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.
“These funds are critical to the state as we continue to respond to, and work to recover from, this pandemic,” said Scott in a news release. “I appreciate our federal partners and President Trump’s quick response and release of these public assistance funds.”
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.
Vermont’s request for Individual Assistance, including Disaster Unemployment Assistance and Crisis Counseling Assistance/Regular Services Program for all Vermont counties, is still being reviewed at the federal level.
The Vermont Department of Finance and Management has advised that the state has already expended well over $20 million in response costs, including Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), medical equipment and personnel. The final cost of the response is expected to be far greater.
Applicant briefings will be hosted by Vermont Emergency Management within the next two weeks. A schedule will be announced shortly. For more information on the Public Assistance program and instructions on how to apply, visit www.vem.vermont.gov/covid19/disaster.
Windham County now reports 40 cases of COVID-19; statewide death toll remains at 23; Scott says emergency measures will likely continue
MONTPELIER — The Vermont Department of Health reported Wednesday that there are now 605 people who have tested positive for COVID-19 in Vermont, including 40 people in Windham County.
Twenty-three people have died so far in Vermont, according to the Health Department, but no new deaths were reported for the second straight day.
Chittenden County leads the state with 324 cases, Addison County has the second-highest number of cases with 49, followed by Windham County’s 40 cases.
As of Wednesday morning, the Health Department says 7,749 Vermonters tested negative for COVID-19. There are 48 Vermonters being monitored, and 773 Vermonters who have completed monitoring. There are 35 patients hospitalized with COVID-19, and 40 patients hospitalized who are under investigation for the virus.
At a news conference on Wednesday in Montpelier, Gov. Phil Scott said that while the social distancing strategy is so far working and saving lives, he still expects that he will need to extend the stay-at home order past mid-April. Scott said he will have the full details at his Friday briefing.
Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine said Wednesday the rate of those testing positive for COVID-19 in Vermont is still at about 10-to-12 percent, and that is a direct result of the social distancing strategies in force around the state.
Vermont has sufficient capacity for increased testing, Levine said, and that more testing is one of the key strategies for controlling the spread of the virus.
State officials remain cautiously optimistic that the state will avoid the worst of the pandemic, with a possible scenario of a far lower death toll — about 100 Vermonters — rather than the thousands that some other models indicate.
The Health Department continues to project that the peak of the pandemic in Vermont will happen sometime between mid-April and early May, but that depends if vigorous social distancing continues, Levine said.
Current, MOOver to require riders wear face masks
ROCKINGHAM — Starting at 5:30 a.m. Friday, 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.
Also, Schoonmaker advised that the Current will not offer White Line or Red Line bus service in Brattleboro on Saturday, April 11, due to a temporary driver shortage.
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 Department offers guidance about face masks
BURLINGTON — The Vermont Health Department’s new guidance around face masks is available in a two-page fact sheet at www.healthvermont.gov/sites/default/files/documents/pdf/COVID-19-VDH-mask-guidance.pdf.
It includes examples of when to wear one and when you don’t need to wear one, as well as how to wear it properly and clean it regularly.
In summary, the Health Department recommends that all Vermonters wear cloth face coverings when outside of the home to help slow the spread of COVID-19. This advice is based on new data about how COVID-19 can spread before a person has any symptoms.
The department says a mask helps protect others around you if you are infected and don’t know it. A face covering is one more important precaution to take to help slow the spread of COVID-19.
It is not, however, a substitute for physical distancing and other prevention measures. You still need to stay at least 6 feet away from people, even when wearing a face covering.
The cloth face coverings recommended are not surgical masks or N-95 respirators. Those types of masks are critical supplies that must be reserved for our health care workers and first responders.
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.
The farmers’ market says it still hopes to open for the 2020 spring-summer season on May 2, but in accordance with whatever state and federal regulations that are in effect at that time. Check their website or Facebook page for continued updates.
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.
Peter Cottontail gets a nice set of wheels to cruise around Brattleboro
BRATTLEBORO — The Brattleboro Recreation & Parks Department says that on Friday, April 10, Brattleboro Police will be escorting a Recreation & Parks employee as they drive Peter Cottontail around local neighborhoods.
The Brattleboro Auto Mall has graciously donated a convertible for Peter Cottontail to enjoy his ride around town, which will begin at 11 a.m. and last until about 1:30 p.m.
Keep an eye out for flashing lights and a slow driving cruiser to signal the arrival of Peter Cottontail. Everyone is encouraged to come cheer and wave to Peter Cottontail as they drive by.
They want everyone to participate as well as stay safe and healthy while maintaining social distancing, so for everyone’s safety, they ask that people remain standing on their lawns or sidewalk and do not stand or walk in the street or approach the vehicles.
The vehicle transporting Peter Cottontail will be slowly driving through the neighborhoods; they will not be stopping.
Find out Peter’s travel route on Facebook at “Brattleboro Recreation and Parks Department” and on Instagram at “brattleboro_recandparks.”
Holy Week moves online for Vermont’s Catholics
BURLINGTON — For Catholics, Holy Week is the culmination of the liturgical year. It contains the three holiest days of the year — the Sacred Triduum — when Catholics celebrate the Lord’s Paschal Mystery — His Passion, Death and Resurrection.
The Triduum begins on Thursday with the Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper and ends on Sunday evening with the celebration of Easter Vespers (Evening Prayer).
Most of the following events below will be on diocesan live-stream and can be viewed www.vermontcatholic.org/tvmass and www.facebook.com/DioBurlington: Holy Thursday, 7 p.m. Mass; Good Friday, 3 p.m. Solemn Celebration of the Lord’s Passion; Easter Vigil (Saturday), 7 p.m. Mass; and Easter Sunday, 10 a.m. Mass.
Easter Sunday Vespers, a 4 p.m. Evening Prayer, can be views at www.vermontcatholic.org/events and www.facebook.com/DioBurlington. For worship aids and additional resources and activities, visit www.vermontcatholic.org/holyweek.
Tuesday, April 7
New dashboards and simplified navigation on Health Department website
BURLINGTON — The Vermont Department of Health has launched a new go-to resource for Vermonters to see an in-depth picture of COVID-19 activity in Vermont.
The COVID-19 data dashboard can be found at healthvermont.gov/covid19. Visitors to the site can click on the map of Vermont to access a variety of case and other virus activity data in the state.
The new dashboard expands on the core data previously provided about the number of cases, people being monitored, hospitalizations and deaths.
You can now view cases by date (new and cumulative), cases by age group, cases by gender, and information at the county level – total cases, new cases, deaths, and cases per 10,000 people — presented in list and map form.
This information is updated by 11 a.m. daily and will allow all Vermonters to see more of what the Health Department knows about cases right now and how they may be affecting the state.
The Health Department has also expanded its COVID-19 web pages to more easily deliver content to specific groups.
New headings include: Frequently Asked Questions, Long-term Care and Group Living Facilities, Schools and Child Care Programs, Coping with Stress, and more. All information, resources and guidance on the website are continually reviewed and updated as needed.
Guidance for Vermonters
• Vermonters should wear cloth facial masks, or coverings, if they need to leave their homes for essential purposes, like going grocery shopping or to the pharmacy, or outdoors if other people are nearby.
The advice to wear cloth masks is based on new data about how COVID-19 can spread before a person has any symptoms. Because people may have COVID-19 but no symptoms, wearing a face mask may help keep people from spreading the virus. Face coverings are not a substitute for physical distancing and other prevention measures.
• Medical-grade mask supplies are needed for Vermont’s health care workers and first responders. Use cloth or other recommended facial coverings for your yourself and loved ones.
• If you are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms (fever, cough, shortness of breath), call your health care provider.
• Many people who are mildly ill can manage their symptoms at home with rest, drinking fluids and taking fever-reducing medicine, when needed.
• If you need to go food shopping, to the pharmacy or do other essential activities, keep a distance of 6 feet between yourself and others. Six feet is about the length of a three-person couch or a bed.
• It’s OK to get fresh air, exercise outside and walk your dog — as long as you keep 6 feet away from other people.
• When to call: If you have questions about COVID-19: Dial 2-1-1. If you have trouble reaching 2-1-1, dial 866-652-4636 (toll-free).
• Go to healthvermont.gov/covid19 for the most up-to-date information and guidance about COVID-19, including from the CDC. Anyone who does not have a health care provider can call 2-1-1 to be connected to a clinic in their area.
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.
Windham Northeast board cancels elementary school district meeting
WESTMINSTER — The Windham Northeast Unified Elementary School District Board last night formally cancelled the District Meeting scheduled for April 9.
According to Board Chair Jack Bryar, the board reviewed discussions with Will Senning of the Secretary of State’s Office plus correspondence with legislators Mitzi Johnson, Tim Ashe, Jeanette White, and area town clerks.
“Because of the uncertainty about the length and severity of the current COVID-19 epidemic, the board postponed setting a new date for the time being,” Bryar wrote in a letter to The Commons.
Citing advice from the Secretary of State’s office, the board is exploring converting the various meeting articles and the election of Board members into a series of Australian ballot items.
The Vermont Legislature recently passed a bill authorizing the district and other local towns to convert town and district meetings into Australian ballot elections. However, the board has determined that such a vote should take place only when state health officials and the Secretary of State determined that balloting or a new district meeting would be safe.
Bryar said the school district also agreed that it would consult with local towns and pay reasonable expenses incurred by each town to conduct such elections.
The board also authorized setting up a series of ”digital town halls” to explain the proposed budget, and to seek advice from the public as to how to go forward. The first of these will take place later in the month and publicized in the press, and online at WNESU.org.
In addition to the District Reports that have been distributed to town offices, Bryar said the full content of the report will be posted online, and a video walkthrough of the report will be posted in the next week or so.
The Windham Northeast Unified Elementary School District was created by the State Board of Education (SBE), combining the Westminster, Grafton and Athens School Districts.
Despite the current emergency, the District continues to provide public educational services to the three communities while waiting for The Vermont Supreme Court to rule on its appeal of the SBE’s consolidation order.
Elwell also reminded residents in that the State of Vermont vehicles parked near the Connecticut River bridges and all other roadway points of entry into Vermont to note the state of registration of vehicles entering and leaving Vermont.
“They are not collecting individual license plate data and are not restricting entry,” Elwell said.
All of the town’s daily updates are posted at the town’s website, www.brattleboro.org, along with links to the Vermont Department of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the World Health Organization, and links to numerous resources for informing and assisting individuals, families, businesses, and other organizations.
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.”
Strolling is also using the forced pause “to look at the potency of our advocacy efforts,” Harris said. “Over the last 20 years, the issues facing our farmers have become more nuanced. This is a great time to explore some more sophisticated advocacy efforts and partnerships in support of our local food systems.
Harris said there are no plans to reschedule the parade in 2020.
“Looking ahead, we will explore how we can offer this time-honored tradition to our community while also working with Brattleboro’s downtown businesses and our parade partners to make sure there is added benefit to all,” she said.
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.
Putney Foodshelf changes hours of operation
PUTNEY — The Putney Foodshelf is now open Saturdays only, from 9 to 11 a.m., at the Putney Community Center, 10 Christian Square.
Due to the coronavirus situation, the Putney Foodshelf has instituted a drive-up model and implemented systems to protect their volunteers and the families they serve. This includes maintaining at least 6 feet of distance between people at all times.
Shoppers remain in their cars. Foodshelf volunteers will direct shoppers on where to park and will bring bags of pre-packed shelf-stable groceries and produce to the cars.
Depending on how the situation evolves, hours may change again. Visit www.putneyfoodshelf.org, or call 802-387-8551, to have the most up-to-date information.
Sunday, April 5
Vermont Community Foundation announces local grant recipients from COVID-19 Response Fund
MIDDLEBURY — The Vermont Community Foundation (VCF) distributed the first round of grants, totaling nearly $380,000, from its Vermont COVID-19 Response Fund during the week of March 23.
The grants ranged from $5,000 to $30,000 and were made specifically to entities addressing homelessness, working on the frontlines with vulnerable populations, and providing basic needs, such as meals and food access to homebound seniors.
A portion of the grants went to community-based organizations like community-action agencies and coordinated-entry lead agencies that have critical programs for individuals and families experiencing poverty, including food shelves, housing, and more.
In Windham County, Groundworks Collaborative in Brattleboro and Southeastern Vermont Community Action (SEVCA) in Westminster were in the first round of grant awardees.
In addition, VCF focused on organizations who are contracting with the Area Agencies on Aging and providing distributed meals to home and housebound seniors. Bellows Falls Area Senior Center and Brattleboro Senior Meals were the two local nonprofits which received funding.
To find out more about the fund, visit vermontcf.org/vtcovid19response.
Mask making project begins in Grafton
GRAFTON — The Grafton Women’s Community Club and the Windham Foundation are sponsoring a townwide mask production project. The Grafton Masks Project goal is to provide each person in town with a mask.
Who out there is willing and able to sew masks? Who has unused 100 percent cotton fabric at hand? Who has materials that would serve as ties for the masks? Organizers will coordinate material sharing and drop offs that are contact free.
This is the link to the pattern they have been using: www.whitearborquilting.com/adjustable-side-face-mask/?fbclid=IwAR11gVqzD2NdxIizb7A_y7g80PDe-ob1_9Oqedm9ZUuMYaLzX12AiJRsbNw. If you have already been sewing masks according to another pattern, keep doing what you are doing.
Drop off and pick up locations for materials and masks will be announced. For more information, contact Carol Lind (email@example.com, 802-843-1050, or 802-843-4951) or Anna Vesely Pilette (firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-843-2620).
Saturday, April 4
Local service groups start grocery delivery service
BRATTLEBORO — Brattleboro VFW Post 1034, Brattleboro Elks #1499, Masonic Lodge #102, and American Legion Post 5 are banding together with the guidance of the Brattleboro Fire Department to buy groceries and other essential items for those who cannot and should not venture out.
Volunteers will be purchasing items, bagging or boxing them, and delivering them to homes where needed in the Brattleboro area. They will also be working with Groundworks and the Retreat Farm.
Cash donations are welcome to support this cause, 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.
ANR offers tips on how to enjoy the outdoors safely
MONTPELIER — The Agency of Natural Resources, which oversees Vermont’s state parks, provided new guidance on Friday for how Vermonters can get outside and enjoy the fresh air safely:
• Stay close to home. Find areas close you can walk or bike to. If you must drive, please limit the distance from home to 10 miles, and only drive with members of your household.
• Practice social distancing while outside. You lower your risk when you stay at least 6 feet apart from others. This includes having your dog on a leash and close to you.
• Be cautious and choosing low-risk activities to avoid injury. This will help lower the burden on our hospitals and health care system.
• Respect signs for closed areas, trails and land. Check www.Trailfinder.info to see if your trail is currently open before you visit.
For more information, visit the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation at fpr.vermont.gov/recreation/outdoor-recreation-and-covid-19.
State advises against outdoor burning this spring
MONTPELIER — The Vermont Department of Forests, Parks & Recreation is strongly advising that the public postpone all outdoor burning through at least May 30.
According to a news release, the department is making this recommendation because open burning creates the risk of an escaped fire and puts pressure on emergency personnel.
“Given that Vermont is currently experiencing community-wide spread of COVID-19, there is a need to minimize any additional pressure on emergency personnel both in terms of response and unnecessary potential contact with people who may have COVID-19,” the department said.
April and May are historically the most active months for wildland fires in the state, and most of these fires occur as a result of escaped debris burns. Looking ahead, temperatures are predicted to be above average and precipitation below normal through mid-April.
Given these forecasted conditions, the Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation’s Wildland Fire Program says it anticipates that this spring has the potential to be an active wildland fire season, and postponing open burning until conditions improve will eliminate the need for emergency personnel to respond to an unnecessary event.
Vermont’s Town Forest Fire Wardens have the statutory authority to stop issuing burn permits and many fire wardens throughout the state have taken this precautionary step. Check in with your local Fire Warden and be considerate and patient when assessing the need to conduct any open burning.
To learn more about the Wildland Fire Program and to locate your town’s forest fire warden, visit fpr.vermont.gov/forest/wildland-fire/forest-fire-wardens.
Friday, April 3
Attorney General to handle all ‘Stay Home, Stay Safe’ enforcement actions
MONTPELIER — Attorney General T.J. Donovan issued a directive on Friday today that establishes that the Attorney General will bring all enforcement actions related to the COVID-19 Emergency Order, and provides steps for how law enforcement should approach noncompliant businesses and individuals.
The directive, geared toward law enforcement, including state’s attorneys, sheriffs, and police, instructs law enforcement who encounter noncompliant businesses or individuals to provide education and request voluntary compliance.
If noncompliance continues, law enforcement will report those issues and the Attorney General’s Office will work with law enforcement to develop an appropriate response. The directive also clarifies the available penalties: A civil violation of up to $1,000 per violation per day and criminal violation of up to $500 fine and/or up to 6 months imprisonment.
“I want to thank law enforcement for the incredible work they are doing to help keep us safe,” Donovan said in a news release. “We’ve all got to do our part to protect each other, and I know Vermonters are going to do the right thing.”
The full directive can be found at ago.vermont.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/AGO-EO-Enforcement-Directive-4.3.20.pdf.
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.
Brattleboro bus driver tests positive for COVID-19 virus
ROCKINGHAM — The Current, a division of Southeast Vermont Transit, was informed on April 1 that one of its drivers has tested positive for the COVID 19 virus.
According to a news release from Southern Vermont Transit CEO Randy Schoonmaker, the driver drove the Blue Line bus in Brattleboro between March 16 and March 19.
Eric Seel, an epidemiologist at the Vermont Department of Health, told Southern Vermont Transit that the driver poses no close contact threat of spreading the virus to fellow staff or riders because the driver left work and self-quarantined starting on the evening of March 19, three days before their symptoms appeared.
According to Seel, the virus can be transmitted via person to person up to 48 hours prior to symptoms appearing, thus there is no person-to-person contact threat.
Schoonmaker said the driver has been out for 14 days and is eligible to return to work pending a doctor’s release.
BDCC hosts webinars for businesses affected by COVID-19
BRATTLEBORO — In the wake of the economic uncertainty around COVID-19, business owners in the region are invited to join weekly webinars centered around financial resiliency.
Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation (BDCC) will host these webinars every Friday, at 2 p.m., for business owners, managers, and employers to obtain information and learn about potential preliminary strategies that will help them make informed decisions.
BDCC will also regularly update its COVID-19 webspage, brattleborodevelopment.com/covid-19, with information from federal, state, and regional sources and encourages businesses to check in frequently as new information becomes available.
To join the meetings, go to Zoom Meeting at us04web.zoom.us/j/781064798. The Meeting ID is 781-064-798. To join in by phone, call in toll free at 888-475-4499.
BDCC encourages participants to send any questions or topics for discussion in advance by emailing email@example.com.
Wednesday, April 1
ClearChoiceMD offers COVID-19 testing in Brattleboro
BRATTLEBORO — ClearChoiceMD Urgent Care is now offering COVID-19 testing for high-risk patients, as supplies are available, at its Brattleboro center at 1154 Putney Rd.
According to a news release, patients experiencing symptoms associated with lower respiratory illness, such as fever, shortness of breath, and persistent cough, will be examined and evaluated by their medical teams to first rule out seasonal flu.
If your test is negative, they may recommend testing for COVID-19. Due to extreme national shortages in testing supplies, only high-risk patients will be recommended to test for COVID-19. Low-risk patients who have mild symptoms and test negative for the flu will be directed to self-quarantine for 14 days, per CDC guidelines.
The urgent care center is open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week. Call 802-490-2100 for more information.
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.
Tuesday, March 31
Herricks Cove Wildlife Festival is canceled for 2020
ROCKINGHAM — The Herricks Cove Wildlife Festival Planning Committee has officially canceled the 2020 festival. The next festival will return in 2021 on first Sunday in May (May 2, 2021).
The dedication of the new Osprey platform will take place at a future date to be determined.
Information on next year’s festival will be posted on the Ascutney Mountain Audubon Society website (www.amasvt.org).
Rec. Dept. cancels more events, programs
BRATTLEBORO — In keeping with the closure of all town recreation facilities and programs, the Brattleboro Recreation & Parks Department announces the cancellation of the following seasonal special events:
• Annual Easter Egg Hunt, scheduled for Saturday, April 11.
• Super Bike Day, scheduled for Saturday, April 18.
• Bowling Day at Brattleboro Bowl, scheduled for Tuesday, April 21.
• Pitch, Hit, & Run/Home Run Derby, scheduled for Wednesday, April 22.
• Annual Memorial Day Dawn Dance, scheduled for May 24-25. (This is not a town of Brattleboro event. It is a privately-organized event that attracts more than 500 people from across the country. The local organizing committee has been informed of this cancellation and agrees with the decision.)
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.
The order specifies that lodging establishments be closed except under limited circumstances, including:
• Housing vulnerable populations (emergency shelter for homeless individuals) as arranged through the state.
• Providing accommodations for health care workers, or other workers deemed necessary to support public health, public safety or critical infrastructure.
• Use of lodging properties being as quarantine facilities as arranged by the state.
• Limited verifiable extenuating circumstances for the care and safety of Vermonters.
According to a March 29 news release, the purpose of the visits was to evaluate compliance. The information will be used in consideration of any additional steps needed to help meet the goals of the governor’s order.
Law enforcement visited more than 300 lodging establishments around the state over the weekend and reported that most have been in compliance.
Brattleboro continues adjusting town operations to fit stay-at-home orders
BRATTLEBORO — Town Manager Peter Elwell wrote in his daily COVID-19 response briefing on Monday that the town is continuing to make adjustments in town operations “as we come to clearer understandings of what is possible during these unprecedented circumstances.”
As the town makes those adjustments, Elwell said the goal “is to remain as productive as possible in service to the community while fully complying with the Governor’s “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order.”
Other items in the Monday briefing:
• The annual Spring Leaf Pickup service will be provided by Triple-T on Friday, April 17, and on Friday, May 1. Elwell wrote that the town decided to proceed with this service in the usual manner because curbside solid waste collection is continuing under the ‘essential services’ provisions of the stay-at-home order and “because the fresh air and exercise involved in doing yard work is a safe and healthy way for people to take a break from staying indoors.”
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.
Green Up Day postponed to May 30
MONTPELIER — Due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, Green Up Vermont has decided to postpone Green Up Day from May 2 to May 30. The distribution of Green Up Day supplies will happen the first week in May.
Although Green Up is shifting its planning toward May 30, organizers say they will still look for final guidance from the Vermont Department of Health and the Scott administration.
Green Up Day, by nature, is an activity of social distancing. Since 1970, citizens of all ages get outside on the first Saturday in May to clean up miles of Vermont roads. Trash drop off locations can be managed with little to no close contact in keeping with CDC guidelines.
It is a well-loved event that organizers hope “will bring some normalcy to our communities and will help contribute to the physical, social and mental health of Vermonters.”
More information can be found at greenupvermont.org.
Saturday, March 28
Brattleboro Police adopts revised emergency response plan
BRATTLEBORO — Town Manager Peter Elwell wrote in his daily COVID-19 response briefing on Friday that the Brattleboro Police Department (BPD) has transitioned to Level III of its Emergency Response Plan for COVID-19.
Elwell wrote that the charges are as follows:
• BPD is still patrolling the roadways, walking downtown, and visiting merchants that are open, adhering to social distancing best practices when encountering people face-to-face.
• BPD is answering life safety calls involving physical harm or the threat of harm to individuals. Non-life safety calls for service are being handled via appropriate technology (i.e. phone, email, etc.) Patrol Commanders are determining whether or not a physical response is warranted.
• Dispatch is fully staffed 24/7 and is screening for COVID-19 on all calls.
• BPD Clerks are working from home. Public Records requests are being accepted by email, but the majority will not be able to be processed until the “Stay Home - Stay Safe” order is lifted.
Brattleboro Food Co-op remains open
BRATTLEBORO — The Brattleboro Food Co-op remains open for business with limited hours and curbside pickup for groceries, sundries, fresh and frozen foods, wellness supplies, and more.
“Everyone in the Brattleboro community should know the Co-op is making every effort to keep its staff and customers safe and comfortable during this Covid-19 epidemic by enforcing limited customers in the store, offering curbside pickup through phone orders for same day or next day pickup, and by thoroughly cleaning and sanitizing the Co-op, and stock shelves when customers are not present,” the Co-op announced in a March 27 letter to the community.
Temporary hours for in-store shopping are now 2 to 6 p.m. daily. Customers can call the hotline at 802-246-2800 to place orders for curbside pickup available from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily. These temporarily reduced hours are in place so the Co-op can thoroughly clean the store and stock shelves while customers are not present.
Curbside pickup is something new for the Co-op and they say that staff will make every attempt to get customers the products they need and deliver them to the car. These orders require customers to call in their order and complete payment using a credit card. Orders are kept cool and safe and are ready to pickup within the hour. Orders placed between noon and 2 p.m. can be placed for next day pickup.
At this time, the Co-op says that available products are subject to availability and some quantity restrictions may apply.
The Co-op is asking customers who come in to shop between 2 and 7 p.m. to “please be considerate and aware by establishing a 6-foot social distancing with other customers, especially at the checkout counters where plexiglass barriers have been installed.’ Card readers, belts, and screens are being wiped and sanitized between every customer.
All events, classes, community room gatherings/meetings, and store demos have been cancelled until further notice. Visit www.brattleborofoodcoop.coop for up-to-date information regarding temporary hours, curbside pickup, and other COVID-19 issues.
Amtrak suspends train service to Vermont
MONTPELIER — Amtrak has suspended service of the Vermonter north of New Haven, Conn., as of March 26, because of COVID-19 concerns.
Gov. Phil Scott said the decision to suspend service was made in conjunction with Amtrak, since Vermont taxpayers subsidize the Amtrak’s two daily trains to the Green Mountain State.
The Vermonter, which normally runs between St. Albans to Washington, D.C., with stops in Bellows Falls and Brattleboro, will also not be run on Sundays between New Haven and Washington until further notice.
Amtrak also suspended service on its Ethan Allen Express, the train that runs between Rutland and New York City. The train will only go as far as Albany, N.Y.
Other rail options for Windham County residents have been reduced. Last week, Amtrak and the Connecticut Department of Transportation put CTrail and Amtrak Hartford Line trains, as well as Valley Flyer service between Springfield and Greenfield, Mass., on a Saturday timetable seven days a week.
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.
Health Department launches VTHelplink referral resource
BURLINGTON — The Vermont Department of Health has launched VTHelplink, a new, single source clearinghouse for Vermonters to receive free, confidential and personalized information and referrals to substance use prevention, treatment and recovery services throughout the state.
“The global pandemic has not erased the continued urgent need for substance use-related services for Vermonters,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine in a news release. “In fact, the extraordinary steps required to stop the spread of COVID-19 creates new challenges for people living with substance use disorder to get the services they need.”
VTHelplink features a call center of trained staff and clinicians. Callers can get information, referrals, resources and educational materials on substance use for themselves, family and friends, or on behalf of clients.
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.”
Here is the contact information for each department that is listed below under “Non-Emergency and Administrative Support Services.”
Here are the details:
• Emergency services are still being provided by the Police and Fire Departments, but both departments have instituted policies that adjust their normal procedures to reflect COVID-19 best practices advice from public health experts.
• On-site Administrative Support Services at the Police and Fire Departments have been reduced. Most employees are working from home to the extent that they are able. Direct contact phone numbers and email addresses remain operational. For general Police Department information, call 802-257-7946 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. For general Fire Department information, call 802-254-4831.
• Town water and sewer facilities are being operated. Staffing and some procedures have been adjusted to reflect COVID-19 best practices advice from public health experts, but the public should notice no change in water or sewer service.
• All town facilities remain closed to the public until further notice.
• Employees in the Town Clerk’s and Town Manager’s offices are all working from home. Direct contact phone numbers and email addresses remain operational. For general information, call 802-251-8151 or email email@example.com. For general information from the Town Clerk’s Office, call 802-251-8157 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Services requiring on-site visits to the Town Clerk’s Office are suspended until further notice.
• At the Public Works Department, all administrative employees are working from home. All operations employees are “on call” to perform urgent maintenance services, as needed. Direct contact phone numbers and email addresses remain operational. For general information, call 802-254-4255.
• At Brooks Memorial Library, all employees are working from home to the extent that they are able. Direct contact phone numbers and email addresses remain operational. For general information, call 802-254-5290, Ext. 0 or email email@example.com. Curbside take-out services are suspended until further notice.
• Recreation+Parks Department employees are working from home to the extent that they are able. Parks employees are “on call” to perform urgent maintenance services, as needed. Direct contact phone numbers and email addresses remain operational. For general information, call 802-254-5808 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Planning Services Department employees are working from home to the extent that they are able. Direct contact phone numbers and email addresses remain operational. For general information, call 802-251-8154 or email email@example.com.
• Assessor’s Office employees are working from home to the extent that they are able. Direct contact phone numbers and email addresses remain operational. For general information, call 802-251-8156. The deadline for businesses to submit personal property tax data to the has been postponed from April 20 to July 20, consistent with the annual income tax filing deadline being postponed by both the IRS and the State of Vermont from April 15 to July 15.
• Finance Department employees (including the Treasurer’s Office) are working from home to the extent that they are able. Direct contact phone numbers and email addresses remain operational. For general information, call 802-251-8152 (Finance) or 802-251-8153 (Treasurer’s Office).
• The Human Resources Director is working from home. Her direct contact phone number (802-251-8135) and email address (firstname.lastname@example.org) remain operational.
• Burn Permits are still required for any open air fires. To apply for a Burn Permit, visit the Fire Department’s website at www.brattleborofd.org.
White River Junction VA Healthcare System announces new coronavirus safety measures
WHITE RIVER JUNCTION — The White River Junction VA Healthcare System has announced they have transitioned all face-to-face visits to VA Video Connect or telephone visits at their Community Based Outpatient Clinics in Keene, N.H. and Brattleboro until further notice.
The White River Junction VA Healthcare System asks that patients use telehealth options for medical and behavioral visits that are not emergent.
“Out of concern for our Veterans, staff, and community, we are honoring current social isolation and distancing guidelines for reducing the spread of COVID-19,” Dan O’Rourke, MD, Chief of Staff at White River Junction VA, said in a news release. “Telehealth remains a viable option for routine or non-urgent issues and offers the same high-quality, effective care Veterans have come to expect when visiting our facilities.”
Available telehealth options include appointments by phone or using VA Video Connect via computer, smartphone, or tablet. To learn more about VA Video Connect, visit mobile.va.gov/app/va-video-connect.
Veterans may also send online, secure messages for non-urgent questions to their VA health care team using My HealtheVet, VA’s online patient portal. More information is available at myhealth.va.gov. To set up telephone or video appointments, Veterans can call 802-295-9363, ext. 6364, or send their provider a secure message on My HealtheVet.
Veterans experiencing an emergency should immediately dial 911 or go to the closest emergency room. Individuals experiencing an urgent mental health issue may also call The Veterans Crisis Line, 24/7, at 800-273-8255, press 1, or text 838255. Confidential chat is available at VeteransCrisisLine.net.
Veterans can use Annie’s Coronavirus Precautions protocol to send automated text messages with information about COVID-19. This application helps Veterans monitor for symptoms and can assist if they need to contact their VA facility for care. Enroll at mobile.va.gov/annie.
Veterans who need non-urgent prescription refills should call the pharmacy call center at 866-400-1241 or 802-295-9363, ext. 6364. Veterans can also request prescription refills be shipped to their homes using My HealtheVet or the Rx Refill mobile app available for download at mobile.va.gov/app/rx-refill.
Online and reduced services still available at Lydia Taft Pratt Library
WEST DUMMERSTON — Lydia Taft Pratt Library, 150 West St., remains closed due to the coronavirus, and Library Director Dena Marger is uncertain when the library will reopen. Most services and all programs have been discontinued, in compliance with Gov. Phil Scott’s “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order.
“Information available on the COVID-19 crisis and appropriate responses for libraries is changing on a daily basis, and librarians across the state have been scrambling to figure out how we can best serve our communities as well as keep our staff and our communities healthy and safe,” Marger said in a news release. “We can not encourage people to leave their homes at this point for any but essential reasons.”
Nevertheless, the following limited services are still available to the Lydia Taft Pratt community:
● Free wi-fi outside the Community Center Building. The Network is linksys and the password is lydiataftpratt.
● Online services available via the webpage at the Dummerston Town website at dummerston.org/boards/library.asp.
● Very limited curbside pickup of books and other materials, with very limited home delivery for homebound community members only. To access these services, call 802-258-9878.
The library is unable to process any interlibrary loan requests or any book returns at this time. The library requests that borrowed library materials, whether borrowed from Lydia Taft Pratt Library or via interlibrary loan from another library, not be returned to the library until the crisis has passed.
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.”
Elwell: Brattleboro’s non-emergency services and administrative support functions have been suspended
BRATTLEBORO — In the town’s daily COVID-19 response briefing on Wednesday, Town Manager Peter Elwell said that most of town government’s non-emergency services and administrative support functions have been suspended in compliance with the “Stay Home — Stay Safe” order issued by Gov. Phil Scott.
Other information in the daily briefing:
• Dispatch is screening for COVID-19 on all calls.
• All emergency services are conducting “doorway assessments” for COVID-19 before entering into buildings.
• Inter-agency protocols for handling potential COVID-19 patients are in place, including details such as how this type of response will differ from normal emergency response protocols, what special protective equipment will be used, how affected equipment will be cleaned after the call, etc.
• Police officers are responding to medical calls only when there is an in-progress safety concern (e.g. a situation in which someone is threatening to hurt themselves or other people).
• Both BPD and BFD have implemented best practices for more rigorous than normal cleaning of facilities and equipment, for the use of personal protective equipment, and for decontamination (when needed) after calls.
• Both BPD and BFD have plans in place for how additional special procedures will be implemented if our area experiences increased impacts from COVID-19. Contingency plans include coordination with other emergency service providers in our region for mutual aid coverage of essential services, as needed.
NON-EMERGENCY AND ADMINISTRATIVE SUPPORT SERVICES
• The Water Treatment Plant and Wastewater Treatment Facilities have implemented special procedures in close coordination with the Vermont Department of Health and other authorities.
• Water and Sewer crews will not enter private buildings until further notice. People who experience service problems should call the Department of Public Works, as usual. A DPW crew will address the situation on the outside of the building. If that does not resolve the issue, then the owner/customer will need to hire a private plumber to address the issue on the interior of the building.
• Until further notice, the town will not shut-off water service to any customer as a result of that customer becoming delinquent on payment of water and sewer fees.
• Parking Enforcement is discontinued until further notice.
• Until further notice, the Town Clerk’s Office will waive late fees for any dog licensed after April 1.
• The Planning Services Department is accepting zoning permit and development applications by mail or email. Any application that can be administratively issued will be processed. Any application requiring a hearing will be delayed until such time as public meetings resume.
• Fire Safety and Rental Housing inspections are canceled until further notice.
• The Police Department is not performing Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) verifications until further notice.
• All Recreation & Parks facilities are closed, including the equipment (benches and playground equipment) at town parks.
• Brooks Memorial Library has suspended the circulation of materials as of March 25, and has closed all book drops to protect the health of both customers and library staff. Hold onto borrowed materials until further notice. Due dates will be extended (even if you receive an overdue reminder) and cards will not be blocked for overdue materials. Go to www.brookslibraryvt.org for information on obtaining a library card and reserving materials. Library cards that are due to expire can be renewed on a month-by-month basis until the library reopens. Fees for renewing non-resident cards are suspended until further notice.
• Businesses who are repaying loans to the town’s Small Business Assistance Program can defer (without penalty or additional interest) their monthly payments until further notice.
• Due to the closure of town facilities, individual pay-as-you-throw bags will not be sold at the Treasurer’s Office and the Gibson-Aiken Center until further notice. Packages of five pay-as-you-throw bags are still available at retail outlets.
• Town officials are coordinating with a variety of community organizations regarding emerging community needs that extend beyond the scope of our normal town government services.
• All reservations for use of town facilities by non-town organizations are cancelled until further notice.
• The Selectboard’s next regularly scheduled meeting will be on April 7.
• Due to the Governor’s order prohibiting large gatherings, the Representative Town Meeting (RTM) scheduled for March 21 was canceled. It 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.
• All other town board, committee, and commission meetings are cancelled until further notice.
• The town is reviewing options for allowing remote connection by phone and/or internet for public meeting participants and the public in a manner that will comply with the state of Vermont’s Open Meetings Law and the state is considering emergency action to amend the physical location requirements of the Open Meetings Law to facilitate the holding of public meetings by electronic means.
Current changes two of its bus routes
ROCKINGHAM — The coronavirus pandemic has caused The Current to change two of its bus routes.
The #55 Bellows Falls-Springfield route will operate during the morning runs only on March 26, and will not run afternoons until further notice. Riders needing to go from Bellows Falls to Springfield and back may take the Route 57 bus which departs Penguin Mart at 6:35 a.m., 9:03 a.m., and 3:36 p.m. It departs the Springfield Plaza to go to Bellows Falls at 8:32 a.m., 10:56 a.m., and 5:32 p.m. The rest of the #57 service to Ludlow remains unchanged.
The #1 In-Town Springfield Route will change on Friday, March 27, when it will run Monday-Friday 9:00 a.m.-2:44 p.m. There will no be service on that route after 12:44 p.m., until further notice.
Diocese of Burlington closes all churches, chapels, indoor shrines
BURLINGTON — Vermont Gov. Phil Scott issued a “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order and directed the closure of in-person operations for all non-essential businesses. In keeping with the governor’s order, Burlington Bishop Christopher Coyne has directed that all Catholic churches, chapels and shrines throughout the state be closed and that all “non-essential” employees of the Catholic community (as defined by the governor’s order) work remotely as need be.
Catholics can still participate in devotions and worship remotely by tuning into daily 12:05 p.m. Mass (Monday through Friday) and Sundays at 10 a.m., live rosary at 11:15 a.m., and many other spiritual engagement activities. For the weekly schedule of activities, visit vermontcatholic.org/spiritualresources.
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.
The page also includes information on scams, price gouging, landlord-tenant and foreclosures concerns, heating fuel, propane, and other utilities; resources for small businesses; and the Guidance on Vermont’s Open Meeting Law, Physical Distancing, and COVID-19. It is regularly updated with new information.
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 email@example.com.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
Dummerston switches to tele-meetings
DUMMERSTON — The Selectboard met last week with Town Clerk Laurie Frechette, Zoning Administrator Roger Jasaitis, and Road Foreman Lee Chamberlin to discuss how to move forward with town business and services given the current COVID-19 protocols and concerns.
One thing the Selectboard decided is that it will continue its regularly scheduled meetings by Zoom, a video conferencing platform. Minutes of the meetings will be posted as usual on the Dummerston.org website, and will continue to be recorded by BCTV.
Meetings will be open to the public via a Zoom invitation that will be available when the agenda is posted as usual, also on the town website. The next meeting is set for March 25.
Numerous actions have already been taken by Frechette, the board said. Thanks to the strong network of Town Clerks and Treasurers in Vermont, Frechette and Town Treasurer Charlotte Annis has already put key protocols in place to keep themselves protected while at the same time continuing town business.
At this time, the Town Office is closed to the public, but esidents may call or email any requests or concerns.
The town road crew continues the maintenance of Dummerton’s roads. Chamberlin said he has stopped in-person meetings and has each assigned each crew member a specific vehicle
Turner said he has cancelled all Development Review Board (DRB) meetings and is looking into deadlines with Vermont League of Cities and Towns (VLCT) for zoning requests already in process. He is working mostly from home and can be reached at email@example.com or 802-258-1729.
The town’s property reappraisal is on hold. The Listers will determine what has been accomplished thus far and what still needs to be done.
The Selectboard also approved extending the dog licensing due date until July 1, 2020.
Monday, March 23
Scott orders businesses, non-profits 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.
“We’re now entering a new phase in this fight to flatten the curve,” said Scott. “Vermonters should also expect additional steps in the coming days that will further reduce contact and direct more to stay home in order to keep everyone safe.”
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.
Scott also said Monday that Vermonters should prepare for a forthcoming announcement on further restrictions and a stay-at-home directive.
“All of us should already be taking personal responsibility to physically distance ourselves from others and to follow the guidance in place to help keep each other healthy and safe,” he said.
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.
“Our local businesses are facing serious economic and logistical challenges and the Administration will do all it can to help them get back on their feet and operational as soon as possible,” Secretary of Administration Susanne Young said in a news release. “The waiver of penalties and interest is within the current authority of the Tax Commissioner.
“Realizing we must be prepared to provide additional relief, the Administration will work with the Legislature in the coming weeks to explore additional stimulus opportunities for our local businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.”
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.
“I extend my sincere gratitude to these organizations for their assistance, without which the Department would have been unable to put together this map,” Public Service Commissioner June Tierney said in a news release on Monday.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Vermont Health Connect creates special enrollment period to sign up for insurance
MONTPELIER — Vermont Health Connect (VHC) has opened a special enrollment period to ensure that Vermonters who don’t have health insurance can sign up and get coverage during the COVID-19 emergency.
According VHC’s website, healthconnect.vermont.gov, Vermont will be temporarily waiving financial verification required for those seeking to enroll in health insurance, extending out coverage periods until after the emergency ends, suspending certain terminations of health insurance, and offering an one-month special enrollment period through April 17 for those who do not currently have health insurance to enroll in a qualified health plan and receive premium and cost-sharing assistance, if eligible.
Normally, if a Vermonter loses their insurance because they lose their job, they qualify for a special enrollment period to sign up for health care through VHC. The special enrollment period will allow any Vermonter who doesn’t have insurance to sign up for VHC, as well as find out if they’re eligible for financial assistance to help cover the cost.
The Department of Vermont Health Access, which runs Vermont Health Connect, has also taken steps to remove barriers for people signing up for Medicaid, including a temporarily waiver of the financial verification process that applicants go through when they sign up.
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 email@example.com.
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 of our 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 firstname.lastname@example.org; Dummerston families, email@example.com; Guilford families, firstname.lastname@example.org; and Vernon families, email@example.com.
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.
Event cancellations for this weekend (and next)
• Main Street Arts’ production of Cabaret at the Bellows Falls Opera House, has been indefinitely postponed.
• The Latchis Theatre in Brattleboro will remain closed until at least April 6.
• This year’s Women’s Film Festival in Brattleboro, originally slated for March 20-29, has been rescheduled to Sept. 18-20.
• All upcoming events scheduled for the Williamsville Hall have been postponed and/or cancelled until further notice.
• With the River Garden closed to the public until April 6, all scheduled noontime Brown Bag Lunch events are also postponed.
• Hooker-Dunham Theater and Gallery in Brattleboro has suspended until further notice all its upcoming shows and events.
• New England Youth Theatre (NEYT) in Brattleboro has suspended all its programming, events, and performances.
• Evening Star Grange in Dummerston Center has canceled its annual sugar-on-snow supper scheduled for Saturday, March 28.
• River Gallery School in Brattleboro has postponed its “Off the Wall” art lottery and fundraising dinner, originally planned for Saturday, March 28.
• The Historical Society of Windham County’s annual Soup Fest and Silent Auction, scheduled for Sunday, March 29, is canceled.
• The Brattleboro Branch of UVM’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) announces that the spring 2020 program, scheduled to start on April 6, has been canceled.
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.
Vermont reports cluster of COVID-19 cases at Burlington nursing home
MONTPELIER — A Burlington nursing home where a patient died earlier this week, Burlington Health & Rehab, is reporting that five of its patients tested positive for new coronavirus COVID-19.
The existence of this cluster was announced at a Friday morning news conference by Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine and Governor Phil Scott.
Burlington Health & Rehab provides long-term and respite care for elderly adults, as well as short-term rehab care for those leaving the hospital.
At a Thursday night news conference, Levine said Vermont’s first two victims died on March 16 and both were over the age of 80.
One was a man from Windsor County who died at the White River Junction VA Medical Center. The other was a woman a resident of Burlington Health and Rehab. Both people had tested positive for COVID-19.
The Vermont Department of Health on Friday reported there are now 29 confirmed cases of new coronavirus COVID-19.
As of early Friday afternoon, the Health Department says 808 Vermonters tested negative for COVID-19. There are 264 Vermonters being monitored, and 288 Vermonters who have completed monitoring.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-257-4011.
MOOver, Current bus services still in operation
Both divisions of Southeast Vermont Transit (SEVT) — the MOOver and the Current — remain focused on their efforts to mitigate the coronavirus impacts on its riders and staff.
According to a news release from Southeast Vermont Transit CEO Randy Schoonmaker, demand response riders are being screened ahead of time for their medical appointment, meal site, and shopping trips, as are the drivers and volunteers who transport them.
The company has restricted seating in the rows behind and beside the driver’s seat in the effort to maintain the 6-foot personal zone for the drivers. Vehicles are being sprayed and wiped down daily before each shift. Fares have been eliminated in the effort to reduce areas that may be a surface to spread infection.
SEVT joins the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Vermont Department of Health in encouraging riders to stay home or self-transport if possible. If you must ride the bus, riders are asked to maintain a 6-foot distance from other passengers and drivers.
Schoonmaker wrote that the virus has caused the Current to change several routes, effective March 23.
• The Route 73 morning run from Bellows Falls-Hanover will be stopped, but riders needing to get to Hanover should ride the Route 74 morning run which leaves at 6:15 a.m. — one hour later. The Route 74 services all the stops on the Route 73’s morning run. Route 74’s afternoon run will operate as scheduled.
• In Brattleboro, the Current will run the Saturday schedule on a daily basis starting Monday, March 23. Stops at the Brattleboro Music Center, Winston Prouty Center, Cotton Mill, Groundworks Shelter, Omega Optical, Exit 1 Industrial Park, and the Guilford Country will not be served.
• There are no route changes at present on the MOOver routes.
• In the event that more route changes are necessary, riders are asked keep in touch with via SEVT’s Facebook pages, websites (www.crtransit.org or www.moover.com), or sign up for notifications on their Transit app.
Seven Days starts online directory of local restaurants offering takeout and delivery
BURLINGTON — In response to the current ban on table service at all Vermont restaurants, Seven Days has launched a digital directory of local eateries that are offering takeout, delivery or curbside drop-off options during the coronavirus pandemic.
“Vermont restaurants may be off-limits to dine-in customers, but they are still making delicious food that people want to purchase and enjoy,” said Paula Routly, publisher and co-founder of Seven Days, said in a news release. “By collecting all of this information in one place, we hope to generate business for anyone who is still open during this unbelievably challenging time.”
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.
Thursday, March 19
ANR stops enforcement actions at redemption centers
MONTPELIER — The Vermont Agency of Natural Resources says that, due to the anticipated spread of the COVID-19 virus and the current state of emergency declared by Governor Phil Scott, the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is temporarily not pursuing enforcement action against retailers or redemption centers who fail to redeem beverage containers subject to Vermont’s bottle bill law.
Vermont DEC has taken this step in allowing retailers and redemption centers to temporarily stop redemption services to reduce unnecessary person-to-person contact and possible virus transmission and to let grocers to focus on restocking food shelves and other needed work to assure availability of groceries.
This temporary period will end on April 30, unless extended by DEC. Decisions about whether to close or stop redeeming during this time are solely at the discretion of the retailer/redemption center. In the meantime, beverage containers may be recycled, rather than redeemed, by consumers.
Market 32/Price Chopper stores change hours
SCHENECTADY, N.Y. — All Price Choppers and Market 32 stores will close from 10 p.m. to 7 p.m., to give store personnel extra time to stock groceries and perform additional preventative sanitation overnight during the COVID-19 crisis.
In a news release, Scott Grimmett, president and CEO of Price Chopper/Market 32, said that they will offer “a more protected level of service to members of our communities who are the most vulnerable to coronavirus,” with the stores open only to seniors from 6 a.m. to 7 a.m., each day.
While some high-in-demand items have hard to keep in stock, Grimmett said, “I can assure you that the food supply is not in jeopardy.”
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.
“Given that many Vermonters will experience a loss of income as a result of these restrictions and will spend considerable time at home for the foreseeable future, the Commission decided it was imperative to protect the public good by halting utility disconnections that might place Vermonters at risk.”
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.
Governor directs DMV to transition to online, mail, and phone services only, suspends all in-person transactions
MONTPELIER — The Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) will suspend all in-person transactions effective 4:30pm on Thursday, March 19, to reduce the risk and spread of COVID-19.
“The leadership team at DMV has developed alternative options for assisting our customers, ensuring they can complete their essential DMV business,” said DMV Commissioner Wanda Minoli in a news release.
The DMV will continue to process registration and license renewals and various other services online, by mail, or via telephone. In-person transactions that cannot be completed using other delivery options — like exams, trainings, and hearings — will be postponed for the duration of the state of emergency.
Customers that have questions about how to complete their transactions may contact the DMV call center at 802-828-2000 or 888-998-3766 or submit questions online using the contact form on the DMV website.
Additionally, Governor Phil 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.
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.
“My office is dedicated to creating the pathways to licensure necessary to ensure Vermont medical facilities have access to the qualified healthcare staff needed to serve Vermonters during this global pandemic,” Condos said in a news release.
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.
Essential persons are defined as:
• Providers of healthcare including, but not limited to, workers at clinics, hospitals, Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs), nursing homes, long-term care and post-acute care facilities, respite houses, VNAs, designated agencies and emergency medical services.
• Criminal justice personnel including those in law enforcement, courts, and correctional services; as well as public health employees, firefighters, Vermont National Guard personnel called to duty for this response, and 0ther first responders and state employees determined to be essential for response to this crisis under the State Emergency Operations Center.
• Staff and providers of childcare and education services (including custodial and kitchen staff and other support staff) for children of other “essential persons.”
The definition of essential persons may evolve as needed to respond to the crisis. This new guidance outlines the protocols educators and childcare providers should follow as they develop plans to care for children of “essential persons.”
The full directive can be seen at governor.vermont.gov/content/directive-2-childcare-essential-service-providers-pursuant-eo-01-20.
Temporary free parking ordered in Brattleboro
BRATTLEBORO — As a precautionary measure, the town of Brattleboro will immediately suspend the collection of all parking fees and cease issuing parking fines until further notice. All meters and parking kiosks will message “Free Parking.” No further permits will be sold until paid parking is resumed.
All previously-issued citations must be paid by mail or online at www.brattleboro.org. The Parking Enforcement Office at 77 Flat St. is also closed until further notice.
This measure is intended to be temporary and will be reviewed as COVID-19 conditions change. Once a decision to reinstate parking fines and fees is made, the public will be notified well in advance of the renewed enforcement activities.
All other parking restrictions will remain in effect during this period. For example, while meters and kiosks will not require payment, parking in front of a fire hydrant or in a crosswalk will not be permitted.
Parking in the Reserved Section of the Brattleboro Transportation Center will still be limited to holders of BTC Reserve Permits only, and Brattleboro Police Department will continue to patrol the streets and parking lots of Brattleboro and will address such infractions. Direct questions or concerns to Assistant Town Manager Patrick Moreland at 802-251-8101.
Tuesday, March 17
Windham Southeast School District Board postpone annual meeting
BRATTLEBORO — The Windham Southeast School District (WSESD) board voted to postpone its annual meeting, originally scheduled for that date and time, due to the serious public health risk posed by Coronavirus.
No other business was transacted. A make-up date for the annual meeting has not yet been determined.
Windham Southwest offers meal service for students
WILMINGTON — The Windham Southwest food service program will continue to serve the children in the school district’s towns with a daily delivery of breakfast and lunch beginning Thursday, March 19. Each delivery will include that day’s lunch and the next day’s breakfast.
These meals will be provided through the Summer Food Service Program that is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This is a free program for anyone 18 years old or younger in a household. School staff say they hope many will take advantage of this opportunity to have meals provided for all of our children.
In most towns, buses will be running their regular route (around 4 hours later) on a daily basis delivering meals to bus stops. Some towns will run normal bus routes with modified schedules to complete two routes as one.
Lastly, there will be some community pick up sites to reach those children who are not accessible via their bus routes. Deliveries will be made to the following four sites where people can pick up the meals for children: Twin Valley Elementary, 12-12:30 p.m.; Twin Valley Middle High School, 11:30 a.m. to noon; Readsboro School noon to 12:30 p.m.; Searsburg Town offices, 12:30 to 1 p.m.
When deliveries are made by a vehicle other than a bus there will be signage on windows. Thursday and Friday this week will be a pilot and times may be adjusted next week based on what staff learns.
While not necessary to access the meals, in order to help us plan for the correct number of meals, contact the school your kids go to to confirm your request to have meals delivered to your children. This is only to get rough meal counts for routes and pick up locations.
Again, this is a free program. They will always have some extra meals on hand, and will keep adjusting the meals they carry according to requests. For more information, contact Windham Southwest at 802-464-1300.
Vermont DMV grants 90-day extension for license and registration renewals
MONTPELIER — The Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) is urging Vermonters to renew registrations online and renew licenses by mail to reduce the risk and spread of COVID-19 infection.
Vehicle registrations can be renewed online. Information is available at the secure DMV Express website.
Most driver’s licenses can be renewed by mail. Clear instructions on how to do so are included with the renewal forms that Vermonters receive in the mail from the DMV when their licenses are due to expire.
For Vermonters who cannot make those options work, Gov. Phil 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 of need.
According to DMV data, 80 percent of all visits to DMV offices are for registrations and licenses. Most of those are renewals. The DMV encourages Vermonters to take advantage of the online and mail options for renewals at a time when staying home can contribute to staying healthy and protecting the elderly and very ill — who are at greater risk of more severe symptoms.
For assistance with renewals, customers may contact the DMV call center at 802-828-2000 or 888-998-3766 or get online assistance by completing the contact form on the DMV website. Staff responds to online contact form submissions continuously throughout each business day.
Foodworks to start deliveries to clients
BRATTLEBORO — Groundworks Collaborative announced Sunday that its Foodworks food shelf will be moving to a delivery model beginning March 16.
Households needing food will need to call 802-490-2412 or email email@example.com to arrange delivery
Groundworks is actively preparing a list of volunteers willing to make deliveries and reports it is “in urgent need of volunteer support for this effort,” Groundworks’ Executive Director Josh Davis said in a news release. “We have set up protocols to keep staff, volunteers, and clients as safe as possible.”
Groundworks asks that interested volunteers email volunteer@GroundworksVT.org if you are able to help.
Davis said Groundworks does not have any clients with confirmed or unconfirmed cases of the virus, and the organization’s is working closely with its state partners to ensure a strong local response.
Staff in all of Groundworks’ shelter programs — the year-round Groundworks Shelter, the Seasonal Overflow Shelter (SOS), and the community’s Day Shelter — are engaging in additional cleaning and sanitizing protocols, and have limited access to restrict any external guests.
Restriction of guests includes SOS volunteer Meal Teams—who provide meals each night at the winter shelter. Volunteers are now being asked to drop off food to staff on site, rather than serving meals and cleaning up as they would normally do. Anyone interested in providing meals for available dates for the SOS is encouraged to contact Groundworks at meals@GroundworksVT.org.
Foodworks is experiencing an increased need for food donations as grocery shelves are becoming increasingly bare. Donations of food dropped-off to Foodworks will be gratefully accepted. The agency asks that anyone interested in dropping off a food donation contact Foodworks in advance to arrange a time.
The Windham Region Hunger Action Council has been coordinating plans around food access. School and town officials, as well as food access agencies, are meeting in preparation to implement these plans.
In the meantime, the Hunger Action Council offered these updates on local food site availability:
• Agape Church on Canal Street in Brattleboro has canceled its Sunday meals until further notice. The church is having an ongoing discussion as to creating pre-packaged boxes of food, but says it is worried about having enough volunteers.
• Brigid’s Kitchen on Walnut Street in Brattleboro started take-out meals on Monday, March 16 and will try to supply as much additional food for those who can cook at home or those who need to self-quarantine. They will continue to offer hot meals and fruit/nuts on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.
• Townshend Community Food Shelf plans to have normal operations.
• Guilford Cares Food Pantry will be open on Thursdays, as usual, from 5 to 6 p.m.
• Deerfield Valley Food Pantry plans food distribution on Thursday, March 19, from 1 to 3 p.m., and Saturday, March 21, 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. Food donations may be dropped at Shaw’s supermarket, the West Dover and Jacksonville post offices, and at People’s United Bank.
• Putney Foodshelf will maintain its usual hours, 6 to 7 p.m. on Tuesdays and 9 to 10 p.m. on Saturdays, but food delivery will be made directly to vehicles. Volunteers will greet each car, determine what is needed, and prepare a bag for each household.
• Chester-Andover Family Center has closed its thrift shop, but its food shelf remains open. Until further notice, recipients may pick up a pre-packed box of food in our parking lot, during regular food shelf hours; Thursdays from 1 to 5 p.m. and Fridays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. They are asking recipients to come to the door and read the posted instructions regarding how to retrieve their food box.
For additional queries about food shelves around Vermont, call 2-1-1 or visit vermont211.org.
Sheriff’s Dept. adopts new policies in wake of COVID-19
NEWFANE -- In response to the COVID-19 coronavirus epidemic, Windham County Sheriff Mark Anderson said his department is taking a variety of steps to ensure necessary public safety services it provides continue, while taking steps and precautions necessary to minimize the spread of the virus.
“First, we are encouraging elderly, shut-ins, self-quarantined, injured, or ill community members to subscribe to the ‘Are You Okay?” program which provides a regular, scheduled call to check their welfare,” Anderson wrote in a news release. “This free program allows us to continue our community care taking role from a distance and can dispatch emergency services to a subscriber when necessary.”
Anderson said deputies will continue to physically respond to emergencies where life, limb, or property are in jeopardy, but will also handle non-emergency calls via electronic communication when possible.
“To minimize exposure to surfaces, we may request people meet us outside of their homes or businesses,” he wrote. “Deputies may be wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves or masks as a precaution.”
The Sheriff’s Department has suspended all fingerprinting for civilian licensing/background checks until after April 15. Additionally, the lobby is now closed, so people coming to the Newfane office should use the call box by the door.
“Our office is monitoring the health of all of our employees,” Anderson wrote. “Disinfecting and cleaning protocols for our office, vehicles, and equipment are occurring regularly. We have been in contact with all local law enforcement agencies in Windham County as part of our emergency management procedure to confirm mutual aid agreements and resource sharing agreements to ensure continuity of policing services, dispatching services, and the safety of our community.”
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, until April 15. This date will be considered as flexible as the situation evolves. Program coordinators will be contacting program participants with detailed information.
• No new events are being scheduled at the Root until after the tentative reopen date of April 15. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Cancellations and closures reported today...
Guiford Free Library closed to public
GUILFORD — The Guilford Free Library is closed to the public, effective until April6 or until additional information and guidance is available from the State and Public Health officials.
Library Director Cathi Wilken said in a March 17 letter that “there will be no Storytime, Talk About Books, Knitting Circle, Homeschool Group or Meetup for Parents and Little Ones until further notice.
She said that library staff “will continue to provide materials for patrons requesting them. They will be placed in the white return box outside the front door. We will also try to provide home delivery service for patrons unable to get to the library.”
Resources available at the library’s web page include digital books and ebooks, Universal Class (more than 500 online continuing education courses), the Vermont On-Line Library, and education tools and research, in addition to their catalog. All accessed with a Guilford Free Library library card. If any Guilford resident does not yet have a library card and would like one, call or email the library to get one.
Wilken said the library’s wi-fi is available 24/7 for use in the parking lot, and said patrons can check out their Little Free Library at the Guilford Country Store, where anyone can pick up books without checking them out.
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 email@example.com.
Brattleboro Area Hospice, Experienced Goods 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.
Experienced Goods on Flat Street will be closed until further notice and it will not be accepting donations. Donors are asked to not leave bags and boxes outside the store while it is closed.
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.
The Retreat said that the schools will remain closed until Monday, April 6 and, in the coming weeks, closures will be reassessed as necessary to determine if an extended period of closure will be needed.
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 today, Monday, March 16th, 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.
“We do not take lightly the disappointment and inconvenience this decision will cause to our dedicated producers and viewers,” wrote BCTV executive director Cor Trowbridge in a letter to The Commons. “It is out of concern for the health of our members and staff, their families, and everyone who comes into contact with BCTV that we have chosen this path. Meanwhile, please visit brattleborotv.org and our Facebook page @brattleborotv for updates and local videos.”
For more information, or if you have a video or PSA to submit, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Brooks Memorial Library closed to public
BRATTLEBORO — Brooks Memorial Library Director Starr Latronica announced Sunday that the library will be closed to the public until further notice, following the advice of public health officials to limit large gatherings.
“The library is a critical resource and we will continue to serve the community while supporting the advice of public health experts and the efforts of school officials to encourage social distancing,” she said. “Staff will meet to consider the best way to continue service in this challenging time.”
Patrons can renew materials online by logging into their account at www.brookslibraryvt.org. Information requests or reference questions may be emailed via the Ask a Librarian link, www.brookslibraryvt.org/search/ask-a-librarian.
Latronica also encouraged patrons “to make the most of your library from home” and said it was the perfect time to delve into the “multitude of digital resources available for entertainment and education” on the Brooks website.
Rockingham Library closed starting March 17
BELLOWS FALLS — The Rockingham Free Public Library is temporarily closing to the public beginning Tuesday, March 17, and all upcoming programs and events are cancelled or postponed.
In a letter to patrons, reference librarian Virgil Fuller said that the RFPL “made this decision to support the overall health and wellness of our community and for the safety of our patrons and staff.”
Fuller wrote that “it was a difficult decision, as we care deeply about serving the public, but it is the responsible thing to do — and the best way to serve our patrons right now — to help minimize the spread of the novel coronavirus COVID-19, especially as our patrons include many seniors and others at high risk.”
The library will be open on Monday, March 16 for patrons to borrow books, and the RFPL plans to also keep patrons updated through the website and by email. If there are any questions about one’s account, overdue items, or to learn how to access digital resources, learn more at www.rockinghamlibrary.org.
Whitingham Free Public Library to offer outside pick-up, home delivery
JACKSONVILLE — The Trustees of The Whitingham Free Public Library voted unanimously Monday to close the library to the public and cancel all programs. The Board of Trustees will reassess re-opening to the public during a regular meeting on April 1.
Services will still be available through home delivery or outside pick-up. Books, DVDs, magazines, and audio-books will be available to order on Mondays and Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Call or email the library with your requests at 802-368-7506 or email@example.com.
Online services will continue to be available, such as, downloadable E-books and audio-books and VT-online library at www.whitinghamvt.org. Wi-fi will still be available outside the building 24/7.
Moore Free Library, Crowell Art Gallery now closed
NEWFANE — The Moore Free Library and Crowell Art Gallery are NOW closed and all events are cancelled until further notice, due to the coronavirus.
Online access to e-books and audiobooks is available through GMLC/Overdrive and RB Digital and they can be accessed through the library’s web site. Both of these services allow users to either stream or download audiobooks and ebooks and are free to library patrons.
There are also digital resources available from the library, such as Internet Archive (which has old movies and other videos) and VTOnline Library. You can find links to all of these at moorefreelibrary.org/online-resources.
Patrons who need help setting up an online account, remembering their library card number, or working through the use of any of these systems, are asked to contact the library at 802-365-7948 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Newfane or Brookline residents who would like to set up a free library account for the first time can also do so by phone or email.
The library has free, powerful wi-fi available which reaches outside. Patrons can park in front of the library, sit on the porch, or bring their own chair to the front lawn and use the wi-fi.
SIT moves quickly to bring home students from abroad, implements staff work-from-home policy
BRATTLEBORO — School for International Training and its parent organization, World Learning, Inc., announced safety measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Effective today, faculty and staff based in the organization’s headquarters in Brattleboro and in Washington, D.C., have been instructed to work from home.
Nearly 150 World Learning and SIT staff members work on the Vermont campus. The mandatory directive is in effect through March 27 and will be reassessed at that time. SIT and World Learning have faculty and staff worldwide. The organization will be open and fully operational during this time period.
“This decision was taken out of concern for you, your families, and our communities,” said World Learning, Inc. CEO Carol Jenkins, said in an announcement to staff that was release to the press. “It will support social distancing and help ‘flatten the curve’ in ways that support public infrastructure and improve safety and health outcomes for everyone.”
Jenkins said that SIT believes that these actions “will lessen the anxiety caused by the daily unknown yet inevitable virus-related closure of local schools and other urgent announcements that will continue to interrupt work routines.”
According to SIT, it currently has more than 900 undergraduates enrolled in SIT Study Abroad programs in more than 50 countries.
After canceling a spring 2020 China program before it started and moving a Mongolia program online in January and February, SIT says it has suspended all programs in Europe, including Iceland, changing flights and rerouting students so they could repatriate as swiftly as possible. Students returning home early will complete their coursework online.
The Experiment, which provides summer study abroad programs for high school students, has preemptively suspended programs this summer in China, Italy, and South Korea.
SIT Graduate Institute, which offers master’s degrees in global locations and low-residency MAs on the Vermont campus, continues to carefully monitor the development of COVID-19. SIT Global Master’s degree students are currently studying in Africa and will move into independent practicum programs throughout the world later this semester.
SIT has also postponed a major international research conference that was scheduled on the Vermont campus May 14-16. The Critical Global Issues Symposium on Migration and Human Resilience was set to bring SIT and partner institutions’ students, faculty and staff to campus from throughout the world. It is expected to be rescheduled in 2021.
Cancellations and closures reported today...
Latchis Theatre suspends operations, Comics on a Mission event postponed
BRATTLEBORO —Latchis Art executive director Jon Potter announced Monday that the Latchis Theatre will be closed immediately, and remain closed until at least April 6.
“In times like these, the strength of our community ties will see us through.” wrote Potter in a letter to The Commons. “We strive, always, to be a place where our community gathers to renew, revitalize and be entertained. But the greater good right now calls us to close our doors temporarily in support of the community’s health and welfare.
As a result of the decision to close, The Hatch announced on Monday that it will postpone Comics on a Mission, which was scheduled for Saturday, April 4 at The Latchis, until May 9.
Given the rapid spread of the virus and our concern to protect the health of our community, this was the only choice,” said Hatch founder Tom Bodett in a news release. “We are all looking forward to an awesome show full of laughter and joy, and no doubt, virus snark.
“Even as we wash our hands non-stop, we have not washed our hands of this event. As they say, laughter is the best medicine, but we also know that prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
Vernon Town Offices closed to public
VERNON — Effective Tuesday, March 17, The Vernon Town Offices will be closed to the public because of the coronavirus.
Town Clerk Tim Arsenault said his staff “will be happy to help you via mail, e-mail and phone for tax purposes and the like. The only exception will be for sale of pay-as-you-throw trash bags. Please call ahead, and we’ll meet you at the outside door for the transaction.”
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 Wednesday, March 18.
Scott’s directive, which was distributed to schools Sunday afternoon, will last through April 6, but may be extended for a longer period.
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.”
Saturday, March 14
Vermont State Police modifies operations in response to COVID-19
WATERBURY — The Vermont State Police, like law-enforcement agencies nationwide, is taking precautions in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to a March 14 news release, commanders have directed members of the state police to make certain modifications to their operations to protect both the workforce and the public.
“These modifications are undertaken out of an abundance of caution to ensure we are taking appropriate steps to reduce unnecessary risks of exposure to COVID-19 for members of the Vermont State Police and for Vermont residents,” Commissioner of Public Safety Michael Schirling said. “But I want to be clear: The Vermont State Police is still in full and active operation.”
Under the procedures currently in effect, Vermont State Police barracks are staffed, and members are continuing to respond to calls.
In some cases, however, the state police said it will change the way it handles those calls.
“For instance, troopers will physically respond to major case investigations such as homicide, and to calls regarding crimes in progress, motor vehicle crashes with injuries, missing persons cases and domestic assault, as a few examples,” they said. “As needed, troopers may take precautions such as social distancing, consulting with medical first responders, and using personal protective equipment.
“In other cases, such as minor motor vehicle crashes, vandalism, and thefts, the state police may take reports from the public over the phone. State police members are making these response decisions in consultation with supervisors. The Vermont State Police encourages people who are victims of these types of crimes to report them over the phone rather than by walking in at a barracks.”
Supreme Court orders temporary postponement of jury drawings
MONTPELIER — The Vermont Supreme Court issued an administrative directive, effective immediately, ordering the postponement of all jury trials for which the jury has not yet been drawn until at least April 15. The directive was issued in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Superior judges retain the discretion to postpone jury draws in cases that are listed as exceptions in the directive. Any case in which a jury has already been selected may proceed at the discretion of the superior judge.
“The COVID-19 pandemic presents unprecedented challenges to the administration of jury trials in Vermont,” the Court wrote in a news release. “With the emerging threat to public health, many Vermonters seek to practice, to the extent they can, ‘social distancing,’ as recommended by public health officials. For that reason, compulsory jury service could be particularly burdensome to certain Vermonters, especially those with heightened vulnerability to the virus.”
The Court said it will continue to monitor the situation and will amend this directive as necessary to respond to the evolving pandemic.
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 email@example.com. 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.”
All lessons and classes, including after school string programs, are suspended. According to a news release, staff will reassess the Music School’s closure on Friday, March 27, and make another announcement at that time.
Concerts and related rehearsals are postponed. These events include the Windham Orchestra’s “Magic Flute” performances March 19 and 21, and March 27 and 29; the Blanche Moyse Chorale’s performances of Brahms’ German Requiem April 3 and 5; the Chamber Series’ Musicians from Marlboro concert on April 4; the Keith Murphy and Becky Tracy CD release concert on April 11; and the Brattleboro Concert Choir’s April 25-26 performances of The Birds Will Still Sing.
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.
This policy is effective for the next two weeks. At that time, the department says it will make a determination on whether in-person visitation will resume based on the status of the COVID-19 virus in Vermont.
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.
“Our mission is to bring people and resources together to make a difference in Vermont every day, as well as when we face a challenge like this one,” President & CEO Dan Smith said in a news release. “This new fund will increase the ability of key organizations to provide core services that ensure Vermonters have what they need at this uncertain time, and we are calling on partners to join us.”
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.
“We are calling for calm and common sense in response to the coronavirus,” said Donovan in a news release. “This is the time to solve problems and help each other. I’m committed to working together to help Vermonters to do what’s best.”
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.
Unnecessary hoarding by consumers can also be a problem. “Local retailers are here to help and to provide the goods and services Vermonters want and need,” said Erin Sigrist, President of the Vermont Retailers and Grocers Association. “Retailers are your friends and neighbors and can help you determine the right amounts of essential items you may want or need if you need to stay home for a couple of weeks for yourself or a loved one.”
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.