excluding them from threat of garnishment.

Vermont law exempts these monies from garnishment or collection, and provides that “compensation for loss of future earnings” is exempt from garnishment or collection as a “property traceable to [an individual’s] right to receive, to the extent reasonably necessary for the support of [an individual]” and any dependents of the individual.

Vermonters who experience garnishment from a debt collector, creditor, or financial institution may file a complaint with the Vermont Attorney General’s Consumer Assistance Program at ago.vermont.gov/cap/consumer-complaint.

‘Southeastern Vermont COVID-19 Resources for Individuals’ guide now available

BRATTLEBORO — A new COVID-19 resource guide, aimed at individuals living in southeastern Vermont, is now available. This resource list is a compilation of currently known programs and activities relevant to people living in southeastern Vermont.

The resource can be found on the Windham Regional Commission’s website by visiting www.windhamregional.org. If you are in immediate need of assistance, call Vermont’s resource line by dialing 2-1-1 about help and resources.

The initial resource guide for the Windham Region was compiled by Groundworks Collaborative, United Way of Windham County, the town of Brattleboro Sustainability Coordinator, and the Windham Regional Commission. This resource guide is meant to be a living document that will be updated on a regular basis.

With the changing nature of this pandemic, individual needs, and community response to it, you can help keep it current and up to date. Updates and suggestions are welcome through an electronic form on the guide webpage. For more information, contact Margo Ghia at mghia@windhamregional.org or Chris Campany at ccampany@windhamregional.org.

Tuesday, April 21

Student loan relief secured for Vermont borrowers not covered by federal CARES Act

MONTPELIER — Gov. Phil Scott and Department of Financial Regulation (DFR) Commissioner Michael Pieciak today announced a multi-state initiative to secure student loan relief options for thousands of Vermonters with privately held student loans.

Relief options include providing forbearance of payments for a minimum of 90 days, waiving any applicable late payment fees, protections from negative credit reporting, ceasing debt-collection lawsuits for 90 days, and working with borrowers to enroll them in appropriate assistance programs, such as income-based repayment.

To determine the types of federal loans they have and who their servicers are, borrowers can visit the Department of Education’s National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS) at nslds.ed.gov or call the Department of Education’s Federal Student Aid Information Center at 800-433-3243 or 800-730-8913 (TDD).

Borrowers with private student loans can check the contact information on their monthly billing statements. VSAC borrowers may call 833-802-8722 for assistance.

If a borrower is experiencing trouble with their student loan servicer, they are encouraged to contact the following and file a complaint: DFR Banking Division: 888-568-4547, dfr.bnkconsumer@vermont.gov; Attorney General’s Consumer Assistance Program: 800-649-2424, AGO.CAP@vermont.gov; and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau: www.consumerfinance.gov/complaint.

Rock River Artists cancels Open Studio Tour for 2020

SOUTH NEWFANE — Rock River Artists (RRA), a 17-member collective of fine artists and craftsmen in Southeastern Vermont, is prudently compelled to cancel its July 2020 Studio Tour due to the public health emergency caused by the Covid 19 virus.

While practicing social distancing, the nearly three-decade-old RRA said in a news release that it wants followers to know that members of this creative hub are “hunkered down in our studios creating some of our best work."

Visit www.rockriverartists.com to see virtual studio tours and samplings of new work. RRA collectively adds, “We’ll miss your visits, but we look forward to staying connected through these trying times, and we especially look forward to seeing you in our studios again in 2021.”

Planned Parenthood of Northern New England launches new telehealth service

COLCHESTER — In recognition that people’s reproductive and sexual health care can’t wait, Planned Parenthood of Northern New England (PPNNE) announced the launch of a new telehealth program in Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine.

It allows patients to access high-quality, affordable health care services by phone or through a private and secure video conferencing platform that connects them with PPNNE’s trusted health care providers.

Through telehealth, patients can access services with fewer visits or without needing to visit a health center at all, allowing providers to answer patient questions, manage prescriptions, and help patients address their sexual and reproductive health care needs remotely.

In addition, PPNNE is still offering in-person visits when necessary as 12 health centers around Vermont, including at its office in Brattleboro. For more information about connecting to PPNNE through telehealth, visit www.ppnne.org or call 866-476-1321.

Vermont DART addresses growing pet food needs in face of pandemic

BRATTLEBORO — As part of its mission to keep pets with their families during the COVID-19 crisis, the Vermont Disaster Animal Response Team (VDART) has been busy assessing needs, fundraising, and providing pet food to food banks across the state.

Last week the Windham Disaster Animal Response Team (WinDART), a regional team of the statewide group, donated $500 worth of pet food to the Vermont Food Bank’s (VFB) Brattleboro warehouse.

Staff at the Windham County Humane Society assisted with the delivery, which will be available to local VFB member agencies in Windham County and beyond.

This initiative was part of a COVID-19 Emergency Animal Care Grant the group received from the Humane Society of the United States to support the care of animals who are victims of the pandemic crisis and its current and future economic consequences.

Donations to help fund this pet food project can be made through the organization’s website at www.VermontDART.org/donate.

Monday, April 20

State sends $10 million in emergency aid checks to unemployed Vermonters

MONTPELIER — Nearly 8,400 Vermonters affected by COVID-19-related layoffs who have filed for unemployment benefits, but whose claims are still being processed, will be seeing a $1,200 check in the mail this week.

Gov. Phil Scott made that announcement a news conference on Monday. Scott said that state Department of Labor cleared nearly 32,000 unemployment claim issues after working through the weekend, but that left 8,384 eligible claimants who did not have their issues resolved.

Those individuals, Scott said, will get the $1,200 checks that were sent out Monday morning.

The $10 million cost of the checks comes from the state treasury and covers two weeks of federal benefits for claimants as an initial installment. Vermont officials say they will sort out “quality control” issues which held up these claims at a later date.

Scott said the Department of Labor has had to deal with an unprecedented number of unemployment claims. A shortage of phone operators, an outdated computer system, and stringent federal rules all contributed to the backlog.

Sunday, April 19

Statewide death toll stands at 38, 62 cases now reported in Windham County

BURLINGTON — The Vermont Department of Health reported Sunday that there are now 812 people who have tested positive for COVID-19 in Vermont, including 62 people in Windham County.

Thirty-eight people have died so far in Vermont, according to the Health Department, but last week ended with the slowest rate of increase of new positive cases since the pandemic began in mid-March.

Chittenden County has with 385 cases and 23 deaths. Franklin County has the second-highest number of cases in Vermont with 91. Windham County’s 62 cases is the third highest in the state.

As of Sunday morning, the Health Department says 12,726 Vermonters tested negative for COVID-19. There are 25 Vermonters being monitored, and 808 Vermonters who have completed monitoring. There are 27 patients hospitalized with COVID-19, and 26 patients hospitalized who are under investigation for the virus.

At a news conference on Friday in Montpelier, State financial regulation commissioner Michael Pieciak, who has been leading Vermont’s modeling of the COVID-19 outbreak, said that the rate in which cases have have been doubling in Vermont has slowed enough to indicate that “it is safe to assume we have reached our peak.”

Saturday, April 18

Vermont Legal Aid to host ‘virtual town halls’ on critical legal issues related to COVID-19

BURLINGTON — Vermont Legal Aid plans a series of weekly “30-Minute Town Halls” on critical legal issues related to the COVID-19 crisis.

Legal Aid staff will discuss the key legal issues affecting Vermont residents and answer questions from the public. These town halls will focus on the questions and legal needs of Vermont’s most vulnerable residents, including low-income, older, and disabled Vermonters.

Attend online at zoom.us/j/92311866366 or listen in by phone at 301-715-8592 or 888-788-0099 (meeting ID: 923-1186-6366). They will also be broadcasting to Facebook Live at www.facebook.com/VermontLegalAid.

More legal information related to COVID-19 is available at vtlawhelp.org/coronavirus-updates.

Friday, April 17

Scott announces first steps toward reopening businesses in Vermont

MONTPELIER — Gov. Phil Scott announced Friday the first tentative steps that his administration is taking to re-open Vermont’s economy.

At a news conference, Scott said that starting this Monday, April 20, two people would be allowed to return to work at the offices of low-contact professional services, such as real estate agents and appraisers, municipal clerks, and attorneys.

Property management and construction firms could also begin operating with two-person crews.

Workers in these settings will have to continue remaining six feet from anyone, wash their hands regularly, and wear face masks in public.

Garden and construction supply stores would be allowed to reopen next week, but with phone and online ordering only, curbside pickup, and minimum staffing.

And farmers’ markets would be allowed to reopen starting May 1, following guidelines currently being developed by the Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets.

However, Scott said most Vermonters should “expect telecommuting and remote work to stay in place for the foreseeable future, because we still need to reduce contact to contain the spread of this virus.”

Thursday, April 16

Statewide death toll rises to 35, no new cases reported in Windham County

BURLINGTON — The Vermont Department of Health reported Thursday that there are now 768 people who have tested positive for COVID-19 in Vermont, including 58 people in Windham County.

Thirty people have died so far in Vermont, according to the Health Department, but the rate of new positive cases cases continues to slow. The nine new cases reported Thursday represents the third straight day of single-digit increases.

Chittenden County has been hardest hit with 377 cases and 22 deaths. Franklin County has the second-highest number of cases in Vermont with 86. Windham County has 58 cases, the third highest in the state, but reported no new cases Thursday.

As of Thursday morning, the Health Department says 11,507 Vermonters tested negative for COVID-19. There are 30 Vermonters being monitored, and 803 Vermonters who have completed monitoring. There are 33 patients hospitalized with COVID-19, and 25 patients hospitalized who are under investigation for the virus.

At a Wednesday morning news conference in Montpelier, Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine said Vermont may be seeing a trend toward cases beginning to plateau. Levine said the percentage of people testing positive for the virus in Vermont is under 5 percent, and there are signs that the new infection curve is flattening.

Vermont Arts Council, Vermont Community Foundation partner on statewide COVID-19 Arts Recovery Fund

MONTEPELIER — The Vermont Arts Council and the Vermont Community Foundation announce the creation of an Arts Recovery Fund to respond to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Vermont’s arts and culture sector.

According to a news release, the Arts Recovery Fund has two goals: to deliver fast-tracked support to Vermont’s struggling arts and culture sector and to provide a central place to coordinate philanthropic giving. Direct grants will be available to support both individual artists and cultural organizations that are experiencing financial distress due to the spread of the novel coronavirus across Vermont.

For donors, the Arts Recovery Fund is an opportunity to join a coordinated effort to facilitate the recovery of Vermont’s creative sector. Donations are now being accepted on the Community Foundation’s website at vermontcf.org/ArtsRecovery.

Details about the application process will be available in May. Artists and organizations interested in applying should contact Amy Cunningham at acunningham@vermontartscouncil.org.

Corrections Department creates online support portal for inmate families, friends

WATERBURY — The Vermont Department of Corrections (DOC) has established a new online portal specifically for family and friends of inmates. This portal will allow loved ones to contact the Department with questions and quickly receive responses.

According to a news release, family and friends of inmates in Vermont’s six facilities, and those housed out of state, are invited to submit questions to the Department by visiting the Family and Friends page on DOC’s website, doc.vermont.gov/information-inmate-families-and-friends, and submitting the online form. A DOC representative will review the form and contact each person individually within one business day of receiving their message.

DOC encourages people who have a loved one in a correctional facility to use this new portal to access information. The portal will directly link loved ones with the team dedicated to assisting family and friends, both during the COVID-19 pandemic and afterwards.

The department is also making regular updates to the website’s “Frequently Asked Questions” page. The FAQ ensures information can be quickly shared with the greater community. Along with answers to common questions, the FAQ page includes up-to-date policies and procedures at Vermont’s six facilities.

Wednesday, April 15

Department of Financial Regulation requires insurers to cover COVID-19 diagnosis, treatment with no cost sharing

MONTPELIER — Gov. Phil Scott and the Department of Financial Regulation (DFR) today announced an emergency regulation requiring commercial insurers to waive cost-sharing requirements, such as co-payments, coinsurance or deductible requirements, for the diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19.

The emergency regulation is retroactive to March 13, 2020, the date that Governor Scott declared a State of Emergency. It applies to fully-funded health insurance plans such as plans sold on the exchange or to large group employers. Consistent with existing DFR rules, insurers will be required to cover out-of-network services for members if in-network providers are unavailable.

If you have questions about or problems with your health insurer, contact DFR Consumer Services at 800-964-1784 or dfr.insuranceinfo@vermont.gov.

Tuesday, April 14

Statewide death toll rises to 29, but number of new cases falls to lowest level since March 17

BURLINGTON — The Vermont Department of Health reported Tuesday that there are now 752 people who have tested positive for COVID-19 in Vermont, including 57 people in Windham County.

Twenty-nine people have died so far in Vermont, according to the Health Department, but the rate of new positive cases cases continues to slow. The four new cases reported Tuesday represents the smallest increase since March 17.

Chittenden County still leads the state with 372 cases and 19 deaths, but reported no new cases on Tuesday. Franklin County has the second-highest number of cases in Vermont with 84, followed by Windham County (57), Addison County (56), and Rutland County (39).

As of Tuesday morning, the Health Department says 10,585 Vermonters tested negative for COVID-19. There are 35 Vermonters being monitored, and 796 Vermonters who have completed monitoring. There are 31 patients hospitalized with COVID-19, and 33 patients hospitalized who are under investigation for the virus.

Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine said at a news conference in Montpelier on Monday said that the 21 cases were found out of 500 new tests, showing that the number of new cases is “leveling off” among the general population. However, he said the cases are still increasing among vulnerable populations, including nursing homes and correctional facilities.

Also Monday, the Health Department announced that health professionals can quickly become temporarily licensed to provide care during the COVID-19 public health emergency.

The new emergency measures grant a temporary license for health professionals who are licensed and in good standing in other states or were licensed in Vermont, but whose licenses lapsed in recent years.

To apply for a license or get more information about the process, contact either the Board of Medical Practice (healthvermont.gov/systems/medical-practice-board, 802-657-4223) or the Office of Professional Regulation (sos.vermont.gov/opr, 802-828-1505).

COVID-19: An additional important reason to quit tobacco, vaping

BURLINGTON — Novel coronavirus (COVID-19) attacks the lungs, making it harder for people who smoke or vape — tobacco, cannabis or anything else — to fight off the virus and putting them at much greater risk of severe illness, even death.

Through outreach and social media promotion, the Vermont Department of Health says it has been helping Vermonters to learn that there has never been a better time, and there has never been a better reason, to quit.

Vermonters can find online or phone quit coaching, quit resources and tools at 802quits.org.

The Health Department’s Tobacco Control Program has also launched a youth cessation digital media campaign to support parents who may recognize their teen is addicted to vaping and want help.

Formative research showed that youth may be reluctant to sign up for help on their own. The campaign educates parents — and youth influencers — on free 802Quits resources by phone and online for teens 13 and older, at 802quits.org/teen-vaping.

Monday, April 13

Labor Department, swamped with unemployment claims, starts new intake system for clients

MONTPELIER — Facing an unprecedented level of new umemployment claims, the Vermont Department of Labor has implemented an alphabetized structure for the intake of weekly claims and inquiries.

Effective this week, the department is designating specific days of the week for individuals to contact the Department, based on the first letter of their last name.

The primary option for claimants to file their weekly claim is through the automated phone service, which can be accessed by dialing 800-983-2300. No restrictions have been placed for claimants looking to file a weekly claim over the phone system, which is open 24-hours on Sundays, and from 5 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.

For those looking to file their weekly claim online through the Claimant Portal, found at uipublic01.labor.vermont.gov/Claimantportal/portal/login.aspx, claimants are encouraged to observe the following structure: Sunday (Everyone), Monday (A-E), Tuesday (F-L), Wednesday (M-R), Thursday (S-Z), and Friday (Everyone).

The state says it has received more than 70,000 unemployment applications and has paid out over $23 million in benefits as of last week, but there is still a huge backlog of applications and working to increase its capacity to process them. Visit labor.vermont.gov for more information.

Sunday, April 12

Statewide COVID-19 death toll rises to 27

BURLINGTON — The Vermont Department of Health reported Sunday that there are now 727 people who have tested positive for COVID-19 in Vermont, including 54 people in Windham County.

Twenty-seven people have died so far in Vermont, according to the Health Department, but the rate of new positive cases cases continues to slow, with the 17 new cases begin the smallest number reported since March 21.

At a news conference on Friday in Montpelier, State financial regulation commissioner Michael Pieciak, who has been leading Vermont’s modeling of the COVID-19 outbreak, said that the rate in which cases have have been doubling in Vermont has slowed enough to indicate that the ongoing pandemic may have less of an impact than first thought.

While Pieciak said that the state’s hospitals will have sufficient resources to deal with the steady increase in cases expected over the next two weeks, Pieciak warned that the state has “a limited margin for error.”

He added that Gov. Phil Scott’s decision to extend his state of emergency orders until May 15 is “absolutely necessary” to keep the state on track for the best-case scenario of fewer infections and fewer deaths than first feared.

Friday, April 10

Scott extends State of Emergency, closures until May 15

MONTPELIER — Gov. Phil Scott today extended Vermont’s State of Emergency through May 15, which also extends the expiration date of all corresponding orders and directives issued in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The original State of Emergency, issued on March 13, was set to expire on April 15, as were the subsequent mitigation measures. As a result of this extension, all measures, including the Governor’s “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order, are now in effect until midnight on May 15.

Schools will remain dismissed for in-person instruction through the end of the school year.

The Scott administration developed and continues to update state-specific modeling to project COVID-19 case growth and track capacity of the healthcare system and availability of personal protective equipment (PPE) and life-saving equipment like ventilators.

This data, along with guidance from public health experts at the Vermont Department of Health, has informed the mitigation measures put in place throughout this crisis.

Modeling shows that the mitigation measures have slowed the expected spread of this contagious disease, but that the state has not yet hit its peak number of cases. Accordingly, Scott, in consultation with Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine, has extended the State of Emergency and all associated social distancing measures. For more information, visit governor.vermont.gov/covid19response.

DMV launches new online system for license renewals

MONTPELIER — The Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) today announced the official launch of a new online system for license renewals. This new service comes at a critical time for Vermonters and dovetails with Gov. Phil Scott’s March 18 directive for the DMV to transition to online, mail and phone transactions to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

The DMV strongly encourages Vermonters to renew online using the simple form. Renewal notices will continue to be mailed to all license holders and will include the URL for the online service and a unique PIN needed for the online form. The online renewal form can be found at mydmvlicense.vermont.gov with online support available through the DMV website.

The DMV switched to a new license and identification card system last summer. The new credentials have advanced security features to help prevent fraud and identity theft and are printed off-site at a highly secure facility.

Online license renewals will be processed by the DMV and the data will be transmitted to the printing facility. Vermonters will receive the new license or ID in the mail 7-10 business days after the DMV submits the renewal for printing. For more information, visit dmv.vermont.gov/faq.

Additionally, Scott directed DMV to grant a 90-day extension for all license and registration renewals. Vermonters are encouraged to complete their renewals on time by using the online or mail option, but extensions will be in place during this time.

Thursday, April 9

Assistance available for area artists affected by COVID-19 crisis

BRATTLEBORO — There are several sources of assistance now available for area artists that that been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic:

• The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) has announced guidelines to distribute funding to nonprofit arts organizations from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to preserve jobs and help support organizations forced to close operations due to the spread of COVID-19.

With the $75 million appropriated to the NEA through the CARES Act, the Arts Endowment will award 40 percent of the funds directly to state and regional arts agencies to distribute through their funding programs. Sixty percent of the funds are designated for direct grants to nonprofit arts organizations all across the United States and will be announced by June 30.

The more than 3,700 organizations that have received NEA awards in the past four years are eligible to apply for a direct grant through the NEA’s program. Funds can be used for staff salary support, fees for artists or contractual personnel, and facilities costs.

The direct grants will not require a cost share or match and will be for a fixed amount of $50,000. Designated local arts agencies eligible to subgrant may request $100,000 or $250,000 for subgranting programs. The deadline to apply is April 22, with the earliest announcement of grant award or rejection by June 30.

The National Endowment for the Arts has complied an extensive list with link to national organizations and resources at www.arts.gov/covid-19-resources-for-artists-and-arts-organizations.

• The Artist Relief Fund, a $10 million national emergency relief fund for artists and creative workers that will provide $5,000 no-strings-attached grants, was recently created.

It is intended for anyone who earns income from their creative or artistic practice and who has also been affected by COVID-19.

Artist Relief will distribute $5,000 grants to artists facing dire financial emergencies due to COVID-19; serve as an ongoing informational resource; and co-launch the COVID-19 Impact Survey for Artists and Creative Workers, designed by Americans for the Arts, to better identify and address the needs of artists. Coalition partners will make final eligibility determinations as needed. Learn more at artistrelief.org.

• The Vermont Arts Council has established a Vermont Rapid Response Artist Relief fund to respond to the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on artists across the state. There’s information and resources for artists and organizations as well as a guide for creating virtual arts experiences during this time of social distancing available at www.vermontartscouncil.org/covid-19.

• The New England Foundation for the Arts has also assembled resources to share with the arts and culture sector. There is very clear information on the CARES Act: Unemployment Insurance & Small Business Assistance for artists and organizations; how and where to apply for unemployment insurance and small business assistance and emergency resources and relief. Find out more at www.nefa.org/covid-19.

Wednesday, April 8

Trump approves Vermont disaster declaration

MONTPELIER —Gov. Phil Scott’s request for federal disaster funds to assist the state of Vermont in its response to the COVID-19 pandemic has been approved by President Donald Trump.

The president approved the state’s request for federal Public Assistance funds for the state and all towns for costs incurred in the response to and recovery from the pandemic.

This declaration will provide 75 percent reimbursement to state and local governments and some non-profits for emergency protective measures, including direct federal assistance, for all areas in the state of Vermont affected by COVID-19.

Scott requested the disaster funding earlier this week. Vermont has so far spent more than $20 million responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to state officials.

His request sought federal Public Assistance funds for the state and all towns for costs incurred in the response to and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as Individual Assistance, including Disaster Unemployment Assistance and Crisis Counseling Assistance/Regular Services Program for all Vermont counties.

Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator Pete Gaynor has named W. Russell Webster as the federal coordinating officer for federal recovery operations in the affected areas.

A request for a disaster declaration typically includes an assessment of physical damage to property in order to qualify for relief. Under these extraordinary circumstances, preliminary damage assessments are not required or recommended due to the dynamic nature of the pandemic.

Nonprofits that could be eligible for reimbursement include nursing homes, laboratories, rehab centers that provide medical care, hospitals and emergency care facilities, fire/rescue emergency services and education facilities.

Current, MOOver to require riders wear face masks

ROCKINGHAM — Effective April 10, all riders on MOOver or Current buses, vans, or in volunteer driver cars will be required to wear a face mask, bandana, scarf, or other effective face covering prior to boarding a vehicle.

This covering is to remain on for the completion of the ride.

According to Southern Vermont Transit CEO Randy Schoonmaker, this policy is designed to protect riders, drivers, and the general public. It is based on current guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

This compliments existing MOOver and Current policy to refrain from booking or taking a trip if you show any signs of fever, cough, or difficulty breathing.

Since April 6, all MOOver and Current staff and volunteers have been provided a cloth face mask to wear while on duty.

Visit www.crtransit.org for the latest information on route changes, follow the Current on Facebook, or sign up for their Transit app at their website.

Health officials caution against using non-approved drugs for COVID-19 treatment

BURLINGTON — As reports appear in the news of certain drugs being potentially used for treatment or prevention of COVID-19, the Vermont Department of Health strongly urges caution.

At this time, the U.S. Drug Administration has not approved any drugs specifically for the treatment of patients with COVID-19.

Though the anti-malarial drugs chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, among others, have been widely discussed as potential treatments, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said there are no data currently available from randomized clinical trials that would inform how these drugs could be used to treat COVID-19.

In fact, there are significant potential risks to taking such drugs, including death.Health officials remind Vermonters that most people who get COVID-19 can manage their symptoms at home with rest, drinking fluids and taking fever-reducing medication. Talk to your health care provider before taking any substance alleged to prevent or treat COVID-19.

Providers should only prescribe these drugs for individuals with diagnosed conditions, and not for prevention, to help maintain the supply for Vermonters who need them.

Tuesday, April 7

Scott submits request for federal disaster declaration

MONTPELIER — Gov. Phil Scott today requested federal disaster funds to assist the state of Vermont in its response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Scott also requested authority and additional funding to activate additional personnel in the Vermont National Guard.

The request asks for federal Public Assistance (PA) funds for the state and all towns for costs incurred in the response to and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as Individual Assistance, including Disaster Unemployment Assistance and Crisis Counseling Assistance/Regular Services Program for all Vermont counties.

According to a news release, this disaster assistance, if granted, provides a 75 percent reimbursement to state and local governments and some non-profits for emergency protective measures, including actions taken to save lives and protect public health and safety.

Monday, April 6

Strolling of the Heifers cancels June parade

BRATTLEBORO — There will no heifers strolling down Main Street this June.

Strolling of the Heifers Executive Director Lissa Harris announced today that they will not be holding the famed Saturday parade or the rest of the events that were scheduled for the weekend of June 4-7 due to the COVID-19 crisis.

In a letter to The Commons, Harris said that the COVID-19 outbreak made it clear “that we will not be able to move forward with the Stroll Weekend events,” adding that “for some events we have a clear plan forward in place already and for others we are still researching the best options.”

She said her organization is “working closely with the town of Brattleboro, our downtown businesses, and our local and statewide economic development and agricultural organizations to brainstorm ideas and a vision for the future.”

Harris said there are no plans to reschedule the parade in 2020.

As for the other parts of the Strolling weekend, such as the Vendor Expo Festival, Tour de Heifer bike ride, and farm tours, Harris said that Strolling will likely be rescheduling these events to new dates later this year.

Retreat Farm continues food distribution program

BRATTLEBORO — Retreat Farm is distributing bags of food to families in need. They are working with local nonprofits and government agencies dedicated to helping people in need to streamline information and provide a bag of groceries as a stop-gap measure. Call the farm at 802-490-2270 if you are in immediate need.

According to a news release, Retreat Farm is working with the Vermont Food Bank, Foodworks, and others to distribute food, and looking for funding to support this effort. Go to www.retreatfarm.org/donate for more information.

They have also assembled a list of local organizations offering food, financial assistance, and more at www.retreatfarm.org/community-aid.

Women’s Freedom Center continues daily virtual support group

BRATTLEBORO — The Womens Freedom Center is expanding its support group for domestic violence survivors during the COVID-19 crisis. For the month of April (and beyond if necessary), they will host a daily virtual support group, Monday through Friday, from noon to 1 p.m.

This group is free, confidential, and entirely by drop in — you can attend as often as you’d like. The group is open to all self-identified women who have experienced domestic violence. For more information, call 802-254-6954.

Thursday, April 2

State adds additional medical capacity; BMH included in ‘surge’ plan

MONTPELIER — Gov. Phil Scott has announced new steps in the state’s plan to prepare for a surge in COVID-19 cases, and in turn, the need for additional hospital and medical capacity.

Scott said in an April 2 news release that the state has coordinated with communities and hospitals statewide, and with Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in New Hampshire, to increase capacity in the event of a sharp increase of COVID-19 patients who require medical care.

In partnership with the Vermont National Guard, the state is creating two additional high capacity care sites for surge: one in Essex Junction at the Champlain Valley Exposition, which will provide 400 beds staffed primarily by Guard personnel; and another in Rutland County, supported by the Rutland Regional Medical Center, which will provide 150 beds.

These high-capacity surge sites are in addition to regionally deployed sites at the Collins-Perley Sports and Fitness Center in St. Albans, Barre Civic Center in Barre, and at the University of Vermont, which will create available bed space as this response unfolds.

These sites will be operated in close coordination with health care providers and will only be used if hospitals exceed their capacity.

Additional rapid reaction medical surge trailers containing material for 50 additional beds have been prepositioned across Vermont, including at Brattleboro Memorial Hospital, and Mt. Ascutney Hospital and Health Center in Windsor. More assets, including two state portable hospitals, will be staged if needed.

Wednesday, April 1

Scott asks Vermonters to offer aid in COVID-19 response

MONTPELIER — Gov. Phil Scott is calling all Vermonters into service with the launch of a new website allowing people to sign up for volunteer assistance to support the state’s response to COVID-19: vermont.gov/volunteer.

This website directs those with medical and healthcare skills to the Medical Reserve Corps (MRC), and those with other needed skills to a quick registration process to sign up to help.

Those with medical experience or other health care background and the ability to volunteer are needed to bolster the ranks of Vermont’s current health care workforce.

The state’s volunteer website directs these individuals to Vermont’s MRC units, community-based groups of volunteers who can supplement local emergency, health care provider staff and public health resources.

The Vermont Medical Reserve Corps is seeking these qualified and experienced volunteers, such as licensed and certified health care professionals; people with mental health, or other types of clinical or professional experience; health care administrative experience, such as with medical data entry or language translators; and people who have worked with displaced individuals, such as homeless shelter programs.

State officials emphasize this effort is about drawing more skilled personnel, such as retirees or those not currently employed in the healthcare field, into the response and not about redirecting existing healthcare workers.

Vermont has eased licensing requirements for the purposes of aiding this emergency response. Individuals who are licensed in other states or who were previously licensed should visit the Health Department website and review the guide on emergency licensure.

Other individuals who do not have medical or healthcare backgrounds but are willing to volunteer their time in Vermont’s response effort can register through the state’s volunteer web portal and indicate their expertise and availability.

In addition to volunteering, Vermonters can also give back in the following ways:

• Donate PPE: Donations of N95 masks, medical and industrial grade or surgical masks can be brought to your nearest State Police Barracks. You can find the location nearest to you at vsp.vermont.gov/stations.

• Give blood: Visit the American Red Cross to learn how to safely donate blood: www.redcross.org/local/new-hampshire-vermont.html.

• Support your local food bank: Donate online at vtfoodbank.org or you can text GIVEHEALTH to 85511. If you’re in need of help, visit vtfoodbank.org/gethelp.

Monday, March 30

Scott orders additional restrictions for travelers arriving in Vermont

MONTPELIER — Gov. Phil Scott has ordered additional restrictions on travelers arriving in Vermont and announced additional guidance for the lodging industry to enhance compliance with his “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order.

At a news conference on Monday, Scott said he is taking additional action to encourage compliance with newly-released CDC guidance around interstate travel from New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, which advised residents of those states to refrain from non-essential domestic travel for 14 days.

This new order directs residents and non-residents coming from outside the state for anything other than an essential purpose to home-quarantine for 14 days and strongly discourages travel to Vermont by those located in COVID-19 “hot spots.”

The measures under the order, effective March 25, were implemented in consultation with the Commissioner of the Vermont Department of Health to minimize all unnecessary activities outside the home until at least April 15 to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus and protect the public.

Scott’s order also provides additional guidance to lodging providers to ensure compliance with the Stay Home, Stay Safe order, which suspended lodging operations.

The order makes clear that lodging facilities — which includes hotels, motels, bed and breakfasts, inns, short term rentals (e.g. VRBO, Homeaway, Airbnb, etc.), and all public and private camping facilities and RV parks — are to be closed except for stated exemptions when supporting the state’s COVID-19 response. Additionally, the Governor has suspended online lodging reservations.

Under this order, the Vermont State Police and local law enforcement will monitor lodging providers for compliance and work with the Attorney General’s Office on additional compliance measures if needed.

Vermont State Police and other law-enforcement agencies throughout Vermont visited hotels and motels over the weekend to assess compliance with Scott’s “Stay Home, Stay Safe” executive order, which required commercial lodging establishments to immediately begin to cease operations due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Secretary of State’s Office announces election law changes to address COVID-19 pandemic

MONTPELIER — Vermont Secretary of State Jim Condos announced a series of temporary changes to Vermont’s election laws passed by the Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Phil Scott, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure that Vermont is prepared to safeguard the integrity of elections and the public’s health in the face of this global pandemic.

Changes include the waiving of candidate petition signature gathering requirements for the August statewide primary elections and November General elections. All candidates wishing to appear on the ballot will still be required to file financial disclosure statements and consent of candidate forms.

Condos, Deputy Secretary of State Chris Winters, and Elections Director Will Senning worked with legislators, legislative committees of jurisdiction, and the Governor’s office on an elections bill, H.681, which was passed by the Legislature and signed into law by Scott on March 30.

The new law empowers municipal legislative bodies to change upcoming local elections during the 2020 COVID-19 crisis from floor meetings to Australian ballot, without requiring a full vote of the town.

Lastly, this new temporary law also creates emergency powers to allow the Secretary of State’s office, with the agreement of the Governor, to enact the necessary measures to enable Vermonters to vote safely during the 2020 COVID-19 health crisis.

Such measures could include the mailing of ballots to every registered voter, an extended cutoff for town clerks to receive voted ballots, an expanded window for town clerks to process voted ballots, the creation of secure ballot return stations, or the moving of polling locations, as examples.

For more information and guidance on elections during the COVID-19 state of emergency, visit the Elections Division COVID-19 Response page on the Vermont Secretary of State’s website at sos.vermont.gov/elections/about/covid-19-response.

Friday, March 27

Scott dismisses schools for in-person instruction for remainder of 2019-20 school year

MONTPELIER — Gov. Phil Scott has directed schools to remain dismissed through the end of the 2019-20 school year. Districts will close schools for in-person instruction and be required to implement continuity of learning plans for remote learning.

This extends Scott’s previous directive dismissing PreK-12 schools from March 18 to April 6.

According to a March 26 news release, this decision was made in consultation with the Vermont Department of Health and the Agency of Education in the continued effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. To minimize disruption to students’ learning, the Governor’s order directs school districts to come up with plans for distance learning by April 13.

Scott said the Agency of Education will shortly provide technical guidance to districts on how to implement continuity of learning plans, specifically looking to address challenges around equitable access to learning opportunities, Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) for students with disabilities, continuation of school meals, and school attendance and school calendar requirements.

The Department for Children and Families will also provide updated reimbursement provisions for providers who are not currently offering services and for providers who are delivering child care through this health crisis.

The full directive can be found here: governor.vermont.gov/content/directive-5-continuity-learning-planning-pursuant-eo-01-20.

USDA Rural Development launches COVID-19 resource webpage

WASHINGTON — USDA Rural Development has launched a COVID-19 resource page to keep its customers, partners, and stakeholders continuously updated on actions taken by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help rural residents, businesses, and communities affected by the COVID-19 outbreak.

Visit www.rd.usda.gov/coronavirus for information on Rural Development loan payment assistance, application deadline extensions, and more.

Thursday, March 26

Brattleboro town offices settle into off-site operations

BRATTLEBORO — After the first day of compliance with Gov. Phil Scott’s “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order, Town Manager Peter Elwell wrote in his daily COVID-19 response briefing on Thursday that while many town employees “are not in our usual places interacting with the public in the usual manner, we are here for you during these extraordinary times.”

Elwell wrote that the town “made arrangements for many administrative employees to conduct most or all of their usual activities from their homes. Some will continue to come to the office occasionally to complete tasks that can only be completed there. Importantly, all email communications and most telephone communications are functioning exactly as they do during normal office operations.”

Also, Elwell wrote that field crews “will be performing limited ongoing field work to ensure that health and safety concerns are promptly addressed, and all field employees will be on call every day for addressing urgent maintenance issues (like a water main break, a snowstorm, etc.). If there is anything you need from your town government, please contact us.”

Wednesday, March 25

Scott issues ‘Stay Home, Stay Safe’ order; directs additional closures

MONTPELIER — Gov. Phil Scott has issued a “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order and directed the closure of in-person operations for all non-essential businesses.

The Stay Home, Stay Safe order starts on today at 5 p.m., and will be in effect until April 15, although it may be extended or shortened as needed.

Scott’s order directs Vermonters to stay at home, leaving only for essential reasons, critical to health and safety, such as grocery shopping, seeking medical care, or exercising outside. If leaving the home, Vermonters should adhere to social distancing policies, including remaining 6 feet from others (except for those with whom they share a home), regularly washing their hands, and avoiding touching their faces.

All businesses and nonprofits not expressly exempted in the order must suspend all in-person business operations. Operations that can be conducted online or by phone, or sales that can be facilitated with curbside pickup or delivery only, may continue. The order contains exemptions for businesses and entities that provide services or functions deemed critical to public health and safety, along with economic and national security.

This includes — but is not limited to — health care operations; retail that serves essential human needs, such as grocery stores, pharmacies and hardware stores; fuel products and supply; maintenance of critical infrastructure; news media; financial institutions; and transportation and critical manufacturing sectors. Travel to and from these exempt businesses and entities is permitted. For a full list, go to governor.vermont.gov/content/addendum-6-executive-order-01-20.

Leaving the home for exercise and outdoor activity is allowed, provided that people are adhering to appropriate social distancing.

According to a news release from the Department of Public Safety (DPS), if police officers observe or are made aware of people operating in violation the order, law enforcement “is encouraged to speak with the proprietor, staff, or group, provide a reminder of the new requirements, and assess voluntary compliance. Civil or regulatory mechanisms, specifically informing and educating those encountered in violation of the order about the mechanisms that may apply, could prove helpful. Again, officials expect the vast majority of compliance to be self-regulating.”

DPS said the executive order “does not close roads, nor does it establish roadblocks, checkpoints or the authority to demand identification. Motor-vehicle and pedestrian traffic will continue as Vermonters engage in permissible activities outdoors and travel to and from businesses and entities that are continuing to operate under the order. Accordingly, the order does not establish cause to initiate a motor vehicle stop or detain people for questioning about their travel.”

Tuesday, March 24

Brattleboro Retreat changes outpatient programs

BRATTLEBORO — While Brattleboro Retreat outpatient services including the Anna Marsh Clinic, Starting Now’s one-on-one counseling service, the Mind Body Pain Management Program, and the HUB program remain open, these programs are instituting various safety measures in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

According to a news release, these measures include screening clients for risk of infection, establishing social distancing protocols, and using tele-health services as much as possible.

As of March 20, the Retreat temporarily closed all in-person outpatient group programs at the Brattleboro Retreat, including the Birches Treatment Center, the Uniformed Service Program, and associated outpatient therapy groups.

Clinical staff from the Retreat’s outpatient programs will continue to support individual clients in various ways as needed. This will include minimum weekly check-ins via Zoom or telephone and arrangements to ensure patients on daily medication schedules will not run out their prescriptions.

Retreat officials say the duration of these changes will be re-evaluated regularly as part of the hospital’s overall response to the COVID-19 situation.

AG’s Office publishes workplace guidance on COVID-19-related concerns

MONTPELIER — Attorney General T.J. Donovan today announced that his office has published the COVID-19 Pandemic Resources for Vermont Employers and Employees.

The guidance, which follows a “Frequently Asked Questions” (FAQs) format, addresses a variety of issues—such as pay obligations during an Emergency Order or harassment of workers relating to COVID-19 fears.

It was written by the Attorney General’s Office’s (AGO’s) Civil Rights Unit, with input from the Human Rights Commission. It includes links to additional information from sources such as the Vermont Department of Health, Centers for Disease Control, and the Vermont and U.S. Departments of Labor.

The guidance is available on the “COVID-19 Information and Resources” page of the AGO’s website at ago.vermont.gov/covid-19-updates-and-information-from-the-attorney-general.

Area schools providing free lunch to all children

BRATTLEBORO — School nutrition programs in Windham and Windsor counties responded quickly to the state-mandated closure of all schools.

According to the nonprofit Food Connects, districts in both counties have created an alternate delivery model for school meals, utilizing a combination of school- and community-based distribution sites and bus delivery routes.

The following districts are providing free breakfast and lunch to all children ages 18 or under in their community, regardless of enrollment or free and reduced meals status: Windham Southeast Supervisory Union, Windham Southwest Supervisory Union, West River Education District, Windham Northeast Supervisory Union, and the Springfield School District.

No paperwork or identification is necessary and children do not need to be present to receive their meals. Districts request that participating families provide the number of children to ensure enough meals are prepared.

Families are encouraged to reach out directly to their schools for additional information or questions regarding meal distribution.

The Hunger Council of the Windham Region is coordinating a community response to the COVID-19 outbreak in partnership with the Vermont Foodbank and area food shelves. The Hunger Council encourages community members interested in volunteering and organizations with developing needs to utilize United Way’s Get Connected platform at unitedwaywindham.galaxydigital.com.

Those looking for additional information or resources should call 2-1-1. For more information on the work the Windham County Hunger Council is doing, contact Margaret Atkinson at margaret@winstonprouty.org.

Urgent need for masks, face coverings for first responders, medical professionals

BRATTLEBORO — If you sew or can source materials for those who sew, join thousands of volunteers across the country and create masks for health care providers, patients, and caregivers.

You can follow this basic pattern here at www.deaconess.com/How-to-make-a-Face-Mask or use this beginner tutorial created by local Brattleboro business owner Alix Joyal at www.youtube.com/watch?v=PT3TX572x2s&feature=youtu.be&fbclid=IwAR2IogSiQ8-0-gMvIiZcj1EHU8jRE0nB5w80DzvVWMXdKJdpq3pU5na4P84.

If you would like help or support while creating, consider joining an ongoing Facebook group such as Mask Drive: Help Our First Responders. If you have masks ready in the meantime, contact Joanna Phillips at joannawilsonphillips@gmail.com and they will be put to immediate use.

Brattleboro Memorial Hospital is accepting masks until 4 p.m. each day, beginning today. They can be left at 55 Belmont Ave. (the first house on the right — white with green shutters). There will be a box/bin on the front porch where you can drop your donation off.

BMH does request, however, that you do not leave masks if you are suspected of having coronavirus, or been in contact with anyone who may have been exposed within the past 14 days. For more details, go to www.bmhvt.org/coronavirus.

Monday, March 23

Scott orders businesses, nonprofits to implement work-from-home procedures

MONTPELIER — In consultation with the Department of Health, Gov. Phil Scott has directed all businesses and not-for-profit entities — to the maximum extent possible — to put into place telecommuting or work-from-home procedures, no later than 8 p.m. on March 23.

This order follows further reductions to the allowable size of non-essential mass gatherings to no more than 10 people and the closure of all close-contact businesses, both announced Saturday, March 21.

At this time, any entities not required to close under a previous order, or unable to implement work-from-home procedures, must implement — and publicly post — CDC and the Vermont Department of Health guidance related to COVID-19.

This includes maintaining a distance of 6 feet between people, insuring employees practice appropriate hygiene measures, including regular, thorough handwashing, insuring that employees who are sick remain home; and regularly cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched objects and surfaces.

Small businesses get extension for paying rooms and meals taxes to state

MONTPELIER - Gov. Phil School has directed the Commissioner of Taxes to exercise his authority to provide relief to Vermont businesses who owe Meals and Rooms Tax or Sales and Use Tax until further notice.

Many local businesses find themselves unable to meet the March 25 and April 25 filing deadlines due to the implementation of mitigation steps to slow the spread of COVID-19. Taxpayers who are unable to meet the deadlines will not be charged any penalty or interest on these taxes for late submissions.

Vermonters are als0 advised as well that income tax filing due dates for the following taxes have been extended from April 15 to July 15: Vermont personal income tax, Vermont Homestead Declaration and Property Tax Claims, corporate income tax, and fiduciary income tax.

This means taxpayers can file and pay these taxes on or before July 15, without any penalty or interest. This includes any tax year 2020 estimated payments that were due for these taxes on April 15.

Although the filing deadline has moved, Vermonters can file their returns and claims any time before July 15. Anyone expecting a refund is encouraged to do so. For the most up-to-date guidance, visit www.tax.vermont.gov.

Dept. of Public Service issues Wi-Fi Hot Spot Map to help Vermonters access internet

MONTPELIER —The Vermont Department of Public Service (DPS) has released an interactive Public Wi-Fi Hot Spot Map to help Vermonters connect to publicly available internet service during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The map includes the location of the Wi-Fi hot spots and pertinent information about how to access them, including places where users can access Wi-Fi from outside the building or in a parked vehicle to encourage social distancing.

DPS received assistance from libraries, schools and municipal governments in creating the map, as well as support from the Agency of Digital Services, the Department of Libraries, the Agency of Commerce & Community Development, the Agency of Education, the Vermont Center for Geographic Information and the Department of Health.

The map, which will be updated as new information becomes available, can be found at publicservice.vermont.gov/announcements/public-wifi-hotspots-vermont. Additional connectivity resources can be found at publicservice.vermont.gov/content/new-connectivity-resources-support-you-during-covid-19-state-emergency-vermont.

Vermonters are encouraged to send information about Wi-Fi hot spots to psd.telecom@vermont.gov.

Economic Injury Disaster Loans available to Vermont small businesses affected by COVID-19

MONTPELIER — Vermont small business owners suffering economic injury due the COVID-19 pandemic can apply for Small Business Administration (SBA) disaster loans, following a statewide disaster declaration.

SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) offer up to $2 million in assistance per business, providing economic support to overcome temporary loss of revenue.

EIDLs may be used to pay fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable and other bills that can’t be paid because of the disaster’s impact. The interest rate is 3.75 percent for small businesses and 2.75 percent for private nonprofit organizations, which are also eligible for EIDLs.

For small businesses, small agricultural cooperatives, small businesses engaged in aquaculture and most private nonprofit organizations, the SBA offers EIDLs to help meet working capital needs caused by the disaster. EIDL assistance is available regardless of whether the business suffered any physical property damage.

SBA offers loans with long-term repayments in order to keep payments affordable, up to a maximum of 30 years. Terms are determined on a case-by-case basis, based upon each borrower’s ability to repay. Small businesses with credit available elsewhere may not be eligible.

To apply online, visit disasterloan.sba.gov/ela. Documents that may be requested when applying include recent federal tax return, profit-and-loss statement and balance sheet.

For more information, call the SBA disaster assistance customer service center at 800-659-2955 (TTY: 800-877-8339) or e-mail disastercustomerservice@sba.gov.

Sunday, March 22

Groundworks continues shelter assistance

BRATTLEBORO — Rhianna Kendrick of Groundworks Collaborative has offered this information regarding emergency housing proceedures during the COVID-19 pandemic:

• Economic Services (ESD) has extended the Adverse Weather Condition motel rooms for seven days starting March 22, and will assess this next week again.

• There are no longer any periods of ineligibility.

• They are no longer referring clients to emergency shelter first before placing them in a motel through General Assistance (GA). ESD staff are working on issues around GA motel capacity.

• The state is actively working on strategies to consider where current GA clients are housed.

• Shelters and transitional housing programs that do not have separate bedrooms and bathrooms for clients are recommended to stop accepting new clients into shelter, and instead to refer them to GA for a motel voucher. Groundworks is following this recommendation. If you run into any issues, let Kendrick know and she can troubleshoot solutions.

• It has been recommended that DV agencies with their own motel funds also follow the above recommendation.

• The process to access a motel room is to call the benefits center at 800-479-6151, and then the local office will call people back. If you run into issues with access, let Kendrick know and she can help solve them, either with ESD or 2-1-1. After 4:30 p.m., it is no longer the local office supporting GA motel rooms, and folks will instead need to call 2-1-1.

For more information, contact Kendrick at rkendrick@groundworksVT.org or 802-275-7179.

Windham Southeast begins student meal distribution

BRATTLEBORO — To ensure that the nutritional needs of all students are met during this extended school closure, the Windham Southeast School District is developing a system for distributing breakfast and lunch on a daily basis. This program will run for the duration of the school closure.

Meals should be picked up Monday through Friday at your town’s distribution spot Food distribution will occur after 10:30 a.m., using current bus routes as well as specific distribution locations. Meals will include lunch and breakfast for the following day.

For more information, contact Ali West at 802-257-3322 or Justin McArdle at 802-451-3558. Brattleboro families can email bratfood@wsesdvt.org; Dummerston families, dummerstonfood@wsesdvt.org; Guilford families, guilfordfood@wsesdvt.org; and Vernon families, vernonfood@wsesdvt.org.

Foodworks puts out call for food donations

BRATTLEBORO — Foodworks Foodshelf said Friday that it is seeing an increased need for food donations as grocery shelves are becoming increasingly bare.

Donations of food to Foodworks will be accepted weekdays between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. at the Groundworks Drop-In Center at 60 South Main St.

There is a particular need for ready-to-eat meals, pasta and sauces, peanut butter, dry milk, soups and canned protein such as tuna, beans, and meat (zip-top cans preferred), crackers, rice and instant potatoes, juices, and cereal.

Call 802-490-2412 for more information.

Local mutual aid groups form

BRATTLEBORO — Localized mutual aid has been organized in Brattleboro and Putney and hyper local neighborhoods in Marlboro. If your community does not have mutual aid or you can’t find it, one may sign up to volunteer to ask for help if needed.

Whether you can help pick up or make food, donate food or supplies, offer rides, childcare or more, organize volunteers, make calls to find volunteers or anything else, there are many ways that everyone can help during this crisis.

Sign up at www.brendaforvermont.com/cms/help-your-neighbor.

Saturday, March 21

Scott announces new COVID-19 mitigation measures; closes down ‘close contact’ businesses

MONTPELIER — Governor Phil Scott today announced additional community mitigation measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

While most individuals affected by coronavirus will experience mild to moderate symptoms, others — especially the elderly and those with chronic medical conditions — are at higher risk of getting very sick from this illness.

In a news release, Scott and public health officials have set a strategy aimed at protecting those at greatest risk, slowing the spread of illness in our communities and minimizing the risk to the public.

In consultation with the Department of Health, Scott said he determined it is necessary to prohibit in-person operations at close-contact businesses, meaning those unable to comply with guidelines for social distancing.

He has directed gymnasiums, fitness centers and similar exercise facilities, hair salons and barbers, nail salons, spas and tattoo parlors to close all in-person operations no later than 8 p.m. on Monday, March 23.

Friday, March 20

Scott says state will offer additional help to workers, businesses

MONTPELIER — At a news conference Friday, Vermont Gov. Phil Scott said he understands the economic toll that the COVID-19 pandemic has exacted from Vermont’s workers and small businesses and announced additional plans to help those affected.

Those steps include streamlining the process for filing for unemployment benefits, adding safeguards to help people continue their health care coverage, and working with state agencies to waive fees and penalties for the duration of the crisis.

Scott said the state is also looking at using the Vermont Economic Development Authority (VEDA) to make loans available to small businesses, similar to what was done in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Irene in 2011.

More information about these resources can be found online at accd.vermont.gov/economic-development/resources.

United Way starts COVID-19 Response Fund

BRATTLEBORO — United Way of Windham County has launched a COVID-19 Response Fund, designed to rapidly mobilize resources to support organizations on the front lines of COVID-19 relief efforts.

According to a news release, all dollars given through this fund will be used to support organizations, businesses, and individuals in Windham County. The COVID-19 Response Fund has been jump-started by a generous gift from the Thomas Thompson Trust. The Thomas Thompson Trust will match, dollar for dollar, all contributions up to $25,000.

The United Way says the COVID-19 Response Fund will be rolling out in two phases.

Phase One will address the needs of non-profit agencies and other organizations in Windham County to pay for unanticipated costs related to COVID-19 relief efforts. Phase Two will address the needs of individuals who have lost income directly related to policies which have forced their employers to close or alter their business models.

To make a contribution to the COVID-19 Response Fund, text “Response” to 313131 or go to www.unitedwaywindham.org/responsefund.

For more information on how and when these funds will be available, contact Ruben R. Garza, the United Way of Windham County Director of Development and Community Impact, at communityimpact@unitedwaywindham.org or 802-257-4011.

Thursday, March 19

Vermont temporarily suspends service at Interstate Information Centers

MONTPELIER — The Vermont Department of Buildings and General Services has announced that operations at all of its Travel Information Centers on I-89 and I-91 were suspended at the close of business on March 19.

Parking areas will remain open and porta-potties and Dumpsters will remain available at all information centers and rest areas.

Wednesday, March 18

Brattleboro Representative Town Meeting canceled for now

BRATTLEBORO — Due to the COVID-19 health concerns, and the guidance from Governor Scott to limit gatherings to 50 people, the Brattleboro Selectboard decided at the March 17 Selectboard meeting to cancel the March 21 Representative Town Meeting.

According to Town Manager Peter Elwell, the meeting will be re-warned when it becomes legal and prudent to do so. The current plan is to re-warn RTM on April 7 and to hold RTM on May 9. The public will be informed when a new date is set.

PUC tells utilities to halt disconnection of service orders

MONTPELIER — The Vermont Public Utility Commission (PUC) has directed the state’s regulated utilities to stop any disconnection of residential utility service due to nonpayment of electricity, natural gas, and telecommunications bills.

This moratorium on involuntary utility disconnections will last until at least April 30. The PUC said in a March 18 news release that it issued the order “to ensure that all Vermonters are protected from utility disconnections during the [current] state of emergency.

The PUC noted that many regulated utilities (including Green Mountain Power, Vermont Gas Systems, Burlington Electric Department, the Vermont Electric Cooperative, and others) had already informed the Commission and the Vermont Department of Public Service (DPS) that they are temporarily ceasing disconnections at this time. Other companies have followed suit, such as Comcast and AT&T.

Secretary of State announces COVID-19 emergency measures for healthcare workers, pharmacies

MONTPELIER — Vermont Secretary of State Jim Condos has announced measures taken by the Office of Professional Regulation (OPR) to address healthcare workforce shortages during the COVID-19 pandemic, and to provide emergency guidance to pharmacies.

The Office of Professional Regulation is a division of the Secretary of State’s office.

To address a potential shortage of healthcare workers in Vermont, following the Governor’s issuance of a declared State of Emergency, OPR is issuing temporary licenses to healthcare workers and pharmacies.

The Vermont Secretary of State’s Office of Professional Regulation has the authority to issue temporary licenses in a declared state of emergency under 3 V.S.A. §129(a)(10).

Scott orders childcare centers to close regular operations; provide care for ‘essential’ persons

MONTPELIER — Governor Phil Scott has directed childcare centers across the state to close normal operations, but encouraged continued operation exclusively where needed to provide childcare services for workers who are essential to Vermont’s ongoing effort in community mitigation of COVID-19.

To support those most critical to Vermont’s ongoing COVID-19 response, Scott has ordered schools to provide childcare for “essential persons” working in response to the crisis. District by district information will be available as those local plans are finalized.

The full directive can be seen at governor.vermont.gov/content/directive-2-childcare-essential-service-providers-pursuant-eo-01-20.

Tuesday, March 17

The Root announces programming changes

BRATTLEBORO — In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, The Root Social Justice Center on Williams Street has decided to take the following actions:

• All in-person Root programs will be suspended and moved onto an on-line and call-in platform, Zoom, at their regularly scheduled times. Program coordinators will be contacting program participants with detailed information.

• No new events are being scheduled at the Root. Additional cleaning and disinfecting protocols are being put into place; and a week of cleaning and disinfection of the space is planned before they reopen.

• While their website is down for revisions, they will be making concerted efforts to communicate through our Facebook page and program groups. Contact The Root at 802-451-0509 or therootsjc@gmail.com for more information.

Humane society open by appointment only

BRATTLEBORO — Due to coronavirus, the Windham County Humane Society is now open to the public by appointment only.

To make an appointment to get a rabies vaccine for your pet (waiving income requirements), make a Pet Care Assistance appointment with our vet or get pet food (income requirements in place, apply online), meet their adoptable animals, surrender an animal, or bring in a stray animal, call 802-254-2232 or email info@windhamcountyhumane.org.

Brattleboro Area Hospice closed to public

BRATTLEBORO — Brattleboro Area Hospice’s office, at 191 Canal St., is closed to the public until further notice as a safeguard for all visitors, clients and volunteers.

This closure includes their Medical Supply Loan Closet. Staff are continuing to work at the office.

If one is in need of end-of-life or bereavement support, or need help completing an Advance Directive, contact their care coordinators at 802-257-0775 to discuss the support services they can offer during this temporary closure.

Monday, March 16

Windham Southeast schools closed until April 6

BRATTLEBORO — Schools in the Windham Southeast School District — Brattleboro Union High School, Brattleboro Area Middle School, Academy School, Green Street School, Oak Grove School, Vernon Elementary School, Guilford Central School, Putney Central School and Dummerston School — were all closed as of March 16.

School officials say they will remain closed until at least April 6.

All open gym and spring sports are on hold, and school staff are working with the Vermont Principals’ Association and other schools to determine what the spring sports season could look like.

Windham Northeast schools closed

BELLOWS FALLS — Schools in the Windham Northeast Supervisory Union — Bellows Falls Union High School, Bellows Falls Middle School, Central Elementary in Bellows Falls, Westminster Elementary School, Grafton Elementary School, and Saxtons River Elementary School — were closed as of March 16.

The schools will remain closed until further notice, according the the WNESU website.

Closures at Brattleboro Retreat

BRATTLEBORO — In accordance with Governor Phil Scott’s latest Executive Order in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, and to maintain the safety of Brattleboro Retreat students, patients, and staff, the Meadows Educational Center, the BRIDGES program, and the Mulberry Bush Independent School at the Brattleboro Retreat were closed as of March 16.

Also, the Retreat’s Office of Continuing Education has cancelled the entire spring 2020 continuing education conference series. This decision affects their conference venues in both Brattleboro and Agawam, Mass.

Individuals who have already registered for any of our Spring 2020 conferences will have the option to receive a credit toward a future Brattleboro Retreat continuing education conference or a full refund.

Windham & Windsor Housing Trust curtails operations

BRATTLEBORO — Windham and Windsor Housing Trust says it is taking the following proactive measures to do its part to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

• Beginning March 16, their office will be closed to the public and all communications with residents, homeowners, applicants, and the general public will be conducted via phone and email. There will be limited staff in the main office in order to maintain the social distancing recommended by health officials.

• Residents will still be able to drop off their rent via the locked drop box at the main office on Birge Streeet Brattleboro or pay their rent via the U.S. Postal Service. More detailed information about how WWHT will respond to maintenance requests and other resident concerns will be sent to residents via USPS.

• All group classes and activities will be suspended until further notice. This includes activities at their SASH site and Great River Terrace as well as in-person Homebuyer Education classes. Registrants for homebuyer education classes will be encouraged to sign up for the online education option.

Although the office will be closed, the staff says it will continue to support the WWHT community and programs. As the situation evolves, they will post updates on their website, homemattershere.com, they Facebook page, and via email. 24/7 emergency maintenance service is always available to our tenants through the emergency maintenance line at 800-942-3599.

BCTV closes offices to public

BRATTLEBORO — Brattleboro Community Television (BCTV) has made the decision to close its facilities and restrict activities in order to reduce the spread of COVID-19. The closure will take effect as of 10 a.m. on Tuesday, March 17, and will be re-evaluated on Monday, March 30.

During this period, the office, edit suites, and studio will be closed to members and the public. Staff will continue to cover municipal meetings for viewing on cable and online and will accept videos submitted remotely. For more information, or if you have a video or PSA to submit, email info@brattleborotv.org.

Sunday, March 15

Gov. Scott orders orderly closure of Vermont schools this week; Windham Southeast schools will be closed Monday

MONTPELIER — In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Phil Scott announced Sunday a Continuity of Education Plan for the orderly dismissal of all schools, and cancellation of all school related activities, no later than March 18.

According to a news release, Scott’s directive “will task local districts with three key components to support the state response — food and special needs services for children; collaborating with the state to provide childcare options for healthcare workers and others essential to the response; and systems for ensuring maintenance of education during the initial dismissal; and a continuing education plan if schools are dismissed for an extended period.”

Further, the directive states that “no student is required to be in school Monday or Tuesday, if their parents or guardians would prefer to keep them home. Education professionals should report to work as scheduled to assist in these efforts during this period of school dismissal. Districts are directed to follow workplace hygiene guidance issued by the Vermont Department of Health.”

Friday, March 13

State declares state of emergency, goal is to slow spread of virus

MONTPELIER — Gov. Phil Scott Scott declared a state of emergency as the state deals with the ongoing COVID-19 situation.

At a news conference at the Pavillion Building this afternoon, Scott said he issued an executive order restricting all non-essential visitors at senior and long-term care facilities. It also prohibits all large non-essential gatherings of more than 250 people. He also suspended all non-essential travel for state employees.

There are no plans as yet to close down the state’s schools, Scott said, but added that state and local officials will continue to monitor the situation and take action as needed.

Scott said the declaration also provides resources to the Department of Public Safety for contact tracing and investigative efforts when a coronavirus case is suspected.

Scott said the emergency order will be reevaluated by April 15. “We are going to get through this together,” said Scott.

The text of the emergency order can be found here: governor.vermont.gov/sites/scott/files/documents/EO%2001-20%20Declaration%20of%20State%20of%20Emergency%20in%20Response%20to%20COVID-19%20and%20National%20Guard%20Call-Out.pdf.

Rescue Inc. takes precautions against COVID-19

BRATTLEBORO — Rescue Inc. says it “has developed policies and procedures based on guidelines established by the CDC in order to maintain our response as safe and appropriate for our patients” during the ongoing COVID-19 situation.

In a letter to The Commons, Direcor of Administration Ellen Walsh said that Rescue Inc.’s staff of EMTs and Paramedics “are following recommendations on personal protection equipment; they have been trained regarding their proper use and indications — this may include gloves, gowns, googles, masks or other respiratory equipment. Don’t be alarmed if you see our providers in full protective equipment, this is for their safety and yours.”

Walsh added that “decontamination, sterilization of all vehicles, surfaces and equipment is performed to the strictest guidelines and with approved and effective sanitizing products.”

Walsh said that Rescue Inc stations have been closed to outside visitors “to keep our station as clean and sterile as possible. We can be reached by phone at 802-257-7679 or by email at office@rescueinc.org. She also stresses that if anyone is experiencing a medical emergency, such as difficulty breathing, pain or pressure in the chest, confusion, bluish lips or face, call 911.

BMC announces closure due to coronavirus precautions

BRATTLEBORO — In the wake of concerns related to the coronavirus, the Brattleboro Music Center announced on March 13 that it is closing temporarily “in order to do its part to help reduce any health risks to the community.”

Updates will be made availble on the BMC website, at www.bmcvt.org or call the BMC at 802-257-4523.

Vermont Department of Corrections suspends in-person visitation

WATERBURY — The Vermont Department of Corrections is cancelling in-person visitations services at all six Vermont correctional facilities. Given the current concerns surrounding COVID-19, the Department said on March 13 that it “is taking all necessary precautions to limit any potential exposure to this virus.”

“Enhanced recreational opportunities will be made available to the inmate population. In addition, GTL (the video visitation provider for the Department) has agreed to offer one free video visitation per week to each inmate beginning March 14,” the department said in a news release.

VT COVID-19 Response Fund established by Vermont Community Foundation

MONTPELIER — The Vermont Community Foundation announced it has established the VT COVID-19 Response Fund to support nonprofit organizations throughout the state that are particularly equipped to address community impacts of the novel coronavirus.

Working with partners at the state and local level, the Community Foundation says it will prioritize the most immediate public health and economic impacts of the new disease, focusing on vulnerable populations and the service providers that support them. The new fund’s grantmaking strategy will be designed with partners who are on the front lines of both immediate response and long-term recovery.

Contributions to the VT COVID-19 Response Fund can be made online through vermontcf.org/vtcovid19response.

State AG’s office warns of price gouging, scams

MONTPELIER — Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan and local business leaders on March 12 called for consumers and businesses to remember their neighborliness in the face of the COVID-19 virus pandemic.

Donovan urged consumers to resist an urge to hoard and warned Vermonters to report any incidents of price gouging or COVID-19-related scams to his office. The Attorney General also released a plain language guidance for businesses on topics related to COVID-19.

In times of emergency, two common problems that can arise in the marketplace are price gouging and unnecessary hoarding. Price gouging is when the price of essential goods or services are inflated during a market crisis. Price gouging is illegal in Vermont under the Consumer Protection Act. For petroleum products, price gouging is by statute illegal when the Governor declares a market emergency.

To assist small businesses through this crisis, the Vermont Attorney General’s Consumer Assistance Program (CAP) prepared a “plain language guidance” on topics related to COVID-19. The topics range from providing sick time to employees to price gouging to continuity planning. The guidance is available at ago.vermont.gov/cap/small-business-help.

Vermonters are also advised to beware of COVID-19-related scams. For more information, visit ago.vermont.gov/cap/consumer-complaint.

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