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Latest local updates on COVID-19

Last updated at 11 a.m., Wednesday, Nov. 25

Wednesday, Nov. 25

81 new COVID-19 cases reported in Vt.; 6 new cases in Windham County

BURLINGTON — The Vermont Department of Health reported Tuesday that there are now 3,827 people who have tested positive for COVID-19 in Vermont, including 210 people in Windham County.

There were 81 new COVID-19 cases reported in the state on Wednesday. Sixty-four people have died so far in Vermont, according to the Health Department, with the latest death reported on Nov. 23.

Chittenden County leads the state with 1,413 cumulative cases and 39 deaths. It has seen 286 new cases for the 14-day period between Nov. 11 and Nov. 24. Washington County now reports 589 cases and two deaths, with 383 new cases coming in the last 14 days.

Windham County now reports 210 cases and a total of three deaths. It has had 46 new cases in the last 14 days, while Bennington County reports 192 cases and one death, with 40 new cases over the last 14 days.

As of Wednesday morning, the Health Department says 218,607 people have been tested for COVID-19. The seven-day positivity rate declined to 1.3 percent. There are 197 travelers being monitored, and 11,000 people who have completed monitoring. The Health Department is also monitoring 97 people who may have been in contact with someone with the virus.

There are 22 patients in Vermont hospitalized with COVID-19 as of Wednesday, with five patients in intensive care. There are four patients currently hospitalized under investigation for the virus. A total of 2,374 people have recovered from the virus, for a 62 percent recovery rate, according to the Health Department.

In the weekly by-town count of cumulative cases released on Nov. 18 of Vermonters who have tested positive for COVID-19, a total of 59 identified lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been reported in Brattleboro as of that date. Putney had 20 cases, while Wilmington reported 17 cases. Vernon had 13 cases, Whitingham and Rockingham both report 11 cases, and Londonderry had seven cases.

With this new surge of COVID-19 cases, here’s what Vermonters need to know now to help stop the spread:

•Do not get together or socialize with anyone you don’t live with.There is an exception for those who live alone —they may gather with members of their immediate family.

•Avoid travel when possible, even within Vermont. Anyone who does travel to or from Vermont must quarantine. The only exception is for essential travel.

•Wear a mask.

•If you’re sick, stay home.

•Get tested if you have any symptoms, are a close contact of a case, or have been in a social gathering or other risky situation.

•Get your flu shot and stay as healthy as you can.

See all of the Health Department’s guidance at healthvermont.gov/covid-19.

Tuesday, Nov. 24

State officials ask Vermonters to follow guidelines to slow growth of virus

MONTPELIER — Thanksgiving week is generally the busiest week of the year for travel, and state officials fear that this could lead to a spike in new COVID-19 cases.

In his weekly travel advisory on Tuesday, Department of Financial Regulation Commissioner Michael Pieciak said that it is estimated that 38 percent of Americans intend to travel and gather for Thanksgiving as they did before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pieciak said if Vermonters behaved similarly, the state would see between 3,200 and 3,800 new cases in addition to the normal case growth, and an additional 40 to 50 new hospitalizations.

Last year, Pieciak said 100,000 people came to Vermont and a similar number of Vermonters went elsewhere. Since travel and indoor gatherings have been the two biggest drivers of the sharp increase in new COVID-19 cases in the U.S. over the past few weeks, health officials are worried.

The U.S. passed the 12 million mark for COVID-19 cases this week, and Pieciak said 26 percent of the national total and 46 percent of Vermont’s total have been tallied in just the month of November.

Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine said it is clear that if Vermonters want to keep schools and businesses open and keep the hospitals from being filled with COVID-19 patients, people need to follow the guidelines.

He said that avoiding social gatherings, limiting non-essential travel, quarantining when necessary, and taking other prevention steps will slow down the rapid rise in new COVID-19 cases.

According to current state guidelines, anyone returning or traveling to Vermont must follow Vermont’s mandatory quarantine policy. This means not going to work for 14 days, or 7 days with a negative test; keeping kids out of school for 14 days, or 7 days with a negative test; and staying in your home for 14 days, or 7 days with a negative test.

Also, the state is allowing schools to ask families if they gathered with other households. If the answer is yes, students will need to transition to remote learning for 14 days after Thanksgiving break.

The state is postponing the start of winter school sports, which were set to begin preseason practices on Nov. 30. Sports are now paused until further notice.

Pop-up testing for COVID-19 available in Brattleboro

BRATTLEBORO — The Vermont Department of Health recommends testing for people who have symptoms of COVID-19, have had close contact (within 6 feet for a total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period) with someone who tested positive for COVID-19, or have recently attended an event with people who are not in their usual social circle.

COVID-19 symptoms can include fever (100.4 F or higher), coughing, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, chills, fatigue, muscle pain or aches, headache, sore throat, new loss of taste or smell, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting, and diarrhea.

The Health Department lists Brattleboro Memorial Hospital as a local site doing daily COVID-19 tests. Here are the steps to set up a testing appointment at a pop-up testing site: Register to get an account at vermont.force.com/events/s/selfregistration, receive an email with your patient ID and use that to confirm your account (check your spam folder if you don’t see the email), log in with your patient ID, and then set up an appointment.

For help or technical assistance, call the Vermont Department of Health COVID-19 Call Center at 802-863-7240.

Sunday, Nov. 22

Winter Farmers Market suspends in-person shopping

BRATTLEBORO — The Brattleboro Winter Farmers’ Market, held every Saturday, at the C.F. Church Building, 80 Flat St., will no longer be open for in-person shopping as of Saturday, Nov. 26, due to the increased risks associated with COVID-19.

They will, however, continue in a curbside pick-up model at least through the holidays. Masks are required and COVID-19 social distancing directives will be observed during pickup. At the start of the New Year, they will assess the possibility of re-opening a “Shop and Go” market.

The order cycle opens each week at 8 a.m. on the Tuesday before a market, and closes at 8 p.m. on Thursdays so vendors can pick, pack, bake, and make what you are looking for. Orders will be ready for pick up between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. There will be a $1 fee added for processing debit or credit cards.

For the most up to date information on current market practices, or other market information, go to www.brattleborowinterfarmersmarket.org.

Putney Public Library to suspend in-person visits

PUTNEY — In an effort to staff and the community healthy, the Putney Public Library will be suspending in-person visits to the library for the two weeks following Thanksgiving.

No-contact pickup borrowing will continue. Anyone who would like to reserve an item or access their online account to place holds may contact Emily for their login information at Emily@putneylibrary.org or 802-387-4407.

The Library Board will reevaluate this decision during the week of Dec. 7. To stay up to date on the library’s services, announcements, and virtual programs, sign up for their email newsletter at putneylibrary.org.

Many food resources available for those in need

BRATTLEBORO — Anyone struggling to access healthy and nutritious food during the COVID-19 outbreak is encouraged to look into these resources in Windham County:

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

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

• Vermont Foodbank’s Veggie Van Go will be at Brattleboro Union High School on Fairground Rd., in the parking lot, on the first and third Monday of the month, from 10 to 11:30 a.m. Drive-up, touchless pick-up, but walkers welcome, too. Call Vermont 2-1-1 for more information.

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

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

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

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

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

• Jamaica-Wardsboro Community Food Shelf, 802-896-6178. The next distribution date is Dec. 21. Distribution takes place from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the Wardsboro Vestry.

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

If you are looking for additional food resources:

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

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

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

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

Friday, Nov. 20

State officials clarify ban on social gatherings

MONTPELIER — At Friday’s COVID-19 news briefing, Gov. Phil Scott added further clarification to the state’s prohibition of social gatherings in the newest executive order.

Under the order, you are not allowed to gather with people you don’t live with. This includes all inside and outside social, recreational and entertainment gatherings, and in public and private spaces. There is an exception for people who live alone. They may gather with people who live in one other household.

Gov. Scott announced additional allowances Friday:

• People can take in and shelter those from another household who are living in a dangerous, unhealthy or otherwise unsafe situation.

• You can do outdoor fitness activities with one other person from another household. However, both of you must stay at least 6 feet away from each other and wear a mask at all times. For example, you can bike, hike, walk or run with one of your neighbors.

As daily cases of COVID-19 continue to increase, Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine said that “we can still contain the virus, but we need Vermonters’ help.”

Municipal Center settles into mostly remote operations

BRATTLEBORO — Town Manager Peter Elwell said Friday that the town’s administrative offices have transitioned back to the almost entirely remote operations that were put in place during the “Stay Home Stay Safe” period in March and April.

“Town office operations have transitioned this week back to the way in which we operated during the “Stay Home Stay Safe” period in March and April,” Elwell said in the town’s weekly COVID-19 update.

“Office employees are working from home most of the time. Some employees are coming into their offices occasionally when it is necessary to accomplish a particular task or to provide a needed service to a member of the public. Since town employees and the public we serve all have learned to transact most of our business electronically or by phone, we have found that the vast majority of our town office work can be performed at our homes.”

As for town field services, such as police, fire, public works, utilities, parks maintenance, facilities maintenance, and parking enforcement, Elwell said they also are transitioning back to the way in which they operated during the spring.

“For now, the way in which the public receives those services is relatively normal, but the work is being done in accordance with many special procedures required by the state of Vermont and recommended by public health officials.”

Groundworks to open motel-based Seasonal Overflow Shelter for winter of 2020-21

BRATTLEBORO — The state of Vermont’s emergency motel voucher program is set to continue providing motel rooms as COVID-safe shelter through March 31, 2021.

Groundworks Collaborative has been providing support to over 180 people (over 100 households) currently sheltering in Brattleboro motels and is beginning to see an increase in the number of people who are found ineligible for state-funded motel rooms.

Groundworks has put together a plan to open an Overflow Shelter in the conference room of a Brattleboro motel, where the organization’s staff are already providing supportive services to residents.

The plan has a tentative start date of Nov. 30 and will allow emergency shelter beds for people found ineligible for emergency motel vouchers as well as people newly seeking shelter in the Brattleboro area. No one currently in a motel room will have to leave.

Davis reports that Brattleboro’s daytime shelter on South Main Street will open in the organization’s new building on April 1, “once we can transition our staff out of the motels and fully open the new Day Shelter.”

The 2021-22 Seasonal Overflow Shelter will operate in the new building on South Main Street beginning in November 2021.

Have you had the ‘COVID Talk?’

BURLINGTON — As Vermont celebrates the holidays in the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic, people are learning that there is a lot to discuss about how to feel comfortable and stay safe before seeing friends and family.

The Vermont Department of Health offers four tips to help have the “COVID Talk” — a conversation to negotiate boundaries and establish expectations ahead of time.

• Ask questions. Before you get together, start with an open and honest conversation about what everyone has been doing to stay healthy and how they have been socializing. Consider everyone’s worries, boundaries and possible COVID-19 exposure risk so you can all get on the same page.

• Focus on what you need. Using “I” instead of “you” statements helps avoid people feeling defensive or judged. In fact, blaming and shaming may actually increase push back and the likelihood of risk-taking behaviors. We recommend sharing what you’re comfortable with, based on your own perspective instead of making demands of others.

• Share why it is important to you. Share what level of risk works for you and why. It might be different for others. Some people feel comfortable taking on a moderate amount of risk in their lives. Others may not feel comfortable taking on any risk. Focusing on your own reasons for staying safe can help people to better understand and get on board.

• Set boundaries and stick to them. We are all for keeping it friendly, open and non-judgmental — but that doesn’t mean you have to skimp on your safety. It’s okay to be clear and straightforward about what you need to feel safe and comfortable. It’s also okay to decline invitations or leave situations that feel too risky. You should never have to feel bad or apologize for prioritizing your safety. Lead by example by sticking to what works for you and avoiding judgment.

Visit the Vermont Department of Health’s COVID-19 web and data pages at healthvermont.gov/covid19 for more information.

Wednesday, Nov. 18

RFPL suspends in-person visits

BELLOWS FALLS — The Rockingham Free Public Library is suspending in-person visits until further notice.

With the announcement of renewed restrictions and the sharp increase in COVID-19 cases in Vermont, the RFPL has returned to providing curbside service only. This will allow patrons to access most library services safely. These steps will help keep our community and staff as safe as possible and will contribute to slowing the curve of rising cases.

Library cardholders can continue to place holds on materials through their online library account, or they can call and talk to one of the knowledgeable librarians who can help you select books, movies, audios, and magazines or help with access to many library digital services and online databases.

Virtual programs will continue, and the Book Drop Box is open for returns. Curbside hours are Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday 10 a.m. to 5:45 p.m., and Thursday and Friday 10 a.m. to 5:15 p.m. For more information, visit rockinghamlibrary.org, call 802-463-4270, or email reference@rockinghamlibrary.org.

Tuesday, Nov. 17

Scott defends new restrictions on social gatherings

MONTPELIER — Gov. Phil Scott offered a strong response to critics of new guidelines he imposed last week to slow the recent increase in new COVID-19 cases in Vermont.

On Friday, he issued an executive order that set strict new guidelines for social gatherings, bars and restaurants, and non-school recreational sports.

At a news briefing Tuesday, Scott said he has heard from people who complained about putting limits on social gatherings, while allowing schools and restaurants to stay open.

He said data shows that the record growth of the virus over the past two weeks in Vermont has been mostly fueled by adults getting together with friends consuming alcohol and food, with 71 percent of the state’s outbreaks linked to social events.

By comparison, transmission is happening at much lower rate in schools, salons, gyms, and restaurants.

Scott said the state’s priority is to keep children in schools, keep hospitals from being overwhelmed with new cases, and to keep businesses in operation. He also said people need to realize the difference between wants and needs.

“In-person education, protecting our health care system, and keeping people working, as long as we can do it safely, are things we need. Parties and cookouts, hanging out with people you don’t know, just to socialize, may be fun. But they’re wants, not needs,” he said.

Scott saved his sharpest criticism for those who refuse to acknowledge the seriousness of the pandemic.

“For those skeptics who want to ignore the science, there’s nothing the state can do to stop you,” Scott said. “But please don’t call it patriotic or pretend it’s about freedom. Because real patriots serve and sacrifice for all. Patriots also stand up and fight when our nation’s health and security is threatened, and right now, our country and way of life is being attacked by this virus, not the protections we put in place.

He also said that if anyone has a complaint with the new policies, they can direct their criticism to him. “I can take it,” he said. “What I can’t take is to see [the spread of this virus] continue to grow, because it’s putting our healthcare system, our economy and many lives at risk. So, you can question our methods but I’m asking you to please do your part to help.

In his weekly forecast, Department of Financial Regulation Commissioner Michael Pieciak said Vermont is forecast to see a 50 percent increase in new COVID-19 cases over the next six weeks, but that adherence to the new restrictions could greatly lower that figure.

“The future is not inevitable for us,” he said, saying the actions Vermonters take now will directly determine how many people will get sick and need treatment in the coming weeks.

Also on Tuesday, Scott announced that the state will open five testing centers this week, including in Brattleboro. When open, he said that “two-thirds of Vermonters will be within a 30-minute drive of a testing site.”

More than 1,700 Vermont schoolteachers were tested for COVID-19 on Monday and they will continue to be tested throughout this week. The number of contact-tracers is also increasing.

Agency of Human Services Secretary Mike Smith also announced that hospitals and long-term care facilities were told on Monday to return to the no-visitor policies they had in the spring at the start of the pandemic.

Sunday, Nov. 15

USDA extends Farmers to Families food box program through Dec. 31

BRATTLEBORO — The U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced that the Farmers to Families food box program has been extended through the end of the year. Farmers to Families food boxes will be made available at multiple daily food distributions throughout Vermont.

To keep wait times to a minimum, reservations will be required for the distributions. The next distribution in Southern Vermont is Dec. 11 in Bennington. To register for future distributions, visit humanresources.vermont.gov/food-help or call 802-476-0316 for assistance.

Each reservation will receive one box with about 30 pounds of food, including fresh produce, dairy products, and meat. You are welcome to pick up food for other families who are not able to make it to the pickup site, just be sure to make a separate reservation for each household you would like to pick up for. Each reservation is for one set of food.

This program will likely end at the end of December, so people utilizing it are advised to look into other resources for the new year. For more ways to access the food you need, visit www.vtfoodbank.org/gethelp.

COVID Support VT offers help for dealing with pandemic

MONTPELIER — Many Americans are feeling deepened anxiety, loneliness, and uncertainty about the future, all of which takes a heavy toll on daily life. Vermonters are no exception.

To help alleviate the extraordinary impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, COVID Support VT offers self-help tips, resources, and a way to connect to existing mental health and community services, all of which promote resilience, empowerment and recovery.

COVID Support VT is for anyone needing emotional support to deal with stressful circumstances due to the pandemic. It can be found on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

The services available through COVID Support VT are designed to help those suffering from the pandemic by connecting them to resources for mental and emotional well-being, local and national helplines, accessible and easy-to-access education and helpful tips on coping with the effects of the pandemic, and connections to community organizations that provide crucial services.

COVID Support VT is also offering a wellness Zoom group every Tuesday at 1 and 5 p.m. These Zoom sessions will feature self-care strategies for coping and relaxing. The Zoom link is available on their website, covidsupportvt.org. For more information, call 802-828-7368 or email info@covidsupportvt.org.

Saturday, Nov. 14

Scott announces new restrictions for bars and restaurants, social gatherings, sports leagues

MONTPELIER — After 265 new coronavirus cases were reported in Vermont over the past three days, Gov. Phil Scott on Friday announced an executive order that calls for strict new guidelines for social gatherings, bars and restaurants, and sports leagues.

The following measures took effect at of Saturday:

• Public and private multi-household social gatherings prohibited: Attendance at all public and private social gatherings, indoor and outdoor, including social gatherings incidental to ceremonies, holiday gatherings, parties and celebrations, shall be limited to participation with only members of a single household. Individuals who live alone may gather with members of their immediate family residing in a different household.

• Restaurant hours and seating limits: Restaurants must close in-person dining at 10 p.m., but may provide curbside and delivery service after 10 p.m. For in-person dining, restaurants must seat only one household per table, in accordance with existing capacity limits and the new restriction on multi-household gatherings.

• Closure of bars and social clubs: Bars and social clubs will be closed for in-person service until further notice. Curbside and delivery service is allowed.

• Recreational sports on hold: Youth and adult recreational sports activities, not related to Vermont Principals’ Association-sanctioned school sports, are suspended until further notice.

• Telework requirements: All businesses, nonprofits, and government entities shall reinstitute telework policies for all employees to the maximum extent possible. In-person meetings are strongly discouraged and should be held by telephone or video conference whenever possible.

• Contact tracing and testing requirements: All restaurants and other businesses hosting non-essential activities shall maintain a 30-day log of employee and guest names and contact information in case contact tracing is required by the Health Department. These individuals are consenting to be contacted by the Health Department Contact Tracing Team.

Further, all Vermonters are directed to comply with requests made by the Contact Tracing Team. Finally, college students returning home to Vermont (from in-state and out-of-state schools) shall quarantine for 14 days or seven days with a negative COVID-19 test and testing is strongly encouraged.

The Agency of Commerce and Community Development will provide additional guidance as needed.

Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine said that, since Oct. 1, 71 percent of all new cases in Vermont can be traced back to social gatherings like baby showers, Halloween parties, deer camps, and other small gatherings where masking and physical distancing are not maintained.

Levine said the state’s ability to contain the spread of the COVID-19 relies heavily on the cooperation of Vermonters who have tested positive and their close contacts.

“But when the contact tracing team is not getting the information it needs, then people who may have been exposed to the virus and don’t know it might be unintentionally transmitting it to others. That’s how an outbreak starts,” Levine said.

Left unchecked, Levine said single cases lead to community spread, which leads to outbreaks, illness, hospitalizations and deaths. He said it’s essential that each person takes precautions to avoid exposure and do everything they can to prevent spread to others.

Brooks Library suspends public visits

BRATTLEBORO — Brooks Memorial Library will suspend public visits within the building beginning Monday, Nov. 16. Curbside and delivery service will still be available. Patrons may request materials by placing a hold on an item in their online account, emailing circulation@brookslibraryvt.org, or calling 802-254-5290, ext. 0.

Reference service is offered at extension 1220, and assistance with electronic services can be found at extension 1204. Online resources, streaming video, downloadable e-books, audiobooks, and magazines are accessible 24/7 via the library website at www.brooklsibraryvt.org.

Rec. Dept. suspends all recreational sports activities

BRATTLEBORO — Effective Nov. 14, the Brattleboro Recreation & Parks Department suspended all recreational sports programs, including organized and/or informal recreational youth and adult league sports, practices, games, and the opening of the Nelson Withington Skating Facility until further notice.

If you have already signed up and paid for a program, they can either credit your account, or they can send you a refund. Email recreation@brattleboro.org or leave a message at 802-254-5808.

Thursday, Nov. 12

Second round of grants available for micro businesses

WESTMINSTER — Southeastern Vermont Community Action (SEVCA) announced a second round of available grants to distribute through its Economic Micro Business Recovery Assistance for the COVID-19 Epidemic program (EMBRACE).

The Vermont Legislature’s Joint Fiscal Committee has allocated an additional $1 million in CARES Act funds to be distributed through the state’s five community action agencies’ micro business programs before the end of the calendar year.

Through the program, qualifying small businesses can apply for grants of between $2,500 and $5,000. Grants can be used to pay for a variety of purposes, and some examples include rent, websites that expand online business opportunity, etc.

SEVCA distributed more than $144,000 to 31 businesses in their first round of funding earlier this fall. To determine eligibility and apply for EMBRACE funding, go to www.mbdp.org. Questions may be directed to Mason at dmason@sevca.org.

Tuesday, Nov. 10

State reimposes 14-day quarantine policy for all travelers to Vermont

MONTPELIER — Citing the large increase in COVID-19 cases over the last few weeks, Gov. Phil Scott said Tuesday that Vermont will temporarily require a 14-day quarantine for all non-essential travel, increase compliance checks, and expand testing to find the virus earlier and contain it faster.

The latest modeling, presented Tuesday by Department of Financial Regulation Commissioner Mike Pieciak, showed a 34 percent increase in cases in the Northeast since last week and cases are averaging 112,500 per day nationally.

While Vermont continues to have the lowest positivity rate in the country, cases rose 46 percent over the past week. Hospitalizations are also rising in Vermont.

The United States reported its 10 millionth case of COVID-19 on Monday, and deaths are now averaging about 1,000 per day nationally.

Any non-essential travel into Vermont now requires a seven-day quarantine and a negative COVID test, or a 14-day quarantine. Essential travel includes travel to attend PreK-12 school and college if commuting daily, or for work, personal safety, medical care, care of others, parental shared custody, or for food or medicine.

Public Safety Commissioner Mike Schirling said the state will be conducting random checks to assess compliance at hotels and restaurants, as was done in the spring during the first peak of the pandemic.

Schirling said that if substantial non-compliance is found and those businesses don’t fix the problems, those cases may be referred to the attorney general’s office. Also, law enforcement will begin handing out cards with COVID-19 safety information during traffic stops.

In the Northeast, there were 33 percent more cases in the past week, with more than 200 new cases in the past week in Vermont. Cases have increased over the past 11 weeks in the Northeast, Pieciak said, with Maine and New Hampshire showing the biggest increases.

With the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday coming in two weeks. Pieciak cited data from Canada, which celebrates Thanksgiving on the second Monday in October. He said several provinces in western Canada saw a 200 percent increase in cases after Thanksgiving, attributed to travel and family gatherings.

Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine said it was clear that the COVID-19 situation is not going to improve over the next few months, which makes it imperative for Vermonters to limit travel and keep social gatherings small to control the spread of the virus.

Vermont is also expanding its testing program through a contract with CIC Health of Cambridge, Mass., and developing a plan to offer testing every day of the week at locations throughout the state.

The Health Department will also increase surveillance testing, which tests asymptomatic populations, to find the virus in the community more quickly.

To establish a baseline, the state will offer testing to K-12 teachers and staff during the week of Nov. 16. This approach will help identify cases — particularly cases that never develop symptoms — thereby helping to reduce the risk of clusters or outbreaks and supporting efforts to sustain and expand in-person learning for students.

Friday, Nov. 5

Scott, Levine issue advisory on social gatherings; recommend no more than 1o people

MONTPELIER — Gov. Phil Scott and Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine today announced an advisory on social gatherings, strongly recommending they be limited to 10 or fewer people.

Vermont has seen an increasing number of cases as a result of socializing, and many states are now pointing to private social gatherings as a contributor to spread of COVID-19, so the state is providing firm recommendations to limit these types of events.

This strong recommendation applies to all types of private gatherings, including just getting together with friends socially at home, on campus or around town. Capacity and gathering size limits at commercial facilities, which have rigorous safety requirements in place, have not been changed.

Tuesday, Nov. 3

State announces guidance for winter school sports, ski resorts

MONTPELIER — Local high schools will be able to offer basketball, ice hockey, and bowling this winter, but no spectators will be allowed to watch them.

And Vermont ski resorts will be open this winter, but will face new limits on access and capacity

These changes to the winter sports scene, brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, were announced by state officials at a news briefing in Montpelier on Tuesday.

According to guidance that will soon be released by the Vermont Principals’ Association, wrestling and indoor track will be cancelled this winter, cheering squads cannot practice vocal routines, and spectators will not be allowed for any indoor games or practices. Team-based social gatherings will be discouraged, and the mask mandate will be expanded to referees and coaches.

Skiers and snowboarders also face restrictions at Vermont resorts. Visitors will be required to comply with travel guidelines and provide contact tracing information. Lift capacity will be reduced to 50 percent, unless visitors are traveling together at a unit. Base lodges must also reduce capacity to 50 percent, or a maximum of 75 people at a time.

Commissioner Mike Pieciak of the Department of Financial Regulation says there has been a regional increase in COVID-19 cases, enough so that the state has decreased the number of people allowed to come here without a quarantine to 332,000. That’s the lowest number since the state launched the map in June.

Vermont still has the lowest fatality rate in the country and the lowest test positivity rate in the country, Pieciak said.

Staff member at Putney School tests positive for COVID-19

PUTNEY — A case of COVID-19 was detected at The Putney School through its weekly, randomized testing of the campus population on Oct. 28.

The school says the part-time staff member “is asymptomatic and in quarantine off campus.” It is the first case in the school community.

In conjunction with the Vermont Department of Health, contact tracing was completed and the school is conducting campus-wide testing. Putney School students left campus on Nov. 22 for the Thanksgiving break, and will return on Feb. 2, in staggered groups that allow for quarantine and testing results. Weekly, randomized testing will continue through the term.

Friday, Oct. 30

State officials say 1 in 4 new COVID-19 cases are related to Central Vermont outbreak

MONTPELIER — State officials said Friday the Central Vermont coronavirus outbreak has grown to 87 cases and is the source of four other clusters seen this month.

According to data presented by Department of Financial Regulation Commissioner Mike Pieciak at a news briefing, there are now 87 COVID-19 cases in 18 different towns in four counties associated with the hockey and broomball leagues at the Central Vermont Memorial Civic Center in Montpelier.

The first two cases was reported on Oct. 7, Pieciak said, By Oct. 12, 13 cases were identified as being linked to the hockey and broomball leagues.

In turn, Pieciak said, that initial outbreak led to four additional outbreaks, including one at St. Michael’s College in Winooski. That cluster has grown to 41 cases, with six more confirmed cases there Thursday.

Now, Pieciak said, the central Vermont outbreak has spread to 18 other locations, including worksites and schools, with a total of 473 people having been identified as being in close contact with people that carried the virus.

Nearly 26 percent of all new infections in Vermont since Oct. 7 stem from the central Vermont outbreak, Pieciak said. However, there have so far been no deaths, and many of those infected are younger.

State Epidemiologist Patsy Kelso said contact tracers found some themes that contributed to the spread, including people gathering without wearing masks and people failing to quarantine — after they had been identified as a close contact, returned from travel, or had COVID-like symptoms.

Some people continued their daily activities while they were still waiting for COVID test results or denied symptoms during health screenings, she added.

Tuesday, Oct. 27

UVM selected for COVID-19 vaccine trial

BURLINGTON — The University of Vermont Medical Center and the Vaccine Testing Center at UVM’s Larner College of Medicine have been selected for a Phase 3 trial for a COVID-19 vaccine.

According to Dr. Beth Kirkpatrick, an infectious disease specialist at UVM Medical Center and the director of the Vaccine Testing Center, the study will track the safety and effectiveness of a vaccine being developed by Oxford University in England and manufactured by AstraZeneca.

At a news briefing in Montpelier today, she said that about 30,000 people in the United States will take part in the two-year study, including at least 250 people in UVM’s part of the trial.

Kirkpatrick said the UVM trial will require at least 250 volunteers from Vermont, Northern New York, and New Hampshire, with a special emphasis on individuals who are over 65 years of age.

Participants should be in good or stable health, have an increased risk of getting COVID-19, and not have a previously confirmed diagnosis of the virus.

Two-thirds of the participants will be randomly assigned to receive two injections of the investigational vaccine, while the other third would receive a placebo.

Kirkpatrick said that the Phase 3 trial is the last and most important step for the Oxford vaccine to receive approval for widespread use from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

To find out more about the study, and how to apply to be a volunteer, visit www.uvmhealth.org/medcenter/clinical-trials-and-research/COVID-19-vaccine-study or call 800-358-1144.

Friday, Oct. 23

State outlines plans for distribution of COVID-19 vaccine

MONTPELIER — Gov. Phil Scott and Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine today detailed the state’s framework for distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine, once one is produced and distributed to the state.

Vermont has submitted responses to a series of questions from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), laying out the framework for vaccine distribution and Vermont’s preparedness.

The federal government, which is responsible for nationwide distribution of vaccines, still needs to provide details on many logistics surrounding a potential vaccine, and this interim COVID-19 vaccination plan will evolve as new information comes forward.

“With so many unknowns, this is difficult work,” said Scott at a news briefing. “But we have a strong infrastructure in place, and we have been working with a talented team of world class experts for months to learn from past experiences and to further strengthen our systems. The bottom line is: We will be ready.”

A COVID-19 Vaccination Planning Team was convened in July to begin this process and is responsible for fully developing the vaccination plan. This team includes experts from the Department of Health, Vermont Emergency Management, the University of Vermont Medical Center, and the Agency of Digital Services.

“Having a safe and effective vaccine is an essential tool to stop the virus from spreading. We see every day what it means to have a highly infectious disease spread without a vaccine available to keep it in check. I encourage everyone to get vaccinated when it’s available to them,” said Levine. “We are all ready for this next step toward ending the pandemic. But let me be clear — safety comes first. Any vaccine must meet all FDA safety standards and be recommended by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, free from politics.”

While the state will be prepared for any amount of vaccine, it is expected the initial supply of COVID-19 vaccine will likely be limited.

Vaccination efforts will prioritize groups that are most critical to the response, such as healthcare workers and first responders, as well as those at highest risk for developing severe illness from COVID-19, such as residents and staff at long-term care facilities.

Statewide coordination and implementation of the plan is managed jointly by the State Emergency Operations Center and the Vermont Department of Health’s Health Operation Center, which includes the newly formed Vaccination Branch and its four sections: immunization program operations, technical response, points of distribution (POD) mass vaccination, and data management.

This effort will also include a range of partners, such as pharmacies, hospitals, primary care providers, community service organizations, privately run clinics, long-term care facilities, and correctional facilities.

“This is an enormous undertaking with a number of crucial considerations,” said Levine. “But one thing is clear, in Vermont, we’ll be ready for the vaccine before the vaccine is ready for us.”

To view the full proposal submitted to the CDC, visit healthvermont.gov/covid19-vaccine.

Thursday, Oct. 22

Vt. investigation contributes to national understanding of COVID-19 transmission

BURLINGTON — An investigation conducted by Vermont Department of Health scientists and released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that transmission of COVID-19 can occur during multiple brief exposures with someone who is infected.

Staff from the Health Department and the Department of Corrections looked into an instance in which a state corrections officer became infected after several brief interactions with incarcerated people who had COVID-19. None of the individual interactions lasted 15 minutes but together added up to more than that amount over time.

CDC officials cited the investigation findings in announcing its updated definition of what is considered to be a close contact. The Vermont report was published in the Oct.21 issue of CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly.

The CDC definition now says a close contact is someone who was within 6 feet of an infected person for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period. This is a refinement of previous guidance, which defined close contact as being within 6 feet, for 15 minutes or more at a time.

The investigation team reviewed video surveillance footage to determine that the correctional officer did not meet the then-definition of a close contact. The team reviewed additional footage and standard correctional officer shift duty responsibilities to approximate the frequency and duration of interactions between the correctional officer and infectious incarcerated or detained persons at the facility.

Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine said Thursday he is pleased the CDC is taking this data into account, to increase understanding about the importance of maintaining physical distance.

“Throughout the pandemic, we have let the science lead the way,” said Dr. Levine. “Amid their non-stop work on the COVID-19 response, our team has also contributed to the worldwide body of knowledge about COVID-19. I’m really proud of their work.”

An author on the study, Natalie Kwit, DVM, state public health veterinarian, noted that the key finding that the correctional officer did not initially meet the definition of a close contact, will help public health officials better identify people who could be at risk for getting and spreading COVID-19.

“Vermont is already doing this to a certain degree, but all public health officials can consider this research when doing contact tracing and interviews,” Kwit said. “It may be more relevant in certain group and congregate settings, where there is potential to have these multiple brief interactions.”

Dr. Kwit emphasized that identifying a close contact is about more than just the length of time of an exposure. How far away a person is, whether they are symptomatic, and their environment are all factors that need to be considered.

“It may expand the number of close contacts identified in certain situations, but is also serves as a reminder of how important it is for people to do the best they can to avoid possible exposure,” said Dr. Kwit. “We all know the key things to do, wear a mask and stay physically distant. But especially as we start to spend more time indoors it’s important to avoid crowds and large gatherings whenever possible.”

The Vermont study can be found at www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6943e1.htm.

Friday, Oct. 16

Scott extends COVID-19 emergency order through Nov. 15

MONTPELIER — Gov. Phil Scott announced Thursday that he was extending the state’s COVID-19 emergency order until Oct. 15.

The emergency order, first announced March 13, had already been extended seven times. It had been set to expire Sept. 15.

The order has been extended with no additional changes and can be viewed at governor.vermont.gov/content/addendum-6-amended-and-restated-executive-order-01-20.

In addition to helping the state manage the public health risks, the State of Emergency keeps numerous supports in place to mitigate economic hardship resulting from the pandemic. These protections include expanded housing and meal delivery systems, expanded eligibility for unemployment insurance, resources for businesses, and federal emergency funding.

Thursday, Oct. 15

Legislative funding provides free classes, training for Vermonters

MONTPELIER — Vermonters whose employment has been affected by COVID-19 can access more than 100 free classes and training opportunities this fall through the Vermont State Colleges System (VSCS), thanks to a $2.3 million allocation of Coronavirus Relief Funds (CRF) from the Vermont Legislature.

Funding provides tuition, supplies, and support services to Vermonters who have been laid off, furloughed, had hours cut, or been employed in an industry that has been severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Eligible Vermonters can enroll in a wide variety of classes and training at the Community College of Vermont, Castleton University, Northern Vermont University, and Vermont Technical College. Classes and training are available in high-demand fields such as early childhood education, healthcare, business, and manufacturing.

For more information and to register for classes, visit www.vsc.edu/VtWorkers.

Free school meals continue in Windham County

BRATTLEBORO — All school districts in Windham County are operating under the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) guidelines this fall, including the Windham Southeast district.

Families in Windham Southeast will be provided free breakfast and lunch on a first come, first serve basis but, this year, they are asking families to sign up for meals by visiting www.wsesu.org/covid-19-student-meals.html and clicking on the Survey Link that applies to your family. You can then select a meal site to receive meals to help ensure they have enough meals for all children.

All sites will be open meal sites only on Mondays and Thursdays and will have meals bagged so families can take the meals with them.

These two pick-up days will provide breakfast and lunch for Monday through Friday until Dec. 31, or while federal funding lasts at the sites and times: Academy School, back parking lot behind fire station, 11 a.m. to noon; Brattleboro Area Middle School and Brattleboro Union High School, bus loop, 11 a.m. to noon; Dummerston Elementary School, main entrance, 11 a.m. to noon;

Guilford Central School, front of school near main entrance, 11 a.m. to noon; Green Street School, in tent by parking lot, 1:30 to 2:20 p.m.; Putney Central School, back kitchen door (near the gym doors); 11 to 11:30 a.m. on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday; Oak Grove School, in front of school; 11 a.m. to noon; and Vernon Elementary School, parking lot, 1 to 2 p.m..

Note that only one breakfast and lunch per day is allowed per child. Times are subject to change. Visit our website www.wsesu.org for the most up-to-date times.

The Hunger Council of the Windham Region and Food Connects have created an enrollment hub with application information for every school in the county. Find out more at www.foodconnects.org/school-meals-enrollment.

Tuesday, Sept. 29

As COVID-19 cases surge in U.S., state officials warn against complacency

MONTPELIER — While Vermont is still leading the nation in controlling the spread of COVID-19, state officials on Tuesday warned Vermonters to not get complacent.

In a news briefing, Gov. Phil Scott said cases of the virus are on the rise in many parts of the United States and Quebec, and cautioned that Vermonters needed to keep following the public health protocols that have made the state a national model for containing major outbreaks of COVID-19.

Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine pointed out that there were now 1 million confirmed deaths worldwide from COVID-19, with more than 200,000 of those fatalities happening in the U.S.

Levine noted a new seroprevalence study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that gives states an idea of how much disease has been prevalent over the pandemic and what percentage of a state’s population has had some contact with the virus.

For Vermont, the study estimated less than 1 percent of the population had antibodies for the virus, among the lowest in the country, Levine said, and there have been no deaths from the virus in Vermont in two months.

Until there is a vaccine, Levine said that mask wearing, social distancing, and hand washing will all have a big impact on the reducing the risk of another major COVID-19 outbreak.

Michael Pieciak, commissioner of the Department of Financial Regulation and the head of the state’s COVID-19 statistical analysis team, said there have been only 51 new COVID-19 cases in the past 14 days. That is the lowest number of new cases over a two-week period since May, he said.

Pieciak said that cases are predicted to rise gradually over the next few weeks, but not at the levels seen elsewhere in the U.S. and Quebec. He said the situation in Quebec is a concern, for the province has seen a 19 percent increase in new cases over the past three weeks.

Sunday, Sept. 27

LGBTQIA+ resources available via Out in the Open

BRATTLEBORO — Out in the Open is offering a lot of resources and virtual spaces for rural LGBTQIA+ folks during the COVID-19 crisis. The full list and calendar is on their website, weareoutintheopen.org.

They have a Community Care Offers & Asks list, and a list of Rural New England Mutual Aid opportunities, with specific resource links for LGBTQIA+ and QTPOC folks. Out in the Open also has a Slack channel for rural LGBTQIA+ folks to share resources and connect outside of social media. Email info@weareoutintheopen.org for more information.

Tuesday, Sept. 22

State says Vt. schools can move to phase 3 of reopening guidance

MONTPELIER — Secretary of Education Dan French announced Tuesday that all Vermont schools will be able to move into phase 3 of their reopening plans by Saturday, Sept. 26.

This means schools will be allowed to use gyms and cafeterias, with certain restrictions, and that the fall sports season can begin this weekend with competitions between schools.

Speaking at Gov. Phil Scott’s bi-weekly COVID-19 news briefing, French said this new status doesn’t change what districts may want to do in terms of in-person or remote learning, but it does give schools the option to offer more in-person instruction.

According to Agency of Education guidelines, phase three is the level where schools “are open for in-person instruction with distancing measures,” with attendance restricted “to those from limited transmission areas (other phase 3 areas) only.” It is only under phase 3 that athletic teams may conduct normal training and interscholastic contests.

Sunday, Sept. 20

Everyone Eats program underway in the Rockingham area

BELLOWS FALLS — The Everyone Eats program is now underway in the Rockingham area. This federally-funded program supports restaurants, farmers, food producers, and the local economy, while also feeding the community.

The Springfield Family Center and Chester Helping Hands have partnered to be a hub for the Everyone Eats program, which is now also running in Springfield via the Springfield Family Center, Londonderry via Neighborhood Connections, Ludlow via Black River Good Neighbors, Windham via Windham Cares, Rockingham/Bellows Falls via Rockingham Helping Helpers and Our Place, Greater Falls Connection, Bellows Falls Senior Center, Grafton via Grafton Community Church, and Chester via the Chester Helping Hands.

Restaurants, which will use locally produced food for at least 10 percent of each meal made, will be reimbursed for the take-out meals, and meals are free to anyone requesting them. Rockingham-area restaurants — currently including Jamaican Jewelz, MKT: Grafton, Wunderbar, Allen Brothers, Leslie’s, and Smokin’ Bowls — will be making meals for people in Rockingham, Westminster, Athens, and Grafton affected by COVID-19.

Meals are available on a first-come, first served basis, with limited amounts of vegetarian meals are available at each pick-up location. At each pick-up, households will receive one meal for each person in the household. Recognizing that transportation can be an issue, a household can pick up meals for up to three other households.

To join the program, fill out the Everyone Eats form online at rockinghamlibrary.org. Applicants can also call the Rockingham Free Public Library at 802-463-4270 or email sam@rockinghamlibrary.org.

Everyone Eats program continues in Brattleboro

BRATTLEBORO — Everyone Eats is continuing its free meal distribution program through Dec. 11.

This federal stimulus program helps support Brattleboro restaurants during the COVID-19 pandemic by providing meals to anyone in Brattleboro, Guilford, Vernon, Dummerston, or Putney who has been affected by the COVID-19 crisis due to unemployment, underemployment, homelessness, or other challenges.

Eleven Brattleboro restaurants are now providing meals for Everyone Eats! — A Vermont Table, Dosa Kitchen, Duo, Echo, Hazel, Indian Masala, MamaSezz, Porch Too, Shin La, The Works, and Yalla.

Everyone Eats! distributes up to 850 meals a day on a first come, first served basis Monday through Thursday, from 4 to 6 p.m. Individuals may pick up their meals at the C.F. Church building at 80 Flat St., Brattleboro, while organizations will pick up their means at Mama Sezz on Marlboro Road in West Brattleboro.

For more information, or to learn how to volunteer, visit www.brattleboro.com/everyoneeats.

Friday, Sept. 18

Bars get OK to reopen, full capacities now allowed for lodging establishments

MONTPELIER — Gov. Phil Scott announced at a Friday news briefing that Vermont bars will be allowed to reopen again and that lodging establishments can go back to full capacity, effective today.

Bars have been closed since late March due to COVID-19 restrictions. Scott said that, based on medical data, loosening the restrictions is warranted.

Restaurants and bars can now utilize bar seating if patrons are six feet apart, and a partition is in place between patrons and the staff behind the bar. In addition, capacity limits were lifted for lodging establishments, allowing them to book all available rooms.

All mandatory safety measures, travel restrictions, quarantine requirements and the cross-state travel map remain in place. Capacity restrictions remain for dining and gatherings at these facilities.

Scott said both moves are aimed at helping the hospitality sector ahead of fall foliage season and the upcoming winter ski season.

While Scott said he understood some might worry with more out-of-state visitors arriving, he pointed out that campgrounds, marinas, and cottages operated at full capacity for most of the summer with little impact on positivity rates.

More visitors from the Northeastern states will be able to visit Vermont in the coming weeks. The state has expanded the number of counties in the Northeast where people could visit without a 14-day quarantine with a total of 7.4 million visitors that could come, compared to 5.5 million last week.

Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine said that people need to keep up their social distancing to make the reopening of bars and increased capacity of lodging establishments a success. “The key here, whether we’re talking about a lodging establishment or a bar, is to prevent milling around, prevent a breakdown in social distancing, and prevent crowding,” he said.

Tuesday, Sept. 15

Fauci praises Vermont’s COVID-19 successes, but warns against complacency

MONTPELIER —The nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, congratulated Vermonters for their success in slowing the spread of COVID-19, but also cautioned against easing up in the fight.

Appearing via video at a news briefing on Tuesday, Fauci said Vermont should be the model for the rest of the United States, saying he’d like “to bottle what’s happening here and take it with me to other parts of the country.”

“Notwithstanding that this is a small state, but it should be the model of how you get to such a low test positivity that you can actually start opening up the economy in a safe and prudent way,” he said.

Vermont leads the nation in every metric in controlling the virus. It continues to have the lowest positivity rate in the country at 0.2 percent - a rate that has held steady for months. Vermont also has the lowest rate of total infection at 261 cases per 100,000 people, while the national average is 1,845 per 100,000.

Fauci said that success is due to the diligence Vermonters have shown in following public health measures such as wearing masks, avoiding crowds, practicing social distancing, and frequent hand washing.

Addressing the impact of Vermont’s lack of population density on its case trends, Fauci said that “it’s not a question of density or not. It’s a question of what you did or did not do correctly and, from the numbers that I’ve seen, Vermont has done it correctly.”

But Fauci warned that the fight is far from over. “This virus is a formidable foe,” he said. “You give it an opportunity to reemerge its ugly head...that virus is going to take advantage of that. So please, you’ve done so well, don’t let your guard down.”

Continued vigilance, he said, will make a big difference heading into the fall and winter months. He said if Vermonters keep following public health guidance, the threat of a second wave of infection here will be small.

“I believe strongly that if we do what you’ve been doing in Vermont in the rest of the country… that we cannot only get through the fall and the winter, but we can come out on the other end better off then we went in,” Fauchi said.

When asked by Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine to explain to Vermonters the process to develop a COVID-19 vaccine and why they can trust it. Fauci explained the multiple layers of checkpoints, including an independent data and safety monitoring board, a safety pledge by the Food and Drug Administration, and the scientific community, that is watching and “are not shy about giving our scientific opinions.”

“So I can tell you, based on my experience and what I’m seeing, if there’s a vaccine — which I’m fairly certain there will be — that’s safe and effective, I, for one, would not hesitate to take it, nor would I hesitate to recommend that my entire family do it,” Fauci said. “So I feel good about it.”

Health Department working on first COVID-19 cases reported in schools

MONTPELIER — Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine said Tuesday that the Health Department was notified this week of a small number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 associated with two schools in Vermont.

At of Tuesday, there are fewer than six confirmed cases associated with the two schools, Crossett Brook Middle School in Duxbury, and Hartford High School.

“While we obviously hoped to avoid cases once schools reopened, as we have said all along, this is not unexpected,” Levine said at a news briefing.

The Health Department’s contact tracing team has been reaching out to close contacts, to provide the guidance they need, and to identify anyone who may need to quarantine.

In addition, Health Department and the Agency of Education are actively working on sharing school data in a manner that is both transparent and protects the privacy of individual students, teachers and staff. School level data will be made available in the coming days.

Friday, Sept. 11

Scott extends COVID-19 emergency order through Oct. 15

MONTPELIER — At his media briefing on Friday, Gov. Phil Scott announced he was extending the state’s COVID-19 emergency order until Oct. 15.

The emergency order, first announced March 13, had already been extended several times. It had been set to expire Sept. 15.

Scott said the pandemic has required Vermonters to pull together in the same way they did after the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks on New York and Washington D.C., which happened 19 years ago today.

Scott did say that, if the state’s COVID-19 situation continues to look good as schools reopen and college students return to Vermont, he will look at loosening some of the emergency order’s restrictions, with a focus on helping Vermont’s hard-hit hospitality industry.

Vermont still has the lowest COVID-19 positivity rate in the nation, with only 30 new cases this week. According to state data, as of Friday, 42,109 tests have been done on college campuses over the past three weeks with just 38 positive results, or a positivity rate of 0.09 percent.

Retired Norwich University president Richard Schneider, who is heading up the state’s efforts to reopen colleges safely, said the state has a three-phased approach to students returning: “to get them here un-infected, to keep them un-infected and, if they do get it, to stop the spread.”

Schneider said the compliance from students following the rules has been great and said Vermont is “the safest state for students to go to school in America.”

Tuesday, Sept. 8

Schools reopen in Vermont

MONTPELIER — Gov. Phil Scott said that as Vermont K-12 students returned to school Tuesday, things would look and feel much different.

“But the start of the school year is still exciting for kids,” Scott said at a news conference. “I wish all students the very best as they start the new year… We’re here to work with schools as we take this step forward, to respond to, and contain cases, just as we have throughout this pandemic.”

Most districts are doing a hybrid model of in-person and remote learning. Education Secretary Dan French said if all goes well, schools may be able to offer more in-person learning later this month.

French said for the first few weeks of the school year, academics would take a back seat to addressing the social and emotional needs of the children who have not been inside a classroom since mid-March.

Scott acknowledged that while we are “by far the safest state in the nation,” he acknowledged that the state will see COVID cases in schools.

However, Scott said that if the state avoids COVID-19 outbreaks, even with schools and colleges reopening, he may ease restrictions on lodging and restaurants even more. Most Vermonters who work in the hospitality sector, which has been hit hard by the pandemic, are still unemployed.

Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine said the state’s diligence with testing and contact tracing has made it possible to reopen schools, as well as some sectors of the state’s economy, safely.

However, he cautioned, while anyone can get tested, not everyone needs to get tested. “Testing is not prevention, and a negative test does not necessarily mean it’s safe to gather with others.” Levine said.

Sunday, Sept. 6

Rental assistance program accepting applications

BRATTLEBORO — Help is available for renters experiencing hardships due to the COVID-19 crisis.

If you need help paying your rent and you have a very low income, call 211. Otherwise, contact your landlord and apply together for the Rental Housing Stabilization Program.

For help with past-due rent, Vermonters should apply for the Rental Housing Stabilization Program through the Vermont State Housing Authority (VSHA).

The Rental Housing Stabilization Program is accepting applications on a rolling basis through Dec. 20, with a 10-business day response. The state is making available $25 million in rental assistance for both tenants and landlords through this program, which will be run by VSHA. More information is available at www.vsha.org/rental-housing-stabilization-program.

VSHA is accepting applications from landlords and tenants, and paying landlords directly to bring the tenant’s rent account current. The program pays up to the VSHA payment standards. If the landlord wants payment, the landlord must agree to waive rent amounts in excess of the payment standard for all the months paid for.

When the landlord accepts the money they have to promise to drop any eviction, not start a new eviction for the same number of months (up to six months) in the future as the money pays for, not raise the rent before Jan. 1, 2021, or the end of your lease term — whichever is later, and make sure the unit is up to code in 30 days.

VSHA will need applications from both the landlord and the tenant. Tenants should talk to their landlord and agree on the amount they owe, and make sure that amount is on both applications. Apply for this rent help on the VSHA website. If you need help with your landlord, an eviction, or applying for the rent help, contact Vermont Legal Aid at vtlawhelp.org.

Friday, August 21

State says additional economic relief aid is on the way

MONTPELIER — Gov. Phil Scott announced Friday his proposal for an additional $133 million in economic relief and recovery, using funds from the $1.25 billion the state received from the Federal CARES Act.

As with previous proposals, the Scott administration will work with the Legislature to bring further relief to Vermonters and Vermont businesses.

This latest proposal focuses on four key areas of continued investment in economic development and business support to help Vermonters experiencing loss due to the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting mitigation measures:

• $23 million in additional funding for Economic Recovery Grants to help fill gaps in the original program, to include sole proprietors, certain types of non-profits, new businesses, and those with less than 50 percent loss that is sustained over a longer period.

• $50 million in targeted hospitality and tourism funding to address areas of need as fall and winter approach and travel restrictions and capacity limits remain in place.

• A $50 million “buy local” campaign that will provide $150 to every Vermont household to spur economic activity that supports local businesses.

• And $10 million in Economic Development and Tourism Marketing funds that will, within the context of COVID-19, leverage social, earned, and owned media to bring more out of state revenue to Vermont.

For more details on the proposal visit the ACCD website at accd.vermont.gov/covid-19/economic-development-and-business-support-proposal.

Friday, August 14

Scott extends COVID-19 emergency order through Sept. 15

MONTPELIER — At his media briefing on Friday, Gov. Phil Scott announced he was extending the state’s COVID-19 emergency order until Sept. 15., as well as additional local discretion for gathering size limits and liquor sales.

The emergency order, first announced March 13, had already been extended several times. It had been set to expire tomorrow.

The latest order enables cities and towns to enact stricter local limits for gathering sizes than those established by the state. Municipalities may also mandate shorter hours for the sale of alcohol by bars and clubs than those set forth by the Department of Liquor and Lottery.

Additionally, the Department of Motor Vehicles will develop processes for temporary electronic plates and permits that will be valid for up to 60 days.

Despite Vermont having the lowest percentage of positive test results in the nation, Scott said it is still necessary to extend the emergency order for yet another month, particularly with the reopening of schools and colleges in the coming weeks.

Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine said testing has already begun at college campuses around the state.

Tuesday, August 11

State officials say reopening schools won’t lead to COVID-19 outbreaks

MONTPELIER — Gov. Phil Scott, along with health and education officials, said at a press conference Tuesday that, while anxiety about schools reopening on Sept. 8 is understandable, Vermonters can have confidence in the robust system in place to prevent spread of the COVID-19 virus and quickly respond to any cases that arise.

State Epidemiologist Patsy Kelso emphasized that even with low levels of the virus in Vermont, schools should plan for cases of COVID-19, but that a case does not automatically mean a school needs to close.

If students remain together in a single classroom without mixing with others, for example, that classroom may stop in-person instruction for 24 hours while Health Department teams begin contact tracing and provide further recommendations, she said.

Education officials also announced updates to school reopening guidance. Secretary of Education Daniel French said changes include more flexible distancing requirements for younger students. This is based on data that children less than 10 years old are the least likely to acquire and transmit COVID-19, even in close contact scenarios.

Friday, August 7

Testing shows 146 positive cases among Vt. inmates housed in Mississippi prison

MONTPELIER — The Vermont Department of Corrections (VTDOC) says 146 Vermont inmates held at the Tallahatchie County Correctional Facility (TCCF) in Tutwiler, Miss., have tested positive for COVID-19.

At a Friday news briefing, Interim Corrections Commissioner Jim Baker said VTDOC has sent officials to that prison, including a doctor who is starting to see inmates. Baker said proper protocols are now being followed by TCCF — isolation, quarantine, and proper medical care.

As of Friday, no inmates are hospitalized, and two were treated and released.

Baker said CoreCivic, the private corporation that operates TCCF, had not been following Vermont guidelines before, and that TCCF lacked testing capacity and did not understand the gravity of the situation.

Baker said he spoke with the CEO of CoreCivic and he said that his trust level is rising, but that he still insists everyone in the facility be tested, not just the 219 Vermonters being held there.

There are a high number of COVID-19 cases in that part of Mississippi, Baker said, so widespread testing is necessary to contain the outbreak. He says officials may return next week depending on what the team there now discovers.

Baker says families of prisoners there who have questions can get answers by contacting the DOC, but cautioned that bringing some of the inmates back to Vermont would be too complicated right now, compromising bed space here and the ability to quarantine inmates here. Vermont inmates are assigned to three different living units at TCCF.

Friday, July 31

Scott signs executive order setting Sept. 8 as universal school opening date

MONTPELIER — Governor Phil Scott has signed a directive today officially setting Tuesday, Sept. 8 as the universal reopening date for Vermont schools.

“Schools should take this extra time to make sure systems are ready and effective, so we can deliver for our children, and build confidence in the public education system’s ability to be flexible and responsive,” said Scott said in a news release.

Originally announced on Tuesday, the directive requires all public and independent schools to open for in-person or remote instruction on Sept. 8, with an exception for schools primarily serving students with disabilities, which can restart operations prior to Sept. 8.

The Secretary of Education will have oversight and authority in the implementation of the order and local school officials and governing bodies are required to consult with, and abide by, the direction of the Secretary of Education.

This start date provides schools with an additional week for staff to prepare and test the systems — both online and in-person — built over the past few months. School districts have developed reopening plans under guidance from the Agency of Education (AOE) and Vermont Department of Health, developed alongside pediatric medical professionals and education stakeholders.

The Vermont Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics has called on school districts to prioritize in person attendance for all students preschool through grade five and students of all ages with special needs, as these groups receive the greatest benefit from in-person instruction.

Wednesday, July 29

State makes $2 million available for broadband expansion

MONTPELIER — The Vermont Department of Public Service has launched the Line Extension Customer Assistance Program (LECAP), which provides up to $3,000 in assistance to help consumers extend telecommunications lines to their homes, with $2 million in total funds available.

This program was passed through Act 137 and developed in response to the COVID-19 emergency to help Vermonters access broadband.

Access to broadband (high-speed internet service) has proved critical during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially for students, patients and teleworkers accessing education, health care services and virtual offices due to closures and other pandemic mitigation measures.

Hundreds of Vermonters without 25/3 Mbps broadband service live just out of the reach of current cable and other Internet Service Providers’ networks. Extending these networks to unserved and underserved areas can be expensive and the full cost can be unaffordable for those looking to take this step.

Under this program, up to $3,000 in financial assistance is available to offset the customer cost portion of a line extension. For details about how to qualify for the LECAP, Vermonters should call the department at 800-622-4496.

All line extensions funded through this program must be completed on or before Dec. 30, 2020. Additional information can be accessed at publicservice.vermont.gov.

Tuesday, July 28

Scott: Opening day for Vermont’s schools pushed back to Sept. 8

MONTPELIER — Gov. Phil Scott announced Tuesday that he will sign an executive order later this week that will set Sept. 8 as the date that schools will reopen in Vermont.

It will still be up to individual school districts to decide how they will proceed with the start of the 2020-21 school year in the face of the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak, Scott said.

There is no current official guidance from the state Agency of Education on reopening, leaving it to the school districts to decide to fully reopen schools, fully commit to online learning only, or to have a hybrid model of some classroom time and some online time for students.

Education Secretary Dan French admitted at Tuesday’s news briefing that “this is uncharted territory that acknowledges a considerable amount of uncertainty and anxiety,” but that starting after Labor Day “gives us a bit of extra time to make these preparations to take advantage of this time to make sure the new school year can be successful.”

Scott said many school districts are leaning toward the hybrid model, but that he recognizes that no one model fits every school’s needs.

Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine said that “this is the right time to open schools,” and that schools should make it a priority to make sure students under age 10 get the maximum feasible amount of classroom time.

Monday, July 27

Health Department offers advice on wearing face masks

BURLINGTON — Many Vermonters have been wearing masks regularly to help protect themselves, and to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Here are some things to remember:

• When do I need to wear a mask? — Any time it’s not possible to keep a 6-foot distance from others who are not part your household. This includes both indoor and outdoor public spaces and group living settings (for example, long-term care facilities, nursing homes, and apartment and condo complexes).

• When don’t I need to wear a mask? — Face masks are not required when you are doing strenuous exercise or activities. They are also not required for, and should not be worn, by children under the age of 2, anyone who has trouble breathing, anyone who is unable to remove it without assistance or anyone who has a medical or behavioral reason for not wearing a face mask. If you have a medical or developmental condition or have trouble breathing, you do not have to show evidence or documentation of your condition.

• How do I choose a mask? — Pick a mask that’s comfortable but fits snugly against the side of your face. It should be secured with ties or ear loops and allow for breathing without restriction. Cloth masks should include multiple layers of fabric and be able to be washed and machine dried without damage or change to shape.

• What’s the proper way to wear a mask? — First, wash your hands before putting it on. Be sure your mouth and nose are covered and hook loops around your ears or tie it snugly. Do not touch it or pull it down while in public and keep it on until you get home. Remove it without touching your eyes, nose or mouth, then wash your hands immediately. Wash it and make sure it’s completely dry before using again. Have a few extra masks on hand so you can rotate them for washing.

For additional guidance on wearing face masks, and other COVID-19 information, visit www.healthvermont.gov/covid19. For information where to buy face masks from Vermont suppliers, or how to make your own, visit vem.vermont.gov/covid19/facecovering.

Friday, July 24

Scott announces strengthened mask requirements, starting Aug. 1

MONTPELIER —As Vermont continues its sustained efforts to encourage mask use as a tool to limit the spread of COVID-19 and protect the most vulnerable, Gov. Phil Scott today announced strengthened mask requirements in public places and congregate settings.

Effective Friday, Aug. 1, everyone will be required to wear masks or cloth facial coverings, any time it is not possible to maintain a physical distance of at least six feet with others from outside their household.

People who are not required to use masks include those exercising outdoors, those under the age of 2, those with a medical or developmental condition that is complicated by a facial covering, and those with difficulty breathing.

Businesses and other entities may require customers to wear masks, and can deny entry or service to those who decline to wear one. They may also post signage explaining their mask requirements.

“Based on national and regional data on how the virus is spreading — and rather than waiting, like other states have — I feel we need to act now to protect our gains,” Scott said Friday.

He added that these requirements will help Vermont stay open into the fall as people spend more time indoors.

Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine said there is mounting evidence that mask-wearing, in combination with the other simple actions Vermonters are taking, will prevent disease and save lives. He cautioned, however, that not everyone is able to wear a mask, many for medical reasons.

“You won’t necessarily be able to tell who is able and who is not — so we must all be understanding and avoid the temptation to judge or shame,” Levine said.

While Scott said the mandate will be difficult to enforce, he asked Vermonters to take personal responsibility to protect the state’s vulnerable populations by wearing masks — not because it’s mandated, but because it is “the right thing to do.”

At least 41 states, plus Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico, now have some type of mask requirement order in place.

Tuesday, July 21

Health Dept.: No COVID-19 outbreak in Manchester/Londonderry area

MONTPELIER — Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine said Tuesday that the Health Department has gathered more data as part of its investigation into positive antigen test results reported last week by the Manchester Medical Center and determined there is not a community outbreak of COVID-19.

Levine said at a news briefing that the Health Department has completed interviews with all 65 people who tested positive through antigen testing at the clinic.

A PCR test, which is recommended to confirm the antigen result, has been conducted for 52 of the individuals, and Levine said that of those 52 people, 48 tested negative. Four people tested positive and are considered confirmed COVID-19 cases.

Levine also reported that 1,613 people were also tested through various sites in the area last week, most in Manchester. That PCR testing only turned up one additional positive result.

Antigen tests are a newer type of test that provide results much more quickly than PCR tests (the most common type of test used to diagnose COVID-19 infection), but they are intended as screening tools for people who have symptoms and need to be confirmed with a more accurate PCR test.

Friday, July 17

Scott: Vermont remains on track to reopen schools

MONTPELIER — Gov. Phil Scott and administration officials say Vermont schools remain on track to reopen for in-person learning this fall.

Vermont’s schools were closed in mid-March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and students had to finish the 2019-20 school year with online classes.

At a Friday news briefing, Scott said that current Vermont heath data “continues to support the reopening of schools and we will reassess that at any point.”

Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine emphasized that “we know much more about the virus now than we did in March, can track data in real time, and respond to cases quickly with our contact tracing teams.”

“Vermont’s guidance is clearly and emphatically focused on safety of teachers, students and staff,” he added, while also taking into account the negative impact on children of not reopening schools.

Scott noted that kids need structure, relationships with their peers, their teachers, and other adults for their academic, social, and emotional development. He said that abundant safety precautions and restrictions — developed with public health and infectious disease professionals — will be in place to protect students, teachers and staff, and that all decisions will continue to be guided by the latest public health data and science.

State Epidemiologist Patsy Kelso acknowledged that “we are seeing more cases of COVID-19 in children nationwide and in Vermont, but this is not surprising as states have reopened, and more testing has become available.”

Children still make up a minority of cases. Kelso says current state data show that children aged 0-9 make up 3 percent of Vermont cases, while children aged 7-19 make up 7 percent of cases.

“We are in a much different place than we were in March when we closed the schools,” said Kelso, adding that Vermont has a maintained a level of suppression of COVID-19 strong enough to support in-person learning, thanks to the regimen of wearing face masks, maintaining social distancing, and frequent hand washing/sanitizing.

“We know our own data, have studied data from other countries, and now have experience from child care facilities being open in Vermont. Vermont stands with the science… and we continue to do so,” Kelso said.

Dr. William Raszka, Jr., a pediatric infectious specialist at the University of Vermont Medical Center, reinforced that sentiment.

Raszka recently co-authored a piece published in the journal Pediatrics, the official peer-reviewed journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, that concludes that children infrequently transmit COVID-19 to each other or to adults and that many schools, provided they follow appropriate social distancing guidelines and take into account rates of transmission in their community, can and should reopen in the fall.

“By doing so, we could minimize the potentially profound adverse social, developmental, and health costs that our children will continue to suffer until an effective treatment or vaccine can be developed and distributed, or failing that, until we reach herd immunity,” the piece concludes.

Tuesday, July 14

Scott extends COVID-19 emergency order through Aug. 15

MONTPELIER — At his media briefing on Tuesday, Gov. Phil Scott announced he was extending the state’s COVID-19 emergency order until Aug. 15.

The emergency order, first announced March 13, had already been extended several times. It had been set to expire tomorrow.

Despite Vermont having the lowest percentage of positive test results in the nation, Scott said it is necessary to extend the emergency order for another month, mainly to give his administration the ability to continue control over restarting Vermont’s economy.

Friday, June 26

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, June 25

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, June 19

Increased capacities now allowed for Vermont’s restaurants, venues

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

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

Requirements to encourage physical distancing between guests remain in place.

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

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

Wednesday, June 17

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, June 15

Scott extends COVID-19 emergency order through July 15

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

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

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

While the order is still in place, Scott said every sector of the economy has been opened in a limited way and, if the data continues to show improvement, more sectors may be fully opened.

Friday, June 5

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, May 29

Scott announces more loosening of social gathering restrictions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, May 27

Selectboard tweaks emergency mask order

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

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

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

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

Friday, May 22

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, May 21

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, May 20

Selectboard passes emergency order requiring face coverings in stores, offices

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

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

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

Scott announces $400 million economic relief package

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, May 15

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, May 11

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, May 8

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, May 6

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, May 4

Scott: Some elective health care procedures may resume in Vermont

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

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

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

Sunday, May 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, May 1

Scott further loosens restrictions on manufacturing, construction work

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

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

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

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

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

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

Farmers’ Market compiles local food source listings

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

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

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

Thursday, April 30

State seeks to increase testing for COVID-19 virus

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

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

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

Friday, April 24

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, April 23

HCRS opens free phone support line

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, April 22

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, April 21

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

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

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

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

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

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

Planned Parenthood of Northern New England launches new telehealth service

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

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

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

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

Sunday, April 19

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, April 17

Scott announces first steps toward reopening businesses in Vermont

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, April 16

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Corrections Department creates online support portal for inmate families, friends

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, April 14

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, April 12

Statewide COVID-19 death toll rises to 27

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, April 10

Scott extends State of Emergency, closures until May 15

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, April 8

Trump approves Vermont disaster declaration

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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.

Monday, April 6

Retreat Farm continues food distribution program

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

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

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

Women’s Freedom Center continues daily virtual support group

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

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

Thursday, April 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, April 1

Scott asks Vermonters to offer aid in COVID-19 response

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, March 30

Scott orders additional restrictions for travelers arriving in Vermont

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Thursday, March 26

Brattleboro town offices settle into off-site operations

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

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

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

Wednesday, March 25

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, March 24

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.

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 that the Hunger Council of the Windham Region is doing, contact Margaret Atkinson at margaret@winstonprouty.org.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, March 23

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To apply online, visit disasterloan.sba.gov/ela. Documents that may be requested when applying include recent federal tax return, profit-and-loss statement and balance sheet. For more information, call the SBA disaster assistance customer service center at 800-659-2955 (TTY: 800-877-8339) or e-mail disastercustomerservice@sba.gov.

Sunday, March 22

Groundworks continues shelter assistance

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

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

• There are no longer any periods of ineligibility.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Foodworks puts out call for food donations

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

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

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

Call 802-490-2412 for more information.

Local mutual aid groups form

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

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

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

Saturday, March 21

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, March 20

Scott says state will offer additional help to workers, businesses

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

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

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

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

United Way starts COVID-19 Response Fund

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, March 18

Brattleboro Representative Town Meeting canceled for now

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

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

PUC tells utilities to halt disconnection of service orders

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Sunday, March 15

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

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

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

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

Friday, March 13

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vermont Department of Corrections suspends in-person visitation

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

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

VT COVID-19 Response Fund established by Vermont Community Foundation

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

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

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

State AG’s office warns of price gouging, scams

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

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

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

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

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

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