Monday, May 25
Vermont National Guard plans meal distribution in Brattleboro on May 27
BRATTLEBORO — The Vermont National Guard and the Vermont Foodbank say they plan to distribute meals, while supplies last, on Wednesday, May 27, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., in the student parking lot at Brattleboro Union High School.
Members of the Vermont National Guard will be distributing non-perishable food boxes, along with produce, chicken, and dairy products provided by the Abbey Group.
Anyone is welcome to come pickup food. You will be asked only the community you are from (this is for Brattleboro and the region around us) and how many people are in your household. No names. No financial information. Just plenty of free food for anyone who needs it.
Recipients are asked to pull up in their car, open their trunk, and the appropriate amount of food will be loaded by Be sure there is plenty of space available in your car for the boxes of food.
The National Guard requests that you not bring your pet to ensure their safety while loading food into vehicles. Those who are ill, have been advised to quarantine, or lack transportation can send a friend or relative to pick up meals for them.
To keep the distribution process orderly, everyone is requested to approach the distribution site from South Main Street, going west on Sunny Acres and north on Atwood Street. At the corner of Atwood Street and Fairground Road, you will be directed into the distribution site.
Organizers say they are making every effort to streamline the distribution process. However, depending on turn out at each event, you may have to wait in your car. They suggest you bring water and snacks in the event there is a long wait. For information, visit www.vtfoodbank.org/event/farmers-to-families-food-box-distribution-brattleboro.
Stay healthy outdoors as the weather warms up
BURLINGTON — We all welcome warmer days, but the Vermont Department Of Health wants everyone to make sure they enjoy the outdoors safely. Remember to keep a physical distance of 6 feet away from people outside your household, and if it’s crowded, wear a face covering.
Here are some other tips to make the upcoming holiday weekend in the outdoors safe and enjoyable.
HEAT: Temperatures are getting warmer than we’ve had yet this year. It can take several weeks for our bodies to adjust to warmer conditions, so ease into outdoor activities. Start slowly, drink more fluids, and take extra breaks in the shade or indoors where it’s cool.
SUN: Apply a thick layer of broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher, even on cloudy days. Wear protective gear like a hat with a wide brim, sunglasses that block UVA and UVB rays, and long-sleeves and pants when you can.
WATER: Always wear a life jacket for boating and water sports, and use extra caution if you get in the water — temperatures are still cold.
TICKS: Don’t forget to check yourself for ticks after you go outside! Use an EPA-registered insect repellent on skin and treat clothes with permethrin.
WILDLIFE: Wild animals like raccoons, skunks, bats, fox, and woodchucks can carry rabies. Call the Rabies Hotline at 800-4-RABIES if you see an animal that you think needs help or is acting suspicious. The best thing to do is leave wildlife alone, and enjoy from a distance.
Get more safety tips at www.healthvermont.gov/summer-safety-tips.
Sunday, May 24
Statewide death toll remains at 54; no new deaths reported since May 15
BURLINGTON — The Vermont Department of Health reported Sunday that there are now 956 people who have tested positive for COVID-19 in Vermont, including 80 people in Windham County.
Fifty-four people have died so far in Vermont, according to the Health Department, with two new cases and no new deaths reported Sunday.
There has not been a death attributed to COVID-19 in Vermont since May 15. Vermont is among states that lead the country in the low rate of new COVID-19 infections, according to Health Department data, with the lowest three- and seven-day growth rates in the country.
Chittenden County leads the state with 440 cases and 38 deaths, while Franklin County has the second-highest number of cases in Vermont with 99 cases and five deaths. Windham County’s 80 cases are the third-highest in the state, with a total of three reported deaths due to the virus. All three counties did not report new cases Sunday.
As of Sunday morning, the Health Department says 28,590 Vermonters tested negative for COVID-19. There are 32 Vermonters being monitored, and 872 Vermonters who have completed monitoring.
There are four patients hospitalized with COVID-19, and 21 patients hospitalized who are under investigation for the virus. A total of 872 people have recovered from the virus.
In the weekly by-town count of cases released on May 21 of Vermonters who have tested positive for COVID-19, there were 17 identified lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Brattleboro as of that date.
Wilmington had 12 cases, while Vernon reported nine cases and Rockingham and Whitingham each reported eight cases. Putney had six cases. Burlington leads the state with 168 cases.
The Health Department has opened nearly two dozen additional pop-up sites around the state to test people who do not have symptoms of COVID-19 for the virus.
The specimen collection sites are located throughout the state. Vermonters can find a list of the sites and make an appointment to be tested at humanresources.vermont.gov/popups, or by calling 2-1-1 or 802-828-2828. If you need transportation to a site, schedule your appointment, and then call at least two days before the appointment at 833-387-7200. All clinics operate from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The pop-up sites are for asymptomatic Vermonters to find out if they currently have a COVID-19 infection. Health officials especially encourage health care workers, first responders, child care providers currently serving essential workers, and people returning to Vermont — such as college students, people who winter out of state and second home owners, to sign up.
The sites are organized and led by the department’s local health offices with support from EMS units and the Vermont National Guard.
Anyone whose test results are positive for COVID-19 will receive a phone call from a public health nurse to inform them of their result, and to discuss recommendations and guidance for their care and treatment of any symptoms. If your test is negative, you will get a letter in the mail within a week.
For additional COVID-19 health information, guidance, and case data, visit www.healthvermont.gov/covid19.
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 gatherers. 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,
Restaurants opened to outdoor seating Friday. Scott said if things keep looking good he expects to allow some some indoor dining by June 1.
State officials are still concerned about the infection rates of states that border Vermont.
Vermont had only 20 new cases of COBID-19 in the past week, By comparison, New Hampshire had around 570, Massachusetts had about 8,500, and New York State had 16,000. To Vermont’s north, the province of Quebec has 44,000 cases of the virus, and 3,800 people have died.
3SquaresVT goes online as part of nationwide pilot program, extra benefits coming
WATERBURY — Vermont recently become the latest state to join a pilot program for the use of 3SquaresVT food benefits (food stamps) to purchase food online.
According to the Department for Children and Families (DCF), Vermonters can use now their 3SquaresVT benefits to buy eligible food items online with EBT food benefits at amazon.com (delivery available throughout Vermont) or walmart.com (pick up currently available only at the Bennington store. Other stores may be added later).
For information about how it works, go to dcf.vermont.gov/benefits/EBT/online.
Also, DCF announced that many 3SquaresVT households will get a higher benefit in June to help them through the current health crisis. This extra help is part of the federal Coronavirus Relief Bill.
This will not permanently change a household’s monthly benefit. It is a temporary increase to help during the COVID-19 health crisis. Households already getting the maximum 3SquaresVT benefit or a zero benefit will not get an increase.
Everyone else will receive an increase equal to the difference between their original benefit and the maximum benefit for their household size: one person, $194; two people, $355; three people, $509; four people, $646; five people, $768; each additional person, $146.
3SquaresVT households don’t need to do anything to get the increased benefit. If eligible, they’ll automatically get it the same way they get their benefits now: on an EBT card, through direct deposit or by check. Learn more about 3SquaresVT at dcf.vermont.gov/benefits/3SquaresVT.
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.
Experienced Goods to resume taking donations on limited basis
BRATTLEBORO — Experienced Goods, the thrift store for Brattleboro Area Hospice, will resume taking donations only starting on Tuesday, May 26.
Donations may be dropped off at the CF Church building, 80 Flat St., which is the space next to the location for the Winter Farmers’ Market. Donation days and hours are Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. This will be the ongoing schedule for receiving donations for the foreseeable future.
Their retail store at 77 Flat St. remains closed, and donations must not be dropped off or left at our store location. Also, do not leave donations outside the 80 Flat St. location during non-donation hours. They will keep the public informed as to when they will be opening the retail store.
While they are grateful for your donations and support of Brattleboro Area Hospice, the store staff says it is vital that donors adhere to their standards for clean and sellable items. Also, storage space at the donation location is limited, so they will not be able to accept donations of furniture at this time.
Retreat Farm serving free breakfast sandwiches on weekends
BRATTLEBORO — Free breakfast sandwiches will be available for all on Saturdays and Sundays. Just come down to the Retreat Farm on Route 30 in Brattleboro between 9 a.m. and noon for a sausage or cheese egg sandwich made fresh with local eggs and sausage.
To honor the social distancing details, you’ll place your order at the drive-up order area and then drive up to the pick up station. Socially distanced walk-ups are welcome also.
Sausage donation and catering is by CherryRail Farm with additional donations and support from Pete and Gerry’s Eggs, Against the Grain, Brown and Roberts, Leader Home Center, and Wendy’s. For more information, email Jim at CherryRailFarm@gmail.com.
BDCC hosts webinars for businesses affected by COVID-19
BRATTLEBORO — In the wake of the economic uncertainty around COVID-19, business owners in the region are invited to join weekly webinars centered around financial resiliency.
Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation (BDCC) will host these webinars every Friday, at 2 p.m., for business owners, managers, and employers to obtain information and learn about potential preliminary strategies that will help them make informed decisions.
BDCC will also regularly update its COVID-19 webspage, brattleborodevelopment.com/covid-19, with information from federal, state, and regional sources and encourages businesses to check in frequently as new information becomes available.
To join the meetings, go to Zoom Meeting at us04web.zoom.us/j/781064798. The Meeting ID is 781-064-798. To join in by phone, call in toll free at 888-475-4499.
BDCC encourages participants to send any questions or topics for discussion in advance by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wednesday, May 20
Selectboard passes emergency order requiring face coverings in stores, offices
BRATTLEBORO — The Brattleboro Selectboard issued an emergency order at its meeting Tuesday night requiring that face coverings be worn by all employees, customers, and visitors in any store, office, or other indoor setting where business is conducted.
This requirement is effective immediately and applies equally to businesses, nonprofit organizations, and governmental facilities anywhere in Brattleboro.
The Selectboard made this decision after a lengthy discussion that included substantial public input on the GoToMeeting platform, where Selectboard meetings are currently being held without any specific physical location, due to the COVID-19 public health emergency.
Exceptions to the order include children under age 5, anyone who has trouble breathing, or anyone who is unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.
The order will remain in effect until the Selectboard amends, rescinds, or suspends this order, or until the Governor declares an end to the COVID-19 State of Emergency in Vermont, whichever occurs first.
For full guidance on wearing face masks, including how to make one, visit www.healthvermont.gov/sites/default/files/documents/pdf/COVID-19-VDH-mask-guidance.pdf. Need to buy a face covering? Visit vem.vermont.gov/covid19/facecovering.
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.
The Phase 1 relief package will involve four areas of distinct action to support businesses and Vermonters as they resume their operations. They include:
• Financial assistance: Emergency Action Grants for food and accommodation services, retail, and agriculture, Vermont Economic Injury Disaster Loan and Grant program, and small business focused Vermont Restart loans and grants ($250 million).
• Housing assistance: Rental Housing Stabilization Fund for property owners and a Re-Housing Recovery Fund to address homeless need ($50 million).
• Technical assistance: Restart Vermont Recovery Guides created through a network of business and community assistance providers, and Employee Assistance Program to support the mental health and wellbeing of business owners and their families ($5 million).
• Marketing support: Promotional marketing campaign to promote Vermont to Vermonters and deliver a toolkit of creative assets to be used by local communities, and regional marketing and consumer stimulus grants to encourage local spending, with implementation strategies to be proposed by local entities ($5 million).
Also announced were additional changes to the state’s emergency order that allow low-contact workers — such as attorneys, accountants, and real estate agents — to be able to open their offices to the public on a limited basis. Previously, they had been allowed only one-on-one contact.
Nonprofits and municipal offices may also open under the new rules, which also call for physical distancing and the wearing of face masks.
Tuesday, May 19
Guilford Fair is canceled for 2020
GUILFORD — A local Labor Day tradition is the latest victim of the COVID-19 global pandemic.
The Guilford Fair Association Trustees announced today that announce that the 2020 Guilford Fair has been canceled.
According to Fair Association Secretary Belinda Lashway, the Trustees met on Monday, May 18, “and after much discussion, decided that the safety of our fair patrons, vendors, exhibitors, and the community needed to be our first priority right now.”
Lashway wrote in a letter to The Commons that “this decision did not come easily and we will miss seeing all of our Guilford Fair friends this September, but will look forward to seeing everyone next Labor Day Weekend!”
The Guilford Fair started in 1942 and has been a popular attraction ever since.
Starving artists? Not in Brattleboro.
BRATTLEBORO — The recent Nourishing Artists challenge by the Downtown Brattleboro Alliance was successful in funding 300 local restaurant meals for local artists, but the artists can only get the meals and the restaurants will only get paid for those meals, if artists sign up for a meal.
According to a news release, any artist qualifies if they have lived, worked, performed, displayed, taught or practiced their art in Brattleboro.
The program’s definition of “artist” is broad, so they say that “this is not just for painters and writers and trapeze aerialists and actors and fiddlers, but also for crafts people, yoga teachers, concert producers, museum clerks, tattoo artists, furniture makers, landscape designers, hair stylists, seamstresses, stage hands, piano tuners, and yarn bomber pranksters.”
To sign up for a free meal from one of Brattleboro’s local restaurants, go to brattleboro.com under “Artists Sign Up.”
State to waive penalties, interest for second quarter estimated tax payments
MONTPELIER –The Commissioner of Taxes, under the Governor’s directive, exercised his authority to waive penalties and interest for estimated income tax payments that are originally due June 15, so long as they are paid by July 15.
This relief applies to Vermont personal income tax, corporate and business/pass-through income tax, and fiduciary and estate income tax.
The Vermont Department of Taxes previously announced relief for estimated income taxes due April 15, so long as they were paid by July 15, 2020. This new announcement extends relief for any tax year 2020 estimated income tax payments due between April 15 and before July 15 to be payable by July 15 without any penalty or interest.
For the most up to date guidance, visit www.tax.vermont.gov.
Monday, May 18
Scott: State will not rush reopening plans
MONTPELIER — While the number of new COVID-19 cases remains low in Vermont, Gov. Phil Scott says his administration will not rush on reopening the state’s economy.
In a press briefing on Monday, Scott said that if Vermonters stay vigilant, the state can continue on the road to recovery.
Vermont reported only 15 new cases last week, even with increased testing, according to data from the Vermont Department of Health.
However, Scott pointed to the steady increase in new COVID-19 cases in New York, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts as an example of why the state is being cautious.
Retailers across Vermont reopened for in-person business on Monday and lodging establishments are able to start taking a limited number of customers. Both sectors are subject to state guidelines that call for all employees to wear face coverings and maintain a distance of 6-feet between each other and customers.
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.
Crowd-sourced videos wanted for ‘Streaming of the Heifers’
BRATTLEBORO — While the coronavirus has canceled this year’s Strolling of the Heifers parade in downtown Brattleboro, fans of beautiful bovines the world over can watch — and be part of — the Streaming of the Heifers, a crowd-sourced celebration of cows and dairy farming to be released online this June.
Strolling of the Heifers and WRSI-FM (The River) are collaborating to create this online parade, and all are welcome to submit a video clip for inclusion.
“We were so disappointed to have to cancel the parade this year,” Executive Director Lissa Harris of Strolling of the Heifers said in a news release. “We’re happy to have an opportunity for parade marchers to still participate in a different way."
Any farm, individual, group, nonprofit, business or anyone else wishing to be part of the Streaming of the Heifers can submit their short video clip at wrsi.com/2020/05/11/streaming-of-the-heifers, by May 27. Dress up your cow, or dress like a cow if you don’t have one.
The Streaming of the Heifers video will debut on June 6, on WRSI the River’s Facebook page.
Thursday, May 14
Families to get food benefit to make up for missed free or reduced-price school meals
WATERBURY — The federal government has authorized the Vermont Department for Children and Families (DCF) and Agency of Education (AOE) to provide a temporary food benefit to eligible children in Vermont.
About 35,000 K-12 students are eligible because they were participating in the free or reduced-price meals program at their schools before April 1, 2020.
Households with eligible children will receive a benefit of $387.60 per eligible child. It is called a Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (or P-EBT).
Households that currently get 3SquaresVT on an EBT card will be issued this additional benefit on their cards by May 27. Other households will be issued special P-EBT cards. They should receive their cards in the mail by May 27.
P-EBT benefits may be used to buy eligible food items anywhere 3SquaresVT is accepted. Benefits will be active for a year from the date of issuance and are non-transferable.
If a household’s economic situation has changed since schools closed, they can apply for free and reduced-priced meals for their school-aged children. If they are determined to be eligible, they may receive a P-EBT benefit.
Apply for free and reduced-price meals at education.vermont.gov/student-support/nutrition/school-meals-information-for-families-and-caregivers/apply-for-free-and-reduced-lunch. Learn about the benefits available from DCF at dcf.vermont.gov/benefits.
Wednesday, May 13
Vermont State Police investigates bias-related incident in Hartford
MONTPELIER — The Vermont State Police is investigating a bias-related incident that occurred late last week in Hartford during which a man was harassed and threatened regarding his family’s presence in Vermont.
According to a news release, state police received a report of a hate/bias-motivated incident from the victim’s family at noon on May 8. The victim reported that at about 10 a.m. that day, he was driving near his residence in Hartford in his vehicle, which has New York registration plates, when two unknown vehicles, possibly pickup trucks, approached him and flagged him down. The victim, thinking someone needed assistance, stopped and spoke with a white male.
State police said the victim, who is black, was advised that he was not wanted in Vermont and told to leave. There were significant racial undertones to the interaction. The victim, whose 11-year-old son was with him in the vehicle at the time, was in fear for the physical safety of him and his son. He was able to verbally deescalate the situation and drive home. No physical altercation occurred.
State police, with the assistance of the Hartford Police Department and Chief Phillip Kasten, continues to investigate this incident. Capt. Garry Scott, director of fair & impartial policing and community affairs for the Vermont State Police, has been in contact with the victim and his family for several days. The victim’s name is being withheld at this time due to concerns about his and his family’s safety.
At his news conference on Wednesday, Gov. Phil Scott addressed the incident, saying that he personally called the family to apologize. Scott said he has has no tolerance for this kind of behavior.
“This is not OK,” he said, “We can be neighborly and compassionate and still stay safe. This virus cannot be used as an excuse for bigotry or hatred. The common enemy is the virus, not each other.”
At this time, state police investigators say they do not have descriptions of the vehicles involved, including make, model, registration and direction of travel. The state police asks anyone who might have more information about the incident and the people or vehicles involved to call the Royalton Barracks at 802-234-9933.
Scott: Vermont’s state of emergency order to be extended; restrictions on lodging expected to be eased
MONTPELIER — Gov. Phil Scott said Wednesday that he is planning to extend Vermont’s state of emergency order beyond its scheduled expiration date on May 15.
He is also expected to further ease up on some of the emergency order’s restrictions, including announcing a plan for a gradual reopening of Vermont’s hotels and motels, starting May 22.
Bed and breakfasts, inns, short-term rentals such as Airbnb, and campgrounds are also included in the new guidelines, according to news reports.
Under the proposed changes, as of May 22, hotels and motels would be allowed to take in guests from Vermont, as well as out-of-state guests who can prove they have met the 14-day quarantine requirement for non-residents visiting Vermont.
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.
Saturday, May 9
Recreation & Parks Department reopens some of its outdoor facilities
BRATTLEBORO — The Brattleboro Recreation & Parks Department announces the following update regarding the status of its facilities:
• The Fred H. Harris Tennis/Pickleball Courts at Living Memorial Park are open.
• The flying disc golf course at Living Memorial Park remains open.
• All softball fields are available to families for informal kickball, wiffleball, etc. Softball fields are not yet open for more formal team activities (games or practices).
• Basketball courts remain closed until further notice.
• The Dog Park at Living Memorial Park remains closed until further notice due to COVID-19 and being recently reseeded to rejuvenate the turf.
• All park equipment remains closed (benches, picnic tables, playgrounds etc.) until further notice because it is impossible to sanitize that equipment in between users.
• Restrooms at Living Memorial Park and West River Park remain closed until further notice.
They encourage everyone to enjoy the town’s facilities and green spaces while following these guidelines — maintain social distancing (everyone wears masks and stays at least 6-feet apart whenever possible), no contact sports/games, use the “Arrive, Play and Leave” approach to using these facilities, and have no gatherings of more than 10 people. All users must be Vermont residents (in accordance with the Governor’s executive orders).
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 hygene 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.
Thursday, May 7
Vermont arts, cultural organizations project millions in losses
MONTPELIER — In the two weeks since a new joint emergency relief fund for Vermont arts and cultural organizations was created, more than 100 museums, performing arts venues, libraries and other cultural centers have applied, collectively projecting an estimated $13.9 million shortfall due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The first round of grants will be awarded next week, totaling $195,000 in aid to 28 cultural organizations.
The COVID-19 Cultural Relief Grant, jointly administered by the Vermont Arts Council and Vermont Humanities, provides $5,000 to $10,000 depending on organization size for general operating expenses.
It is seeded by more than $700,000 from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act of 2020.
“The first 100 applications we’ve received illustrate the devastating impact that Covid-19 has already had on a community theatre or a museum that is shut down, and will see absolutely no revenue for the spring or summer season,” said Vermont Arts Council Executive Director Karen Mittelman in a news release. “Many of these organizations are struggling for survival.”
Vermont’s arts and culture sector provides more than 40,000 jobs annually and comprises 9.3 percent of all employment in Vermont, higher than the national average.
The grant, which does not require a match, aims to fund a diverse range of organizations of different disciplines, geographic locations, and backgrounds. The deadline for applying is May 31, but awards are made on a rolling basis until available funds have been distributed. The grant application takes about 30 minutes to complete and is evaluated based on demonstrated need rather than on a polished application.
Though the demonstrated need far exceeds currently available funds, the Vermont Arts Council and Vermont Humanities are continuing to work with Vermont’s Congressional delegation to advocate for more emergency funding for the arts and humanities sector.
The Cultural Relief Grant Fund is one of several Vermont Arts Council and Vermont Humanities relief efforts aimed at strengthening the capacity of Vermont’s arts and culture sector to survive the economic impact of the current crisis and to help Vermont communities recover and heal in the months ahead.
For full details and to apply for the grant, applicants can visit either the Vermont Arts Council application page at www.vermontartscouncil.org/culturalrelief or the Vermont Humanities application page at www.vermonthumanities.org/c19-grants.
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.
Organized sports leagues, contact sports, and spectator sports will still be prohibited, and campgrounds, beaches, and pools will remain closed.
Outdoor gear suppliers and bicycle shops will allowed to reopen, as long as they use curbside service and online ordering.
There are no formal state guidelines or enforcement of these advisories, Scott asked Vermonters to use common sense and to also not not travel outside Vermont. Anyone that does travel outside the state and returns will still need to self-isolate for 14 days, for now.
That same two-week quarantine applies to visitors to Vermont, and Scott asked potential out-of-state visitors to stay home for now.
2020 Marlboro Music Festival canceled
MARLBORO — The trustees of Marlboro Music today have decided to cancel their 2020 season due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
According to a news release, the trustees said “this decision was made to protect the health and safety of our musical community, our audiences, and our southern Vermont neighbors.”
They said this decision “was especially difficult because this was to be our 70th Anniversary Season. Every summer since 1951, we have formed an extended family of musicians, staff, spouses, and children from around the world.
“Yet, the functioning of our community, including its intensive focus on chamber music, is antithetical to social distancing. Our artists rehearse, perform, socialize, eat, work, live, and play together. The younger players live in residence halls and all members of the summer community share a common dining hall.
“It is this very closeness, in fact, that enables our members to work so well together, to gain vital artistic insights and life lessons, and to form lasting musical bonds and friendships.”
Season ticket holders for 2020 may receive a full refund, or convert their tickets into donations to our Artists’ Assistance Fund, Building the Future Campaign, or Annual Fund Drive through this link or by contacting email@example.com.
Throughout the summer, Marlboro Music said it will continue — by virtual and other means — to enable audiences to connect with Marlboro and its music-making.
They will be sharing videos and recordings of past performances, artist interviews, photographs, and — in print and online — a special 70th Anniversary publication: A Cause That Transcends Time: Discovery and Renewal at Marlboro. Their website, marlboromusic.org, offers a trove of interesting material as well.
USDA approves new payment system for Vermont school meals
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced this week that Vermont has been approved to offer a supplemental food benefit program to help families pay for meals that children would otherwise have accessed through school.
According to a news release, Vermont will now be able to offer the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) program to families currently enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which operates as 3SquaresVT in Vermont, or other eligible families.
Eligible families include those who have children that have temporarily lost access to free or reduced-price lunch at school due to pandemic-related closures.
In the 2019-20 school year, approximately 44,000 children in Vermont, or approximately 52 percent of children in participating schools, were eligible for free and reduced-priced lunch, according to the USDA.
Tuesday, May 5
Economic Injury Disaster Loans now available for agricultural businesses
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Small Business Administration announced this week that agricultural businesses are now eligible for SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) and EIDL Advance programs.
SBA’s EIDL portal, covid19relief.sba.gov, has reopened as a result of funding authorized by Congress through the Paycheck Protection Program and Healthcare Enhancement Act.
The legislation provided additional funding for farmers and ranchers and certain other agricultural businesses affected by the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Agricultural businesses include businesses engaged in the legal production of food and fiber, ranching, and raising of livestock, aquaculture, and all other farming and agricultural related industries (as defined by section 18(b) of the Small Business Act (15 U.S.C. 647(b)).
Eligible agricultural businesses must have 500 or fewer employees.
The SBA will begin accepting new EIDL applications on a limited basis only.
Agency of Transportation receives $21 million federal grant for public transit
BARRE — The Vermont Agency of Transportation (AOT) has received a grant for more than $21 million from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration (FTA) as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
The grant funds will be distributed among public transit providers statewide in rural and urban areas and aid AOT in deploying transportation resources to Vermonters.
FTA CARES Act funding will aid in covering provision of public transit services, including providing rides to doctors’ visits, connecting Vermonters with their jobs, and trips for groceries and pharmacy goods.
Additionally, the grant will cover cleaning supplies, masks for staff, and other supplies critical for keeping public transportation travel as safe as possible.
The grant money will be available until expended to cover COVID-19 eligible expenses. The Agency anticipates funding to cover costs through June 30, 2021.
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.
Brooks Memorial Library resumes curbside service
BRATTLEBORO —Brooks Memorial Library now offers curbside pickup of reserved items.
Patrons may borrow up to a total of 10 items. Contact the library in advance at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-254-5290 to request specific titles, or a “collection” (e.g, picture books, spy thrillers, funny DVDs, etc.). Patrons will be notified when their order is ready and a specific pick up time will be arranged.
Allow one full business day for fulfillment. Borrowing limits on DVDs, new books and audio will be observed, and the library will not have access to materials from other libraries at this time.
Library staff says they will exercise the utmost caution in preparing the items for loan. Books will be packaged in brown paper bags which will be placed on a table outside the Main Street entrance upon your arrival. Bring a sign with your name so they can match the bag with the borrower, and wait until staff is back in the building, with the door closed, before picking up your order.
They will also begin accepting returns of borrowed items through their Big Blue Bookdrop in the Municipal Center parking lot. They can only accept materials that have been returned through that location, in order to give them the proper attention and treatment to ensure the safety of patrons and the staff.
Items will be sequestered for four days upon recovery and then wiped down with disinfectant. This level of vigilance exceeds the recommendations of the Center for Disease Control and The Institute for Museum and Library Services. Do not return materials if you have recently experienced symptoms of illness. There are no fines on overdue materials.
The Brooks staff encourages everyone to continue to make the most of their library from home, and delve into the multitude of digital resources available for entertainment and education at www.brookslibraryvt.org.
Saturday, May 2
VPA cancels spring high school sports season
MONTPELIER — The Vermont Principals’ Association (VPA) waited as long as they could, but on April 30, it made a decision that was all but inevitable — there will not be a high school spring sports season in 2020 due to concerns around COVID-19.
In a news release, the VPA’s Activities and Standards Committee said that ”given the Governor’s executive order “Stay Home Stay Safe” still extending at least through May 15th, and with no known expectation to return to in-person school for the 2019-20 school year, the difficult decision to cancel the 2020 spring sports season has been made.”
Vermont’s schools have been closed since mid-March, but the VPA stated they delayed a final decision for “as long as possible in hopes that some version of a season could be salvaged, but now it is too close to the end of the school year for that to occur.
“The impact of COVID-19 has been felt worldwide. Our Vermont student athletes join the college, professional and Olympic athletes who are sidelined for the same reason this spring,” the VPA said, “We feel terribly for our Vermont student athletes who have been preparing for their 2020 spring sports season, and especially saddened for our 2020 seniors.
“Your sacrifice is unparalleled in Vermont sports’ history and is one that is quite literally saving lives. We are hopeful and confident that our shared sacrifices in social distancing this spring will ensure a safe return to in-person gatherings, celebrations, and extracurriculars for the fall season of 2020-21.”
Inclusion Center continues its meetings via Zoom
BRATTLEBORO — Inclusion Center has been meeting remotely via Zoom for the past few weeks.
“We felt it was important to stay connected with everyone who counts on our Monday and Friday sessions, especially now, when many are feeling isolated, stressed and anxious,” they said in a news release.
On Mondays and Fridays, they meet from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. During those sessions, participants share feelings, play silly games, do improvisation, and end with music and dance. They have also added a Wednesday Conversation Café session, which meets from 10:30 a.m. to noon, and discusses a topic of interest each week.
Connect to their Zoom meetings by emailing Inclusion Center for their Zoom link at email@example.com. You can also find our calendar for each week at inclusioncenter.webs.com/apps/calendar.
Inclusion Center is open to people with disabilities, whether mental or physical, medical issues, or those who suffer from depression or anxiety.
Friday, May 1
Scott further loosens restrictions on manufacturing, construction work
MONTPELIER — Manufacturing, distribution, and construction companies in Vermont will be able resume full operations by May 11, but under stringent new health and safety restrictions to keep the spread of the COVID-19 virus under control.
In a news conference on Friday, Gov. Phil Scott announced that those three business sectors will be able to increase the number of people allowed to work together from five to 10, starting on May 4.
The goal, Scott said, is that by May 11, “manufacturing, construction, and distribution operations may restart with as few employees as necessary to permit full operations while continuing to maintain health and safety.”
In an addendum to his original “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order, businesses that do reopen will be required to have employees complete a COVID-19 safety training program developed by the Vermont Occupational and Safety Adminstration (VOSHA).
The state Agency of Commerce and Community Development has also been working with industry leaders and the Vermont Department of Health to establish workplace safety measures, which include curbs on employee gatherings, a requirement to wear face masks, and regular body temperature checks.
On March 24, Scott ordered non-essential businesses, including many in manufacturing, to suspend their operations to limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Over the last two weeks, the governor loosened some of those restrictions, including allowing two people to return to work at the offices of low-contact professional services, such as real estate, municipal offices, and attorneys.
ClearChoiceMD offers expanded COVID-19 testing in Brattleboro
BRATTLEBORO — ClearChoiceMD Urgent Care is now offering COVID-19 testing, for both active infections and antibodies, at its Brattleboro center at 1154 Putney Rd.
No appointments are needed, but patients are encouraged to save their spot in line through an online registration portal found on the center’s website at ccmdcenters.com/locations/brattleboro-vt.
According to a news release, both tests are covered by most major insurances, however, patients are recommend to reach out to their private insurance provider to confirm coverage prior to testing. If you don’t have insurance, ClearChoiceMD is able to offer the test at a discounted cost under their Prompt-Pay program.
In addition to COVID-19 testing, the urgent care center remains open to test and treat all urgent, non-life-threatening medical needs, including employer health services. Extra measures are in place so that patients seeking care for all other urgent non-life-threatening illnesses or injuries or employer services can continue to safely be treated.
The urgent care center is open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., seven days a week. Call 802-490-2100 for more information.
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.
The state currently has 53 trained contact tracers who could handle up to 500 contacts per week and is implementing a plan to train additional tracers as needed.
Currently, the state has averaged about 200 to 300 tests a day. Levine said the state has enough testing kits to also do follow-up testing at sites where at least one COVID-19 case has been confirmed.
Wednesday, April 29
Brattleboro Food Co-op expands walk-in hours
BRATTLEBORO — The Brattleboro Food Co-op remains open for business with limited hours and curbside pickup for groceries, sundries, fresh and frozen foods, wellness supplies, and more.
Temporary hours for in-store shopping are now 2 to 7 p.m., Monday through Saturday. On Sundays, in-store hours have been expanded to 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Customers can call the hotline at 802-246-2800 to place orders for curbside pickup, Monday through Saturday.
Same-day pickup orders may be placed from 8 a.m. to noon, while next day pickup orders may be placed from noon to 2 p.m., with Saturday orders processed for Monday morning pickup.
Curbside orders will now longer be accepted on Sundays. Visit www.brattleborofoodcoop.coop for more information.
The Co-op says that available products are subject to availability, and some quantity restrictions may apply.
For those shopping inside the store, the Co-op is asking customers to maintain 6-foot social distancing space with other customers, especially at the checkout counters where plexiglass barriers have been installed. Card readers, belts, and screens are being wiped and sanitized between every customer.
Tuesday, April 28
WIC program is still open and ready to serve Vermonters
BURLINGTON — The Vermont Department of Health’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), and other public programs, remain open to serve Vermonters.
Vermont WIC provides healthy foods, nutrition education, and breastfeeding support to pregnant and postpartum Vermonters and infants and children up to their fifth birthday to support a strong immune system.
The Health Department says Vermont WIC is open and invites new and returning families to join. Since March 16, more than 600 new participants joined WIC for the first time. If you are pregnant, postpartum, or are the caregiver for an infant or child under 5, apply today. Medical providers, with patient permission, can refer patients to WIC here.
To keep families and staff safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, all appointments are being done by phone. WIC staff are primarily working remotely. WIC has also expanded its approved foods list to make it easier to find WIC foods in the grocery store. These changes include larger bread loaf sizes, more varieties of eggs, and shredded cheese. WIC is beginning to offer breastfeeding classes online.
If your family financial circumstances have changed due to a job loss or reduced hours, you could be eligible for WIC. For more information on food access, visit hungerfreevt.org/coronavirus.
Monday, April 27
Applications reopen in Vermont for Paycheck Protection Program loans
MONTPELIER — Vermont officials said Monday that applications are once again being processed for the federal Paycheck Protection Program established under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) has been popular in Vermont and operates through lenders approved by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). To date, approximately 6,800 Vermont businesses have secured loans totaling more than $1 billion. Vermont ranked third in the country in total loan commitment on a per capita basis.
PPP stopped accepting applications on April 17, when it ran out of funds. However, an additional $310 billion appropriation was signed into law on April 25, and applications are now being accepted for the additional monies.
The program is operating on a first-come, first-served basis. Commissioner of Economic Development Joan Goldstein said Monday that Vermont businesses that have already applied for PPP, but missed out on the first round of funding, should confirm with their lenders that they’re still in the application queue.
Vermont businesses can visit the SBA’s website to confirm that their lender is approved and participating at www.sba.gov/paycheckprotection/find.
Sunday, April 26
High Mowing Organic offers free seeds for Vermont gardeners
RICHMOND — If you are food insecure, have lost your job, or want to contribute to help feed neighbors in this situation, High Mowing Organic Seeds of Wolcott and the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont (NOFA-VT) are partnering to supply free seeds to start or expand community gardens.
High Mowing’s donation packets are mostly from 2019 so the germination rates may be a little lower than normal. You can request either a bundle (10 seed packets) or five bundles (50 seed packets).
In the interest of efficiency, there is not the option to request specific varieties or vegetables. Each bundle will include roughly 80 percent vegetables, 10 percent herbs, and 10 percent flowers. If you can share seed with your neighbors, feel free to request five bundles.
If you are gardening for the first time or need general support, reach out to the UVM Extension Master Gardener team who can pair you with an experienced gardener at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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
Many food options available for families with young children
BRATTLEBORO — Have your children lost access to meals they were receiving at child care? Every school district and supervisory union in the state is providing free meals to all children 18 and under. Dial 2-1-1 to find out how you can begin accessing nutritious meals for your children 0-18 years old.
Programs such as 3SquaresVT and WIC are also available to provide assistance during these uncertain times. If you have any questions, reach out to Keely Agan at email@example.com or 802-448-4396.
For more information about these programs and to see how you can apply, access the Hunger Free Vermont COVID-19 response webpage at www.hungerfreevt.org/coronavirus.
HCRS opens free phone support line
SPRINGFIELD — Health Care and Rehabilitation Services (HCRS), southeastern Vermont’s community mental-health agency, has opened up a phone support Warm Line (800-917-1622) for the community.
The expansion of the nonprofit agency’s Warm Line to the community is in response to the increased need for support to manage the stress and anxiety associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. The warm line is staffed with trained professionals offering support seven days per week from 7:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. The phone support line is anonymous and open to anyone in Windsor and Windham counties.
HCRS is also working with some rural communities to host online workshops about managing stress and anxiety as well as understanding suicide signs and risk. These one-hour online workshops are designed to be informative and interactive. Stay tuned to the agency’s Facebook page (www.facebook.com/HCRSVermont) for more details on these upcoming workshops.
The agency continues to accept new clients seeking to receive mental health, substance use, or developmental disability services. Although many services are currently provided remotely, the use of telehealth is very effective. In addition, critical outreach staff have been identified and are available to provide face-to-face support when necessary.
Community members who want to sign up for services can contact HCRS on the following toll-free lines: Brattleboro area (855-220-9428), Springfield area (855-220-9429), and Brattleboro area (855-220-9430). There are currently minimal wait times to access services and supports. Additional information regarding services can be found at www.hcrs.org.
HCRS’ 24-hour crisis hotline (800-622-4235) for mental health emergencies, continues to support members of the community. Anyone who lives in Windsor or Windham counties may call this toll-free hotline if they or someone they know is experiencing thoughts of intent to harm, either themselves or others.
Wednesday, April 22
Thompson House employees get tested after staffer tests positive for COVID-19
BRATTLEBORO — All employees at Thompson House Rehabilitation and Nursing Center are undergoing testing today for the COVID-19 virus after a staff member at the facility tested positive for the virus.
“This is just a precaution and it may seem extreme, but one thing we are all learning is what is extreme one day is policy the next,” facility administrator Dane Rank wrote in a letter sent to residents, families, staff, and friends on Tuesday. “I thought it prudent to get a handle on anyone at this point who might be infected and get them isolated ASAP, as long as the opportunity is open for us.”
According to Rank’s letter, during the facility’s routine monitoring for the virus, they identified a staff member who had someone in their household with an elevated temperature. Both were sent for testing. Rank wrote that the family member tested positive while the employee did not have symptoms and was not initially tested.
Rank wrote that the employee agreed to self-quarantine for two weeks and was expected to come back to work on April 20 wearing a mask and gloves.
The employee is continuing to self-quarantine for two weeks, after which two more negative COVID-19 tests will be needed before they are allowed to return to work, Rank wrote.
Nursing homes and long-term care facilities in Vermont have seen the most of the infections and deaths from COVID-19, according to the Vermont Department of Health.
AG to debt collectors, creditors, banks: Vermonters’ stimulus checks are off limits
MONTPELIER — Attorney General T.J. Donovan is putting debt collectors, creditors, and financial institutions on notice that, in Vermont, federal stimulus money is protected from garnishment or collection.
According to the directive issued today by the Attorney General’s Office, payments authorized by the federal government’s Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, are exempt from garnishment or collection under Vermont law.
The Attorney General is also urging the banking community to voluntarily suspend collection activity for overdrafts or other administrative fees that could otherwise jeopardize the receipt, reallocation, and circulation of stimulus monies issued to Vermonters as a result of the COVID-19 public health emergency.
The CARES Act, signed into law on March 27, provides emergency assistance for individuals, families, and businesses affected by the COVID-19 crisis.
Under the Act, eligible individuals and families can receive a one-time cash payment from the U.S. Treasury Department based on means-tested eligibility criteria. These payments come in the form of a refundable tax credit, identified as a “recovery rebate” in the Act.
On April 13, Attorney General Donovan joined a bipartisan group of attorneys general in calling on the federal government to issue guidance to the banking industry and creditors directing that emergency stimulus payments issued through the CARES Act be designated “benefit payments” thereby excluding them from threat of garnishment.
Vermont law exempts these monies from garnishment or collection, and provides that “compensation for loss of future earnings” is exempt from garnishment or collection as a “property traceable to [an individual’s] right to receive, to the extent reasonably necessary for the support of [an individual]” and any dependents of the individual.
Vermonters who experience garnishment from a debt collector, creditor, or financial institution may file a complaint with the Vermont Attorney General’s Consumer Assistance Program at ago.vermont.gov/cap/consumer-complaint.
‘Southeastern Vermont COVID-19 Resources for Individuals’ guide now available
BRATTLEBORO — A new COVID-19 resource guide, aimed at individuals living in southeastern Vermont, is now available. This resource list is a compilation of currently known programs and activities relevant to people living in southeastern Vermont.
The resource can be found on the Windham Regional Commission’s website by visiting www.windhamregional.org. If you are in immediate need of assistance, call Vermont’s resource line by dialing 2-1-1 about help and resources.
The initial resource guide for the Windham Region was compiled by Groundworks Collaborative, United Way of Windham County, the town of Brattleboro Sustainability Coordinator, and the Windham Regional Commission. This resource guide is meant to be a living document that will be updated on a regular basis.
With the changing nature of this pandemic, individual needs, and community response to it, you can help keep it current and up to date. Updates and suggestions are welcome through an electronic form on the guide webpage. For more information, contact Margo Ghia at firstname.lastname@example.org or Chris Campany at email@example.com.
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.
The relief, confirmed with several of the most significant national private student loan servicers, will expand on the protections already provided by the Vermont Student Assistance Corporation (VSAC) and provided to federal student loan borrowers under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
Borrowers in need of assistance, including VSAC borrowers, must immediately contact their student loan servicer or lender to identify the options appropriate to their circumstances.
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.
If student loan servicers are limited in their ability to take these actions due to investor restrictions or contractual obligations, the servicers will proactively work with loan holders to relax those restrictions or obligations whenever possible. DFR examiners will favorably consider prudent and reasonable actions taken to support relief for borrowers during the pandemic.
Students with federal loans were provided relief under the CARES Act, however, the CARES Act provided no relief for federal loans not owned by the federal government or for loans made by private lenders.
Under this initiative, many Vermonters with commercially owned Federal Family Education Loan Program loans or privately held student loans who are struggling to make their payments due to the COVID-19 pandemic will be eligible for expanded relief.
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, firstname.lastname@example.org; Attorney General’s Consumer Assistance Program: 800-649-2424, AGO.CAP@vermont.gov; and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau: www.consumerfinance.gov/complaint.
Rock River Artists cancels Open Studio Tour for 2020
SOUTH NEWFANE — Rock River Artists (RRA), a 17-member collective of fine artists and craftsmen in Southeastern Vermont, is prudently compelled to cancel its July 2020 Studio Tour due to the public health emergency caused by the Covid 19 virus.
While practicing social distancing, the nearly three-decade-old RRA said in a news release that it wants followers to know that members of this creative hub are “hunkered down in our studios creating some of our best work."
Visit www.rockriverartists.com to see virtual studio tours and samplings of new work. RRA collectively adds, “We’ll miss your visits, but we look forward to staying connected through these trying times, and we especially look forward to seeing you in our studios again in 2021.”
Planned Parenthood of Northern New England launches new telehealth service
COLCHESTER — In recognition that people’s reproductive and sexual health care can’t wait, Planned Parenthood of Northern New England (PPNNE) announced the launch of a new telehealth program in Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine.
It allows patients to access high-quality, affordable health care services by phone or through a private and secure video conferencing platform that connects them with PPNNE’s trusted health care providers.
Through telehealth, patients can access services with fewer visits or without needing to visit a health center at all, allowing providers to answer patient questions, manage prescriptions, and help patients address their sexual and reproductive health care needs remotely.
In addition, PPNNE is still offering in-person visits when necessary as 12 health centers around Vermont, including at its office in Brattleboro. For more information about connecting to PPNNE through telehealth, visit www.ppnne.org or call 866-476-1321.
Vermont DART addresses growing pet food needs in face of pandemic
BRATTLEBORO — As part of its mission to keep pets with their families during the COVID-19 crisis, the Vermont Disaster Animal Response Team (VDART) has been busy assessing needs, fundraising, and providing pet food to food banks across the state.
Last week the Windham Disaster Animal Response Team (WinDART), a regional team of the statewide group, donated $500 worth of pet food to the Vermont Food Bank’s (VFB) Brattleboro warehouse.
Staff at the Windham County Humane Society assisted with the delivery, which will be available to local VFB member agencies in Windham County and beyond.
This initiative was part of a COVID-19 Emergency Animal Care Grant the group received from the Humane Society of the United States to support the care of animals who are victims of the pandemic crisis and its current and future economic consequences.
Donations to help fund this pet food project can be made through the organization’s website at www.VermontDART.org/donate.
Monday, April 20
State sends $10 million in emergency aid checks to unemployed Vermonters
MONTPELIER — Nearly 8,400 Vermonters affected by COVID-19-related layoffs who have filed for unemployment benefits, but whose claims are still being processed, will be seeing a $1,200 check in the mail this week.
Gov. Phil Scott made that announcement a news conference on Monday. Scott said that state Department of Labor cleared nearly 32,000 unemployment claim issues after working through the weekend, but that left 8,384 eligible claimants who did not have their issues resolved.
Those individuals, Scott said, will get the $1,200 checks that were sent out Monday morning.
The $10 million cost of the checks comes from the state treasury and covers two weeks of federal benefits for claimants as an initial installment. Vermont officials say they will sort out “quality control” issues which held up these claims at a later date.
Scott said the Department of Labor has had to deal with an unprecedented number of unemployment claims. A shortage of phone operators, an outdated computer system, and stringent federal rules all contributed to the backlog.
“We went with our heart and put people ahead of process,” Scott said Monday.
Sunday, April 19
Statewide death toll stands at 38, 62 cases now reported in Windham County
BURLINGTON — The Vermont Department of Health reported Sunday that there are now 812 people who have tested positive for COVID-19 in Vermont, including 62 people in Windham County.
Thirty-eight people have died so far in Vermont, according to the Health Department, but last week ended with the slowest rate of increase of new positive cases since the pandemic began in mid-March.
Chittenden County has with 385 cases and 23 deaths. Franklin County has the second-highest number of cases in Vermont with 91. Windham County’s 62 cases is the third highest in the state.
As of Sunday morning, the Health Department says 12,726 Vermonters tested negative for COVID-19. There are 25 Vermonters being monitored, and 808 Vermonters who have completed monitoring. There are 27 patients hospitalized with COVID-19, and 26 patients hospitalized who are under investigation for the virus.
At a news conference on Friday in Montpelier, State financial regulation commissioner Michael Pieciak, who has been leading Vermont’s modeling of the COVID-19 outbreak, said that the rate in which cases have have been doubling in Vermont has slowed enough to indicate that “it is safe to assume we have reached our peak.”
Saturday, April 18
Vermont Legal Aid to host ‘virtual town halls’ on critical legal issues related to COVID-19
BURLINGTON — Vermont Legal Aid plans a series of weekly “30-Minute Town Halls” on critical legal issues related to the COVID-19 crisis.
Legal Aid staff will discuss the key legal issues affecting Vermont residents and answer questions from the public. These town halls will focus on the questions and legal needs of Vermont’s most vulnerable residents, including low-income, older, and disabled Vermonters.
Attend online at zoom.us/j/92311866366 or listen in by phone at 301-715-8592 or 888-788-0099 (meeting ID: 923-1186-6366). They will also be broadcasting to Facebook Live at www.facebook.com/VermontLegalAid.
More legal information related to COVID-19 is available at vtlawhelp.org/coronavirus-updates.
Friday, April 17
Scott announces first steps toward reopening businesses in Vermont
MONTPELIER — Gov. Phil Scott announced Friday the first tentative steps that his administration is taking to re-open Vermont’s economy.
At a news conference, Scott said that starting this Monday, April 20, two people would be allowed to return to work at the offices of low-contact professional services, such as real estate agents and appraisers, municipal clerks, and attorneys.
Property management and construction firms could also begin operating with two-person crews.
Workers in these settings will have to continue remaining six feet from anyone, wash their hands regularly, and wear face masks in public.
Garden and construction supply stores would be allowed to reopen next week, but with phone and online ordering only, curbside pickup, and minimum staffing.
And farmers’ markets would be allowed to reopen starting May 1, following guidelines currently being developed by the Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets.
However, Scott said most Vermonters should “expect telecommuting and remote work to stay in place for the foreseeable future, because we still need to reduce contact to contain the spread of this virus.”
Thursday, April 16
Statewide death toll rises to 35, no new cases reported in Windham County
BURLINGTON — The Vermont Department of Health reported Thursday that there are now 768 people who have tested positive for COVID-19 in Vermont, including 58 people in Windham County.
Thirty people have died so far in Vermont, according to the Health Department, but the rate of new positive cases cases continues to slow. The nine new cases reported Thursday represents the third straight day of single-digit increases.
Chittenden County has been hardest hit with 377 cases and 22 deaths. Franklin County has the second-highest number of cases in Vermont with 86. Windham County has 58 cases, the third highest in the state, but reported no new cases Thursday.
As of Thursday morning, the Health Department says 11,507 Vermonters tested negative for COVID-19. There are 30 Vermonters being monitored, and 803 Vermonters who have completed monitoring. There are 33 patients hospitalized with COVID-19, and 25 patients hospitalized who are under investigation for the virus.
At a Wednesday morning news conference in Montpelier, Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine said Vermont may be seeing a trend toward cases beginning to plateau.
Levine said the percentage of people testing positive for the virus in Vermont is under 5 percent, and there are signs that the new infection curve is flattening. However, Levine said the hopeful signs do not mean an early end to social distancing, bans on large public gatherings, wearing face masks in public.
Saxtons River re-schedules annual Village Meeting
SAXTONS RIVER — The trustees of Saxtons River have re-scheduled the village’s annual meeting due to the COVID-19 virus.
The meeting was originally scheduled for April 13 at the Saxtons River Elementary School, but the trustees voted at an online meeting April 6 to set a new date of Monday, June 8, with the location to be determined based on the status of the pandemic.
The trustees whose terms would have been up April 13 agreed to stay on until elections can be held. Benjamin Wallace, Celia Bohannon, and Carl Ball hold one-year terms that will expire. Bohannon is not seeking re-election.
The terms of trustees Matthew Brennan and Louise Luring expire in 2021.
The agenda of the annual meeting includes voting on the budget, which expires July 1, election of officers, reports from village officers and any other business the voters want to raise.
This year, the trustees will present plans for the new fire house and information about a proposed speed ordinance.
The annual village report will be available at least 10 days before the meeting as it is currently scheduled.
Athens, Readsboro, Wardsboro to get public Wi-Fi hotspots
MONTPELIER — Gov. Phil Scott and the Department of Public Service today announced an innovative collaboration with several partners that will increase internet access by means of public Wi-Fi hotspots for dozens of rural towns in Vermont.
Deployment is already underway with installation of devices through this initiative soon being offered locally at the Wardsboro Town Hall and Library, the Readsboro Town Office and School, and the Athens Town Office.
“Broadband remains a critical resource for Vermonters in rural areas to stay connected and work and learn remotely during our Stay Home, Stay Safe period,” said Scott said in a news release. “We are grateful to our partners at Microsoft, RTO Wireless and Up And Running I.T. for their assistance in providing this important service.”
“Microsoft approached RTO Wireless about teaming up on deploying free public Wi-Fi at venues located in rural communities that lack sufficient broadband coverage,” said RTO’s CEO Steve Hubbard. “Microsoft offered to fund the purchase and installation of the hotspot devices.”
RTO said their first call was to the team at the Department of Public Service. Justin McCoart’s Bethel-based company, Up And Running I.T., will assist with the local installations. Public host institutions need to have existing broadband service and agree to host the equipment.
RTO Wireless, on behalf of Microsoft, contracted with Up And Running I.T. to procure and install the Cisco Meraki equipment.
Launched in 2017, the Microsoft Airband Initiative is partnering with internet service providers and others to extend broadband access to three million people who reside in unserved rural areas.
At the outset of the COVID-19 emergency, the Department published a public Wi-Fi hotspot map on its website to assist Vermonters with internet access for information, remote work and learning. The map identifies places where people can access free public Wi-Fi options from a car to maintain appropriate social distancing.
A review of that data found that 38 small towns and gores across the state had no identified suitably socially distant and publicly available Wi-Fi. The Department reached out to public schools, libraries and town halls about partnering to have public Wi-Fi installed for their communities, with more than 50 communities thus far making queries.
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 email@example.com.
Corrections Department creates online support portal for inmate families, friends
WATERBURY — The Vermont Department of Corrections (DOC) has established a new online portal specifically for family and friends of inmates. This portal will allow loved ones to contact the Department with questions and quickly receive responses.
According to a news release, family and friends of inmates in Vermont’s six facilities, and those housed out of state, are invited to submit questions to the Department by visiting the Family and Friends page on DOC’s website, doc.vermont.gov/information-inmate-families-and-friends, and submitting the online form. A DOC representative will review the form and contact each person individually within one business day of receiving their message.
DOC encourages people who have a loved one in a correctional facility to use this new portal to access information. The portal will directly link loved ones with the team dedicated to assisting family and friends, both during the COVID-19 pandemic and afterwards.
The department is also making regular updates to the website’s “Frequently Asked Questions” page. The FAQ ensures information can be quickly shared with the greater community. Along with answers to common questions, the FAQ page includes up-to-date policies and procedures at Vermont’s six facilities.
Wednesday, April 15
Department of Financial Regulation requires insurers to cover COVID-19 diagnosis, treatment with no cost sharing
MONTPELIER — Gov. Phil Scott and the Department of Financial Regulation (DFR) today announced an emergency regulation requiring commercial insurers to waive cost-sharing requirements, such as co-payments, coinsurance or deductible requirements, for the diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19.
The emergency regulation is retroactive to March 13, 2020, the date that Governor Scott declared a State of Emergency. It applies to fully-funded health insurance plans such as plans sold on the exchange or to large group employers. Consistent with existing DFR rules, insurers will be required to cover out-of-network services for members if in-network providers are unavailable.
If you have questions about or problems with your health insurer, contact DFR Consumer Services at 800-964-1784 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tuesday, April 14
Statewide death toll rises to 29, but number of new cases falls to lowest level since March 17
BURLINGTON — The Vermont Department of Health reported Tuesday that there are now 752 people who have tested positive for COVID-19 in Vermont, including 57 people in Windham County.
Twenty-nine people have died so far in Vermont, according to the Health Department, but the rate of new positive cases cases continues to slow. The four new cases reported Tuesday represents the smallest increase since March 17.
Chittenden County still leads the state with 372 cases and 19 deaths, but reported no new cases on Tuesday. Franklin County has the second-highest number of cases in Vermont with 84, followed by Windham County (57), Addison County (56), and Rutland County (39).
As of Tuesday morning, the Health Department says 10,585 Vermonters tested negative for COVID-19. There are 35 Vermonters being monitored, and 796 Vermonters who have completed monitoring. There are 31 patients hospitalized with COVID-19, and 33 patients hospitalized who are under investigation for the virus.
Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine said at a news conference in Montpelier on Monday said that the 21 cases were found out of 500 new tests, showing that the number of new cases is “leveling off” among the general population. However, he said the cases are still increasing among vulnerable populations, including nursing homes and correctional facilities.
Also Monday, the Health Department announced that health professionals can quickly become temporarily licensed to provide care during the COVID-19 public health emergency.
The new emergency measures grant a temporary license for health professionals who are licensed and in good standing in other states or were licensed in Vermont, but whose licenses lapsed in recent years.
To apply for a license or get more information about the process, contact either the Board of Medical Practice (healthvermont.gov/systems/medical-practice-board, 802-657-4223) or the Office of Professional Regulation (sos.vermont.gov/opr, 802-828-1505).
State AG’s office warns of scammers targeting stimulus money
MONTPELIER — The Vermont Attorney General’s office warns that scammers are trying to cash in on the COVID-19, pandemic. From selling phony health care products to soliciting donations for fake charities, scammers will try anything to get your money or sensitive personal information during times of crisis.
With economic impact payments or “stimulus checks” coming, Attorney General T.J. Donovan and Treasurer Beth Pearce want to remind Vermonters to protect their finances and to be on the lookout for COVID-19-related scams.
As part of the federal response to the COVID-19 crisis, the IRS has begun distributing economic impact payments. Most of these payments will be direct deposited into qualifying Vermonters’ bank accounts. Even so, the IRS is warning individuals to be on the lookout for scams, including fraudulent checks or attempts to solicit personal information.
Here are some tips from the Federal Trade Commission to help protect your payment from scammers:
• The check’s not in the mail — yet. Reports say that paper checks — for people without direct deposit — will start arriving in May at the earliest. So, if you get an economic impact payment, stimulus, or relief check before then, or you get a check when you’re expecting a direct deposit, it’s a scam.
• The IRS will not send you an overpayment and make you send the money back in cash, gift cards, or through a money transfer. If you get an official-looking check for more than what you were expecting, the next call you’re likely to get is from a scammer. They’ll tell you to keep the amount you are entitled to and to return the rest by sending cash, gift cards, or money transfers. It’s a scam that will leave you owing money to your bank.
• That’s not the IRS calling, texting, or emailing. Scammers are sending official-looking messages — including postcards with a password to be used online to “access” or “verify” your payment or direct deposit information. The IRS will not contact you to collect your personal information or bank account. It’s a scam.
For helpful tips on how to guard against scams and manage your money, visit the Vermont Treasurer’s Office website at MyMoney.Vermont.gov. Vermonters who would like to report scam activity or sign up for Scam Alerts may contact the Attorney General’s Office through the Consumer Assistance Program at 800-649-2424 or www.ago.vermont.gov/cap/stopping-scams.
COVID-19: An additional important reason to quit tobacco, vaping
BURLINGTON — Novel coronavirus (COVID-19) attacks the lungs, making it harder for people who smoke or vape — tobacco, cannabis or anything else — to fight off the virus and putting them at much greater risk of severe illness, even death.
Through outreach and social media promotion, the Vermont Department of Health says it has been helping Vermonters to learn that there has never been a better time, and there has never been a better reason, to quit.
Vermonters can find online or phone quit coaching, quit resources and tools at 802quits.org.
The Health Department’s Tobacco Control Program has also launched a youth cessation digital media campaign to support parents who may recognize their teen is addicted to vaping and want help.
Formative research showed that youth may be reluctant to sign up for help on their own. The campaign educates parents — and youth influencers — on free 802Quits resources by phone and online for teens 13 and older, at 802quits.org/teen-vaping.
Monday, April 13
Labor Department, swamped with unemployment claims, starts new intake system for clients
MONTPELIER — Facing an unprecedented level of new umemployment claims, the Vermont Department of Labor has implemented an alphabetized structure for the intake of weekly claims and inquiries.
Effective this week, the department is designating specific days of the week for individuals to contact the Department, based on the first letter of their last name.
The primary option for claimants to file their weekly claim is through the automated phone service, which can be accessed by dialing 800-983-2300. No restrictions have been placed for claimants looking to file a weekly claim over the phone system, which is open 24-hours on Sundays, and from 5 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.
For those looking to file their weekly claim online through the Claimant Portal, found at uipublic01.labor.vermont.gov/Claimantportal/portal/login.aspx, claimants are encouraged to observe the following structure: Sunday (Everyone), Monday (A-E), Tuesday (F-L), Wednesday (M-R), Thursday (S-Z), and Friday (Everyone).
The state says it has received more than 70,000 unemployment applications and has paid out over $23 million in benefits as of last week, but there is still a huge backlog of applications and working to increase its capacity to process them. Visit labor.vermont.gov for more information.
Sunday, April 12
Statewide COVID-19 death toll rises to 27
BURLINGTON — The Vermont Department of Health reported Sunday that there are now 727 people who have tested positive for COVID-19 in Vermont, including 54 people in Windham County.
Twenty-seven people have died so far in Vermont, according to the Health Department, but the rate of new positive cases cases continues to slow, with the 17 new cases begin the smallest number reported since March 21.
At a news conference on Friday in Montpelier, State financial regulation commissioner Michael Pieciak, who has been leading Vermont’s modeling of the COVID-19 outbreak, said that the rate in which cases have have been doubling in Vermont has slowed enough to indicate that the ongoing pandemic may have less of an impact than first thought.
While Pieciak said that the state’s hospitals will have sufficient resources to deal with the steady increase in cases expected over the next two weeks, Pieciak warned that the state has “a limited margin for error.”
He added that Gov. Phil Scott’s decision to extend his state of emergency orders until May 15 is “absolutely necessary” to keep the state on track for the best-case scenario of fewer infections and fewer deaths than first feared.
Friday, April 10
Scott extends State of Emergency, closures until May 15
MONTPELIER — Gov. Phil Scott today extended Vermont’s State of Emergency through May 15, which also extends the expiration date of all corresponding orders and directives issued in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The original State of Emergency, issued on March 13, was set to expire on April 15, as were the subsequent mitigation measures. As a result of this extension, all measures, including the Governor’s “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order, are now in effect until midnight on May 15.
Schools will remain dismissed for in-person instruction through the end of the school year.
The Scott administration developed and continues to update state-specific modeling to project COVID-19 case growth and track capacity of the healthcare system and availability of personal protective equipment (PPE) and life-saving equipment like ventilators.
This data, along with guidance from public health experts at the Vermont Department of Health, has informed the mitigation measures put in place throughout this crisis.
Modeling shows that the mitigation measures have slowed the expected spread of this contagious disease, but that the state has not yet hit its peak number of cases. Accordingly, Scott, in consultation with Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine, has extended the State of Emergency and all associated social distancing measures. For more information, visit governor.vermont.gov/covid19response.
DMV launches new online system for license renewals
MONTPELIER — The Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) today announced the official launch of a new online system for license renewals. This new service comes at a critical time for Vermonters and dovetails with Gov. Phil Scott’s March 18 directive for the DMV to transition to online, mail and phone transactions to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
The DMV strongly encourages Vermonters to renew online using the simple form. Renewal notices will continue to be mailed to all license holders and will include the URL for the online service and a unique PIN needed for the online form. The online renewal form can be found at mydmvlicense.vermont.gov with online support available through the DMV website.
The DMV switched to a new license and identification card system last summer. The new credentials have advanced security features to help prevent fraud and identity theft and are printed off-site at a highly secure facility.
Online license renewals will be processed by the DMV and the data will be transmitted to the printing facility. Vermonters will receive the new license or ID in the mail 7-10 business days after the DMV submits the renewal for printing. For more information, visit dmv.vermont.gov/faq.
Additionally, Scott directed DMV to grant a 90-day extension for all license and registration renewals. Vermonters are encouraged to complete their renewals on time by using the online or mail option, but extensions will be in place during this time.
Thursday, April 9
Assistance available for area artists affected by COVID-19 crisis
BRATTLEBORO — There are several sources of assistance now available for area artists that that been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic:
• The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) has announced guidelines to distribute funding to nonprofit arts organizations from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to preserve jobs and help support organizations forced to close operations due to the spread of COVID-19.
With the $75 million appropriated to the NEA through the CARES Act, the Arts Endowment will award 40 percent of the funds directly to state and regional arts agencies to distribute through their funding programs. Sixty percent of the funds are designated for direct grants to nonprofit arts organizations all across the United States and will be announced by June 30.
The more than 3,700 organizations that have received NEA awards in the past four years are eligible to apply for a direct grant through the NEA’s program. Funds can be used for staff salary support, fees for artists or contractual personnel, and facilities costs.
The direct grants will not require a cost share or match and will be for a fixed amount of $50,000. Designated local arts agencies eligible to subgrant may request $100,000 or $250,000 for subgranting programs. The deadline to apply is April 22, with the earliest announcement of grant award or rejection by June 30.
The National Endowment for the Arts has complied an extensive list with link to national organizations and resources at www.arts.gov/covid-19-resources-for-artists-and-arts-organizations.
• The Artist Relief Fund, a $10 million national emergency relief fund for artists and creative workers that will provide $5,000 no-strings-attached grants, was recently created.
It is intended for anyone who earns income from their creative or artistic practice and who has also been affected by COVID-19.
Artist Relief will distribute $5,000 grants to artists facing dire financial emergencies due to COVID-19; serve as an ongoing informational resource; and co-launch the COVID-19 Impact Survey for Artists and Creative Workers, designed by Americans for the Arts, to better identify and address the needs of artists. Coalition partners will make final eligibility determinations as needed. Learn more at artistrelief.org.
• The Vermont Arts Council has established a Vermont Rapid Response Artist Relief fund to respond to the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on artists across the state. There’s information and resources for artists and organizations as well as a guide for creating virtual arts experiences during this time of social distancing available at www.vermontartscouncil.org/covid-19.
• The New England Foundation for the Arts has also assembled resources to share with the arts and culture sector. There is very clear information on the CARES Act: Unemployment Insurance & Small Business Assistance for artists and organizations; how and where to apply for unemployment insurance and small business assistance and emergency resources and relief. Find out more at www.nefa.org/covid-19.
Wednesday, April 8
Trump approves Vermont disaster declaration
MONTPELIER —Gov. Phil Scott’s request for federal disaster funds to assist the state of Vermont in its response to the COVID-19 pandemic has been approved by President Donald Trump.
The president approved the state’s request for federal Public Assistance funds for the state and all towns for costs incurred in the response to and recovery from the pandemic.
This declaration will provide 75 percent reimbursement to state and local governments and some non-profits for emergency protective measures, including direct federal assistance, for all areas in the state of Vermont affected by COVID-19.
Scott requested the disaster funding earlier this week. Vermont has so far spent more than $20 million responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to state officials.
His request sought federal Public Assistance funds for the state and all towns for costs incurred in the response to and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as Individual Assistance, including Disaster Unemployment Assistance and Crisis Counseling Assistance/Regular Services Program for all Vermont counties.
Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator Pete Gaynor has named W. Russell Webster as the federal coordinating officer for federal recovery operations in the affected areas.
A request for a disaster declaration typically includes an assessment of physical damage to property in order to qualify for relief. Under these extraordinary circumstances, preliminary damage assessments are not required or recommended due to the dynamic nature of the pandemic.
Nonprofits that could be eligible for reimbursement include nursing homes, laboratories, rehab centers that provide medical care, hospitals and emergency care facilities, fire/rescue emergency services and education facilities.
Current, MOOver to require riders wear face masks
ROCKINGHAM — Effective April 10, all riders on MOOver or Current buses, vans, or in volunteer driver cars will be required to wear a face mask, bandana, scarf, or other effective face covering prior to boarding a vehicle.
This covering is to remain on for the completion of the ride.
According to Southern Vermont Transit CEO Randy Schoonmaker, this policy is designed to protect riders, drivers, and the general public. It is based on current guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
This compliments existing MOOver and Current policy to refrain from booking or taking a trip if you show any signs of fever, cough, or difficulty breathing.
Since April 6, all MOOver and Current staff and volunteers have been provided a cloth face mask to wear while on duty.
Visit www.crtransit.org for the latest information on route changes, follow the Current on Facebook, or sign up for their Transit app at their website.
Health officials caution against using non-approved drugs for COVID-19 treatment
BURLINGTON — As reports appear in the news of certain drugs being potentially used for treatment or prevention of COVID-19, the Vermont Department of Health strongly urges caution.
At this time, the U.S. Drug Administration has not approved any drugs specifically for the treatment of patients with COVID-19.
Though the anti-malarial drugs chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, among others, have been widely discussed as potential treatments, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said there are no data currently available from randomized clinical trials that would inform how these drugs could be used to treat COVID-19.
In fact, there are significant potential risks to taking such drugs, including death.Health officials remind Vermonters that most people who get COVID-19 can manage their symptoms at home with rest, drinking fluids and taking fever-reducing medication. Talk to your health care provider before taking any substance alleged to prevent or treat COVID-19.
Providers should only prescribe these drugs for individuals with diagnosed conditions, and not for prevention, to help maintain the supply for Vermonters who need them.
Tuesday, April 7
Scott submits request for federal disaster declaration
MONTPELIER — Gov. Phil Scott today requested federal disaster funds to assist the state of Vermont in its response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Scott also requested authority and additional funding to activate additional personnel in the Vermont National Guard.
The request asks for federal Public Assistance (PA) funds for the state and all towns for costs incurred in the response to and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as Individual Assistance, including Disaster Unemployment Assistance and Crisis Counseling Assistance/Regular Services Program for all Vermont counties.
According to a news release, this disaster assistance, if granted, provides a 75 percent reimbursement to state and local governments and some non-profits for emergency protective measures, including actions taken to save lives and protect public health and safety.
Monday, April 6
Strolling of the Heifers cancels June parade
BRATTLEBORO — There will no heifers strolling down Main Street this June.
Strolling of the Heifers Executive Director Lissa Harris announced today that they will not be holding the famed Saturday parade or the rest of the events that were scheduled for the weekend of June 4-7 due to the COVID-19 crisis.
In a letter to The Commons, Harris said that the COVID-19 outbreak made it clear “that we will not be able to move forward with the Stroll Weekend events,” adding that “for some events we have a clear plan forward in place already and for others we are still researching the best options.”
She said her organization is “working closely with the town of Brattleboro, our downtown businesses, and our local and statewide economic development and agricultural organizations to brainstorm ideas and a vision for the future.”
Harris said there are no plans to reschedule the parade in 2020.
As for the other parts of the Strolling weekend, such as the Vendor Expo Festival, Tour de Heifer bike ride, and farm tours, Harris said that Strolling will likely be rescheduling these events to new dates later this year.
Retreat Farm continues food distribution program
BRATTLEBORO — Retreat Farm is distributing bags of food to families in need. They are working with local nonprofits and government agencies dedicated to helping people in need to streamline information and provide a bag of groceries as a stop-gap measure. Call the farm at 802-490-2270 if you are in immediate need.
According to a news release, Retreat Farm is working with the Vermont Food Bank, Foodworks, and others to distribute food, and looking for funding to support this effort. Go to www.retreatfarm.org/donate for more information.
They have also assembled a list of local organizations offering food, financial assistance, and more at www.retreatfarm.org/community-aid.
Women’s Freedom Center continues daily virtual support group
BRATTLEBORO — The Womens Freedom Center is expanding its support group for domestic violence survivors during the COVID-19 crisis. For the month of April (and beyond if necessary), they will host a daily virtual support group, Monday through Friday, from noon to 1 p.m.
This group is free, confidential, and entirely by drop in — you can attend as often as you’d like. The group is open to all self-identified women who have experienced domestic violence. For more information, call 802-254-6954.
Putney Foodshelf changes hours of operation
PUTNEY — The Putney Foodshelf is now open Saturdays only, from 9 to 11 a.m., at the Putney Community Center, 10 Christian Square.
Due to the coronavirus situation, the Putney Foodshelf has instituted a drive-up model and implemented systems to protect their volunteers and the families they serve. This includes maintaining at least 6 feet of distance between people at all times.
Shoppers remain in their cars. Foodshelf volunteers will direct shoppers on where to park and will bring bags of pre-packed shelf-stable groceries and produce to the cars.
Depending on how the situation evolves, hours may change again. Visit www.putneyfoodshelf.org, or call 802-387-8551, to have the most up-to-date information.
Sunday, April 5
Mask making project begins in Grafton
GRAFTON — The Grafton Women’s Community Club and the Windham Foundation are sponsoring a townwide mask production project. The Grafton Masks Project goal is to provide each person in town with a mask.
Who out there is willing and able to sew masks? Who has unused 100 percent cotton fabric at hand? Who has materials that would serve as ties for the masks? Organizers will coordinate material sharing and drop offs that are contact free.
This is the link to the pattern they have been using: www.whitearborquilting.com/adjustable-side-face-mask/?fbclid=IwAR11gVqzD2NdxIizb7A_y7g80PDe-ob1_9Oqedm9ZUuMYaLzX12AiJRsbNw. If you have already been sewing masks according to another pattern, keep doing what you are doing.
Drop off and pick up locations for materials and masks will be announced. For more information, contact Carol Lind (email@example.com, 802-843-1050, or 802-843-4951) or Anna Vesely Pilette (firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-843-2620).
Saturday, April 4
Local service groups start grocery delivery service
BRATTLEBORO — Brattleboro VFW Post 1034, Brattleboro Elks #1499, Masonic Lodge #102, and American Legion Post 5 are banding together with the guidance of the Brattleboro Fire Department to buy groceries and other essential items for those who cannot and should not venture out.
Volunteers will be purchasing items, bagging or boxing them, and delivering them to homes where needed in the Brattleboro area. They will also be working with Groundworks and the Retreat Farm.
Cash donations are welcome to support this cause, with 100 percent of the proceeds to be used to purchase items. Make checks payable to VFW Post 1034, and include a return address so a receipt can be mailed. Mail to VFW Post 1034, P.O. Box 8233, Brattleboro, VT 05304.
Thursday, April 2
State adds additional medical capacity; BMH included in ‘surge’ plan
MONTPELIER — Gov. Phil Scott has announced new steps in the state’s plan to prepare for a surge in COVID-19 cases, and in turn, the need for additional hospital and medical capacity.
Scott said in an April 2 news release that the state has coordinated with communities and hospitals statewide, and with Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in New Hampshire, to increase capacity in the event of a sharp increase of COVID-19 patients who require medical care.
In partnership with the Vermont National Guard, the state is creating two additional high capacity care sites for surge: one in Essex Junction at the Champlain Valley Exposition, which will provide 400 beds staffed primarily by Guard personnel; and another in Rutland County, supported by the Rutland Regional Medical Center, which will provide 150 beds.
These high-capacity surge sites are in addition to regionally deployed sites at the Collins-Perley Sports and Fitness Center in St. Albans, Barre Civic Center in Barre, and at the University of Vermont, which will create available bed space as this response unfolds.
These sites will be operated in close coordination with health care providers and will only be used if hospitals exceed their capacity.
Additional rapid reaction medical surge trailers containing material for 50 additional beds have been prepositioned across Vermont, including at Brattleboro Memorial Hospital, and Mt. Ascutney Hospital and Health Center in Windsor. More assets, including two state portable hospitals, will be staged if needed.
Brattleboro bus driver tests positive for COVID-19 virus
ROCKINGHAM — The Current, a division of Southeast Vermont Transit, was informed on April 1 that one of its drivers has tested positive for the COVID 19 virus.
According to a news release from Southern Vermont Transit CEO Randy Schoonmaker, the driver drove the Blue Line bus in Brattleboro between March 16 and March 19.
Eric Seel, an epidemiologist at the Vermont Department of Health, told Southern Vermont Transit that the driver poses no close contact threat of spreading the virus to fellow staff or riders because the driver left work and self-quarantined starting on the evening of March 19, three days before their symptoms appeared.
According to Seel, the virus can be transmitted via person to person up to 48 hours prior to symptoms appearing, thus there is no person-to-person contact threat.
Schoonmaker said the driver has been out for 14 days and is eligible to return to work pending a doctor’s release.
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.
Monday, March 30
Scott orders additional restrictions for travelers arriving in Vermont
MONTPELIER — Gov. Phil Scott has ordered additional restrictions on travelers arriving in Vermont and announced additional guidance for the lodging industry to enhance compliance with his “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order.
At a news conference on Monday, Scott said he is taking additional action to encourage compliance with newly-released CDC guidance around interstate travel from New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, which advised residents of those states to refrain from non-essential domestic travel for 14 days.
This new order directs residents and non-residents coming from outside the state for anything other than an essential purpose to home-quarantine for 14 days and strongly discourages travel to Vermont by those located in COVID-19 “hot spots.”
The measures under the order, effective March 25, were implemented in consultation with the Commissioner of the Vermont Department of Health to minimize all unnecessary activities outside the home until at least April 15 to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus and protect the public.
Scott’s order also provides additional guidance to lodging providers to ensure compliance with the Stay Home, Stay Safe order, which suspended lodging operations.
The order makes clear that lodging facilities — which includes hotels, motels, bed and breakfasts, inns, short term rentals (e.g. VRBO, Homeaway, Airbnb, etc.), and all public and private camping facilities and RV parks — are to be closed except for stated exemptions when supporting the state’s COVID-19 response. Additionally, the Governor has suspended online lodging reservations.
Under this order, the Vermont State Police and local law enforcement will monitor lodging providers for compliance and work with the Attorney General’s Office on additional compliance measures if needed.
Vermont State Police and other law-enforcement agencies throughout Vermont visited hotels and motels over the weekend to assess compliance with Scott’s “Stay Home, Stay Safe” executive order, which required commercial lodging establishments to immediately begin to cease operations due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Secretary of State’s Office announces election law changes to address COVID-19 pandemic
MONTPELIER — Vermont Secretary of State Jim Condos announced a series of temporary changes to Vermont’s election laws passed by the Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Phil Scott, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure that Vermont is prepared to safeguard the integrity of elections and the public’s health in the face of this global pandemic.
Changes include the waiving of candidate petition signature gathering requirements for the August statewide primary elections and November General elections. All candidates wishing to appear on the ballot will still be required to file financial disclosure statements and consent of candidate forms.
Condos, Deputy Secretary of State Chris Winters, and Elections Director Will Senning worked with legislators, legislative committees of jurisdiction, and the Governor’s office on an elections bill, H.681, which was passed by the Legislature and signed into law by Scott on March 30.
The new law empowers municipal legislative bodies to change upcoming local elections during the 2020 COVID-19 crisis from floor meetings to Australian ballot, without requiring a full vote of the town.
Lastly, this new temporary law also creates emergency powers to allow the Secretary of State’s office, with the agreement of the Governor, to enact the necessary measures to enable Vermonters to vote safely during the 2020 COVID-19 health crisis.
Such measures could include the mailing of ballots to every registered voter, an extended cutoff for town clerks to receive voted ballots, an expanded window for town clerks to process voted ballots, the creation of secure ballot return stations, or the moving of polling locations, as examples.
For more information and guidance on elections during the COVID-19 state of emergency, visit the Elections Division COVID-19 Response page on the Vermont Secretary of State’s website at sos.vermont.gov/elections/about/covid-19-response.
Saturday, March 28
Amtrak suspends train service to Vermont
MONTPELIER — Amtrak has suspended service of the Vermonter north of New Haven, Conn., as of March 26, because of COVID-19 concerns.
Gov. Phil Scott said the decision to suspend service was made in conjunction with Amtrak, since Vermont taxpayers subsidize the Amtrak’s two daily trains to the Green Mountain State.
The Vermonter, which normally runs between St. Albans to Washington, D.C., with stops in Bellows Falls and Brattleboro, will also not be run on Sundays between New Haven and Washington until further notice.
Amtrak also suspended service on its Ethan Allen Express, the train that runs between Rutland and New York City. The train will only go as far as Albany, N.Y.
Other rail options for Windham County residents have been reduced. Last week, Amtrak and the Connecticut Department of Transportation put CTrail and Amtrak Hartford Line trains, as well as Valley Flyer service between Springfield and Greenfield, Mass., on a Saturday timetable seven days a week.
Friday, March 27
Scott dismisses schools for in-person instruction for remainder of 2019-20 school year
MONTPELIER — Gov. Phil Scott has directed schools to remain dismissed through the end of the 2019-20 school year. Districts will close schools for in-person instruction and be required to implement continuity of learning plans for remote learning.
This extends Scott’s previous directive dismissing PreK-12 schools from March 18 to April 6.
According to a March 26 news release, this decision was made in consultation with the Vermont Department of Health and the Agency of Education in the continued effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. To minimize disruption to students’ learning, the Governor’s order directs school districts to come up with plans for distance learning by April 13.
Scott said the Agency of Education will shortly provide technical guidance to districts on how to implement continuity of learning plans, specifically looking to address challenges around equitable access to learning opportunities, Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) for students with disabilities, continuation of school meals, and school attendance and school calendar requirements.
The Department for Children and Families will also provide updated reimbursement provisions for providers who are not currently offering services and for providers who are delivering child care through this health crisis.
The full directive can be found here: governor.vermont.gov/content/directive-5-continuity-learning-planning-pursuant-eo-01-20.
Health Department launches VTHelplink referral resource
BURLINGTON — The Vermont Department of Health has launched VTHelplink, a new, single source clearinghouse for Vermonters to receive free, confidential and personalized information and referrals to substance use prevention, treatment and recovery services throughout the state.
“The global pandemic has not erased the continued urgent need for substance use-related services for Vermonters,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine in a news release. “In fact, the extraordinary steps required to stop the spread of COVID-19 creates new challenges for people living with substance use disorder to get the services they need.”
VTHelplink features a call center of trained staff and clinicians. Callers can get information, referrals, resources and educational materials on substance use for themselves, family and friends, or on behalf of clients.
USDA Rural Development launches COVID-19 resource webpage
WASHINGTON — USDA Rural Development has launched a COVID-19 resource page to keep its customers, partners, and stakeholders continuously updated on actions taken by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help rural residents, businesses, and communities affected by the COVID-19 outbreak.
Visit www.rd.usda.gov/coronavirus for information on Rural Development loan payment assistance, application deadline extensions, and more.
Thursday, March 26
Brattleboro town offices settle into off-site operations
BRATTLEBORO — After the first day of compliance with Gov. Phil Scott’s “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order, Town Manager Peter Elwell wrote in his daily COVID-19 response briefing on Thursday that while many town employees “are not in our usual places interacting with the public in the usual manner, we are here for you during these extraordinary times.”
Elwell wrote that the town “made arrangements for many administrative employees to conduct most or all of their usual activities from their homes. Some will continue to come to the office occasionally to complete tasks that can only be completed there. Importantly, all email communications and most telephone communications are functioning exactly as they do during normal office operations.”
Also, Elwell wrote that field crews “will be performing limited ongoing field work to ensure that health and safety concerns are promptly addressed, and all field employees will be on call every day for addressing urgent maintenance issues (like a water main break, a snowstorm, etc.). If there is anything you need from your town government, please contact us.”
Here is the contact information for each department that is listed below under “Non-Emergency and Administrative Support Services.”
Here are the details:
• Emergency services are still being provided by the Police and Fire Departments, but both departments have instituted policies that adjust their normal procedures to reflect COVID-19 best practices advice from public health experts.
• On-site Administrative Support Services at the Police and Fire Departments have been reduced. Most employees are working from home to the extent that they are able. Direct contact phone numbers and email addresses remain operational. For general Police Department information, call 802-257-7946 or email email@example.com. For general Fire Department information, call 802-254-4831.
• Town water and sewer facilities are being operated. Staffing and some procedures have been adjusted to reflect COVID-19 best practices advice from public health experts, but the public should notice no change in water or sewer service.
• All town facilities remain closed to the public until further notice.
• Employees in the Town Clerk’s and Town Manager’s offices are all working from home. Direct contact phone numbers and email addresses remain operational. For general information, call 802-251-8151 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. For general information from the Town Clerk’s Office, call 802-251-8157 or email email@example.com. Services requiring on-site visits to the Town Clerk’s Office are suspended until further notice.
• At the Public Works Department, all administrative employees are working from home. All operations employees are “on call” to perform urgent maintenance services, as needed. Direct contact phone numbers and email addresses remain operational. For general information, call 802-254-4255.
• At Brooks Memorial Library, all employees are working from home to the extent that they are able. Direct contact phone numbers and email addresses remain operational. For general information, call 802-254-5290, Ext. 0 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Curbside take-out services are suspended until further notice.
• Recreation+Parks Department employees are working from home to the extent that they are able. Parks employees are “on call” to perform urgent maintenance services, as needed. Direct contact phone numbers and email addresses remain operational. For general information, call 802-254-5808 or email email@example.com.
• Planning Services Department employees are working from home to the extent that they are able. Direct contact phone numbers and email addresses remain operational. For general information, call 802-251-8154 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Assessor’s Office employees are working from home to the extent that they are able. Direct contact phone numbers and email addresses remain operational. For general information, call 802-251-8156. The deadline for businesses to submit personal property tax data to the has been postponed from April 20 to July 20, consistent with the annual income tax filing deadline being postponed by both the IRS and the State of Vermont from April 15 to July 15.
• Finance Department employees (including the Treasurer’s Office) are working from home to the extent that they are able. Direct contact phone numbers and email addresses remain operational. For general information, call 802-251-8152 (Finance) or 802-251-8153 (Treasurer’s Office).
• The Human Resources Director is working from home. Her direct contact phone number (802-251-8135) and email address (email@example.com) remain operational.
• Burn Permits are still required for any open air fires. To apply for a Burn Permit, visit the Fire Department’s website at www.brattleborofd.org.
White River Junction VA Healthcare System announces new coronavirus safety measures
WHITE RIVER JUNCTION — The White River Junction VA Healthcare System has announced they have transitioned all face-to-face visits to VA Video Connect or telephone visits at their Community Based Outpatient Clinics in Keene, N.H. and Brattleboro until further notice.
The White River Junction VA Healthcare System asks that patients use telehealth options for medical and behavioral visits that are not emergent.
Available telehealth options include appointments by phone or using VA Video Connect via computer, smartphone, or tablet. To learn more about VA Video Connect, visit mobile.va.gov/app/va-video-connect.
Veterans may also send online, secure messages for non-urgent questions to their VA health care team using My HealtheVet, VA’s online patient portal. More information is available at myhealth.va.gov. To set up telephone or video appointments, Veterans can call 802-295-9363, ext. 6364, or send their provider a secure message on My HealtheVet.
Veterans experiencing an emergency should immediately dial 911 or go to the closest emergency room. Individuals experiencing an urgent mental health issue may also call The Veterans Crisis Line, 24/7, at 800-273-8255, press 1, or text 838255. Confidential chat is available at VeteransCrisisLine.net.
Veterans can use Annie’s Coronavirus Precautions protocol to send automated text messages with information about COVID-19. This application helps Veterans monitor for symptoms and can assist if they need to contact their VA facility for care. Enroll at mobile.va.gov/annie.
Veterans who need non-urgent prescription refills should call the pharmacy call center at 866-400-1241 or 802-295-9363, ext. 6364. Veterans can also request prescription refills be shipped to their homes using My HealtheVet or the Rx Refill mobile app available for download at mobile.va.gov/app/rx-refill.
Wednesday, March 25
Scott issues ‘Stay Home, Stay Safe’ order; directs additional closures
MONTPELIER — Gov. Phil Scott has issued a “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order and directed the closure of in-person operations for all non-essential businesses.
The Stay Home, Stay Safe order starts on today at 5 p.m., and will be in effect until April 15, although it may be extended or shortened as needed.
Scott’s order directs Vermonters to stay at home, leaving only for essential reasons, critical to health and safety, such as grocery shopping, seeking medical care, or exercising outside. If leaving the home, Vermonters should adhere to social distancing policies, including remaining 6 feet from others (except for those with whom they share a home), regularly washing their hands, and avoiding touching their faces.
All businesses and nonprofits not expressly exempted in the order must suspend all in-person business operations. Operations that can be conducted online or by phone, or sales that can be facilitated with curbside pickup or delivery only, may continue. The order contains exemptions for businesses and entities that provide services or functions deemed critical to public health and safety, along with economic and national security.
This includes — but is not limited to — health care operations; retail that serves essential human needs, such as grocery stores, pharmacies and hardware stores; fuel products and supply; maintenance of critical infrastructure; news media; financial institutions; and transportation and critical manufacturing sectors. Travel to and from these exempt businesses and entities is permitted. For a full list, go to governor.vermont.gov/content/addendum-6-executive-order-01-20.
Leaving the home for exercise and outdoor activity is allowed, provided that people are adhering to appropriate social distancing.
According to a news release from the Department of Public Safety (DPS), if police officers observe or are made aware of people operating in violation the order, law enforcement “is encouraged to speak with the proprietor, staff, or group, provide a reminder of the new requirements, and assess voluntary compliance. Civil or regulatory mechanisms, specifically informing and educating those encountered in violation of the order about the mechanisms that may apply, could prove helpful. Again, officials expect the vast majority of compliance to be self-regulating.”
DPS said the executive order “does not close roads, nor does it establish roadblocks, checkpoints or the authority to demand identification. Motor-vehicle and pedestrian traffic will continue as Vermonters engage in permissible activities outdoors and travel to and from businesses and entities that are continuing to operate under the order. Accordingly, the order does not establish cause to initiate a motor vehicle stop or detain people for questioning about their travel.”
Elwell: Brattleboro’s non-emergency services and administrative support functions have been suspended
BRATTLEBORO — In the town’s daily COVID-19 response briefing on Wednesday, Town Manager Peter Elwell said that most of town government’s non-emergency services and administrative support functions have been suspended in compliance with the “Stay Home — Stay Safe” order issued by Gov. Phil Scott.
Other information in the daily briefing:
• Dispatch is screening for COVID-19 on all calls.
• All emergency services are conducting “doorway assessments” for COVID-19 before entering into buildings.
• Inter-agency protocols for handling potential COVID-19 patients are in place, including details such as how this type of response will differ from normal emergency response protocols, what special protective equipment will be used, how affected equipment will be cleaned after the call, etc.
• Police officers are responding to medical calls only when there is an in-progress safety concern (e.g. a situation in which someone is threatening to hurt themselves or other people).
• Both BPD and BFD have implemented best practices for more rigorous than normal cleaning of facilities and equipment, for the use of personal protective equipment, and for decontamination (when needed) after calls.
• Both BPD and BFD have plans in place for how additional special procedures will be implemented if our area experiences increased impacts from COVID-19. Contingency plans include coordination with other emergency service providers in our region for mutual aid coverage of essential services, as needed.
NON-EMERGENCY AND ADMINISTRATIVE SUPPORT SERVICES
• The Water Treatment Plant and Wastewater Treatment Facilities have implemented special procedures in close coordination with the Vermont Department of Health and other authorities.
• Water and Sewer crews will not enter private buildings until further notice. People who experience service problems should call the Department of Public Works, as usual. A DPW crew will address the situation on the outside of the building. If that does not resolve the issue, then the owner/customer will need to hire a private plumber to address the issue on the interior of the building.
• Until further notice, the town will not shut-off water service to any customer as a result of that customer becoming delinquent on payment of water and sewer fees.
• Parking Enforcement is discontinued until further notice.
• Until further notice, the Town Clerk’s Office will waive late fees for any dog licensed after April 1.
• The Planning Services Department is accepting zoning permit and development applications by mail or email. Any application that can be administratively issued will be processed. Any application requiring a hearing will be delayed until such time as public meetings resume.
• Fire Safety and Rental Housing inspections are canceled until further notice.
• The Police Department is not performing Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) verifications until further notice.
• All Recreation & Parks facilities are closed, including the equipment (benches and playground equipment) at town parks.
• Brooks Memorial Library has suspended the circulation of materials as of March 25, and has closed all book drops to protect the health of both customers and library staff. Hold onto borrowed materials until further notice. Due dates will be extended (even if you receive an overdue reminder) and cards will not be blocked for overdue materials. Go to www.brookslibraryvt.org for information on obtaining a library card and reserving materials. Library cards that are due to expire can be renewed on a month-by-month basis until the library reopens. Fees for renewing non-resident cards are suspended until further notice.
• Businesses who are repaying loans to the town’s Small Business Assistance Program can defer (without penalty or additional interest) their monthly payments until further notice.
• Due to the closure of town facilities, individual pay-as-you-throw bags will not be sold at the Treasurer’s Office and the Gibson-Aiken Center until further notice. Packages of five pay-as-you-throw bags are still available at retail outlets.
• Town officials are coordinating with a variety of community organizations regarding emerging community needs that extend beyond the scope of our normal town government services.
• All reservations for use of town facilities by non-town organizations are cancelled until further notice.
• Due to the Governor’s order prohibiting large gatherings, the Representative Town Meeting (RTM) scheduled for March 21 was canceled. It will be re-warned when it becomes legal and prudent to do so.
• All other town board, committee, and commission meetings are cancelled until further notice.
• The town is reviewing options for allowing remote connection by phone and/or internet for public meeting participants and the public in a manner that will comply with the state of Vermont’s Open Meetings Law and the state is considering emergency action to amend the physical location requirements of the Open Meetings Law to facilitate the holding of public meetings by electronic means.
Tuesday, March 24
Brattleboro Retreat changes outpatient programs
BRATTLEBORO — While Brattleboro Retreat outpatient services including the Anna Marsh Clinic, Starting Now’s one-on-one counseling service, the Mind Body Pain Management Program, and the HUB program remain open, these programs are instituting various safety measures in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.
According to a news release, these measures include screening clients for risk of infection, establishing social distancing protocols, and using tele-health services as much as possible.
As of March 20, the Retreat temporarily closed all in-person outpatient group programs at the Brattleboro Retreat, including the Birches Treatment Center, the Uniformed Service Program, and associated outpatient therapy groups.
Clinical staff from the Retreat’s outpatient programs will continue to support individual clients in various ways as needed. This will include minimum weekly check-ins via Zoom or telephone and arrangements to ensure patients on daily medication schedules will not run out their prescriptions.
Retreat officials say the duration of these changes will be re-evaluated regularly as part of the hospital’s overall response to the COVID-19 situation.
AG’s Office publishes workplace guidance on COVID-19-related concerns
MONTPELIER — Attorney General T.J. Donovan today announced that his office has published the COVID-19 Pandemic Resources for Vermont Employers and Employees.
The guidance, which follows a “Frequently Asked Questions” (FAQs) format, addresses a variety of issues—such as pay obligations during an Emergency Order or harassment of workers relating to COVID-19 fears.
It was written by the Attorney General’s Office’s (AGO’s) Civil Rights Unit, with input from the Human Rights Commission. It includes links to additional information from sources such as the Vermont Department of Health, Centers for Disease Control, and the Vermont and U.S. Departments of Labor.
The guidance is available on the “COVID-19 Information and Resources” page of the AGO’s website at ago.vermont.gov/covid-19-updates-and-information-from-the-attorney-general.
Area schools providing free lunch to all children
BRATTLEBORO — School nutrition programs in Windham and Windsor counties responded quickly to the state-mandated closure of all schools.
According to the nonprofit Food Connects, districts in both counties have created an alternate delivery model for school meals, utilizing a combination of school- and community-based distribution sites and bus delivery routes.
The following districts are providing free breakfast and lunch to all children ages 18 or under in their community, regardless of enrollment or free and reduced meals status: Windham Southeast Supervisory Union, Windham Southwest Supervisory Union, West River Education District, Windham Northeast Supervisory Union, and the Springfield School District.
No paperwork or identification is necessary and children do not need to be present to receive their meals. Districts request that participating families provide the number of children to ensure enough meals are prepared.
Families are encouraged to reach out directly to their schools for additional information or questions regarding meal distribution.
The Hunger Council of the Windham Region is coordinating a community response to the COVID-19 outbreak in partnership with the Vermont Foodbank and area food shelves. The Hunger Council encourages community members interested in volunteering and organizations with developing needs to utilize United Way’s Get Connected platform at unitedwaywindham.galaxydigital.com.
Those looking for additional information or resources should call 2-1-1. For more information on the work the Windham County Hunger Council is doing, contact Margaret Atkinson at firstname.lastname@example.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 email@example.com and they will be put to immediate use.
Brattleboro Memorial Hospital is accepting masks until 4 p.m. each day, beginning today. They can be left at 55 Belmont Ave. (the first house on the right — white with green shutters). There will be a box/bin on the front porch where you can drop your donation off.
BMH does request, however, that you do not leave masks if you are suspected of having coronavirus, or been in contact with anyone who may have been exposed within the past 14 days. For more details, go to www.bmhvt.org/coronavirus.
Monday, March 23
Scott orders businesses, nonprofits to implement work-from-home procedures
MONTPELIER — In consultation with the Department of Health, Gov. Phil Scott has directed all businesses and not-for-profit entities — to the maximum extent possible — to put into place telecommuting or work-from-home procedures, no later than 8 p.m. on March 23.
This order follows further reductions to the allowable size of non-essential mass gatherings to no more than 10 people and the closure of all close-contact businesses, both announced Saturday, March 21.
At this time, any entities not required to close under a previous order, or unable to implement work-from-home procedures, must implement — and publicly post — CDC and the Vermont Department of Health guidance related to COVID-19.
This includes maintaining a distance of 6 feet between people, insuring employees practice appropriate hygiene measures, including regular, thorough handwashing, insuring that employees who are sick remain home; and regularly cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched objects and surfaces.
Small businesses get extension for paying rooms and meals taxes to state
MONTPELIER - Gov. Phil School has directed the Commissioner of Taxes to exercise his authority to provide relief to Vermont businesses who owe Meals and Rooms Tax or Sales and Use Tax until further notice.
Many local businesses find themselves unable to meet the March 25 and April 25 filing deadlines due to the implementation of mitigation steps to slow the spread of COVID-19. Taxpayers who are unable to meet the deadlines will not be charged any penalty or interest on these taxes for late submissions.
Vermonters are als0 advised as well that income tax filing due dates for the following taxes have been extended from April 15 to July 15: Vermont personal income tax, Vermont Homestead Declaration and Property Tax Claims, corporate income tax, and fiduciary income tax.
This means taxpayers can file and pay these taxes on or before July 15, without any penalty or interest. This includes any tax year 2020 estimated payments that were due for these taxes on April 15.
Although the filing deadline has moved, Vermonters can file their returns and claims any time before July 15. Anyone expecting a refund is encouraged to do so. For the most up-to-date guidance, visit www.tax.vermont.gov.
Dept. of Public Service issues Wi-Fi Hot Spot Map to help Vermonters access internet
MONTPELIER —The Vermont Department of Public Service (DPS) has released an interactive Public Wi-Fi Hot Spot Map to help Vermonters connect to publicly available internet service during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The map includes the location of the Wi-Fi hot spots and pertinent information about how to access them, including places where users can access Wi-Fi from outside the building or in a parked vehicle to encourage social distancing.
DPS received assistance from libraries, schools and municipal governments in creating the map, as well as support from the Agency of Digital Services, the Department of Libraries, the Agency of Commerce & Community Development, the Agency of Education, the Vermont Center for Geographic Information and the Department of Health.
The map, which will be updated as new information becomes available, can be found at publicservice.vermont.gov/announcements/public-wifi-hotspots-vermont. Additional connectivity resources can be found at publicservice.vermont.gov/content/new-connectivity-resources-support-you-during-covid-19-state-emergency-vermont.
Vermonters are encouraged to send information about Wi-Fi hot spots to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Economic Injury Disaster Loans available to Vermont small businesses affected by COVID-19
MONTPELIER — Vermont small business owners suffering economic injury due the COVID-19 pandemic can apply for Small Business Administration (SBA) disaster loans, following a statewide disaster declaration.
SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) offer up to $2 million in assistance per business, providing economic support to overcome temporary loss of revenue.
EIDLs may be used to pay fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable and other bills that can’t be paid because of the disaster’s impact. The interest rate is 3.75 percent for small businesses and 2.75 percent for private nonprofit organizations, which are also eligible for EIDLs.
For small businesses, small agricultural cooperatives, small businesses engaged in aquaculture and most private nonprofit organizations, the SBA offers EIDLs to help meet working capital needs caused by the disaster. EIDL assistance is available regardless of whether the business suffered any physical property damage.
SBA offers loans with long-term repayments in order to keep payments affordable, up to a maximum of 30 years. Terms are determined on a case-by-case basis, based upon each borrower’s ability to repay. Small businesses with credit available elsewhere may not be eligible.
To apply online, visit disasterloan.sba.gov/ela. Documents that may be requested when applying include recent federal tax return, profit-and-loss statement and balance sheet.
For more information, call the SBA disaster assistance customer service center at 800-659-2955 (TTY: 800-877-8339) or e-mail email@example.com.
Sunday, March 22
Groundworks continues shelter assistance
BRATTLEBORO — Rhianna Kendrick of Groundworks Collaborative has offered this information regarding emergency housing proceedures during the COVID-19 pandemic:
• Economic Services (ESD) has extended the Adverse Weather Condition motel rooms for seven days starting March 22, and will assess this next week again.
• There are no longer any periods of ineligibility.
• They are no longer referring clients to emergency shelter first before placing them in a motel through General Assistance (GA). ESD staff are working on issues around GA motel capacity.
• The state is actively working on strategies to consider where current GA clients are housed.
• Shelters and transitional housing programs that do not have separate bedrooms and bathrooms for clients are recommended to stop accepting new clients into shelter, and instead to refer them to GA for a motel voucher. Groundworks is following this recommendation. If you run into any issues, let Kendrick know and she can troubleshoot solutions.
• It has been recommended that DV agencies with their own motel funds also follow the above recommendation.
• The process to access a motel room is to call the benefits center at 800-479-6151, and then the local office will call people back. If you run into issues with access, let Kendrick know and she can help solve them, either with ESD or 2-1-1. After 4:30 p.m., it is no longer the local office supporting GA motel rooms, and folks will instead need to call 2-1-1.
For more information, contact Kendrick at rkendrick@groundworksVT.org or 802-275-7179.
Windham Southeast begins student meal distribution
BRATTLEBORO — To ensure that the nutritional needs of all students are met during this extended school closure, the Windham Southeast School District is developing a system for distributing breakfast and lunch on a daily basis. This program will run for the duration of the school closure.
Meals should be picked up Monday through Friday at your town’s distribution spot Food distribution will occur after 10:30 a.m., using current bus routes as well as specific distribution locations. Meals will include lunch and breakfast for the following day.
For more information, contact Ali West at 802-257-3322 or Justin McArdle at 802-451-3558. Brattleboro families can email firstname.lastname@example.org; Dummerston families, email@example.com; Guilford families, firstname.lastname@example.org; and Vernon families, email@example.com.
Foodworks puts out call for food donations
BRATTLEBORO — Foodworks Foodshelf said Friday that it is seeing an increased need for food donations as grocery shelves are becoming increasingly bare.
Donations of food to Foodworks will be accepted weekdays between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. at the Groundworks Drop-In Center at 60 South Main St.
There is a particular need for ready-to-eat meals, pasta and sauces, peanut butter, dry milk, soups and canned protein such as tuna, beans, and meat (zip-top cans preferred), crackers, rice and instant potatoes, juices, and cereal.
Call 802-490-2412 for more information.
Local mutual aid groups form
BRATTLEBORO — Localized mutual aid has been organized in Brattleboro and Putney and hyper local neighborhoods in Marlboro. If your community does not have mutual aid or you can’t find it, one may sign up to volunteer to ask for help if needed.
Whether you can help pick up or make food, donate food or supplies, offer rides, childcare or more, organize volunteers, make calls to find volunteers or anything else, there are many ways that everyone can help during this crisis.
Sign up at www.brendaforvermont.com/cms/help-your-neighbor.
Saturday, March 21
Scott announces new COVID-19 mitigation measures; closes down ‘close contact’ businesses
MONTPELIER — Governor Phil Scott today announced additional community mitigation measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
While most individuals affected by coronavirus will experience mild to moderate symptoms, others — especially the elderly and those with chronic medical conditions — are at higher risk of getting very sick from this illness.
In a news release, Scott and public health officials have set a strategy aimed at protecting those at greatest risk, slowing the spread of illness in our communities and minimizing the risk to the public.
In consultation with the Department of Health, Scott said he determined it is necessary to prohibit in-person operations at close-contact businesses, meaning those unable to comply with guidelines for social distancing.
He has directed gymnasiums, fitness centers and similar exercise facilities, hair salons and barbers, nail salons, spas and tattoo parlors to close all in-person operations no later than 8 p.m. on Monday, March 23.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-257-4011.
Thursday, March 19
Vermont temporarily suspends service at Interstate Information Centers
MONTPELIER — The Vermont Department of Buildings and General Services has announced that operations at all of its Travel Information Centers on I-89 and I-91 were suspended at the close of business on March 19.
Parking areas will remain open and porta-potties and Dumpsters will remain available at all information centers and rest areas.
Wednesday, March 18
Brattleboro Representative Town Meeting canceled for now
BRATTLEBORO — Due to the COVID-19 health concerns, and the guidance from Governor Scott to limit gatherings to 50 people, the Brattleboro Selectboard decided at the March 17 Selectboard meeting to cancel the March 21 Representative Town Meeting.
According to Town Manager Peter Elwell, the meeting will be re-warned when it becomes legal and prudent to do so. The current plan is to re-warn RTM on April 7 and to hold RTM on May 9. The public will be informed when a new date is set.
PUC tells utilities to halt disconnection of service orders
MONTPELIER — The Vermont Public Utility Commission (PUC) has directed the state’s regulated utilities to stop any disconnection of residential utility service due to nonpayment of electricity, natural gas, and telecommunications bills.
This moratorium on involuntary utility disconnections will last until at least April 30. The PUC said in a March 18 news release that it issued the order “to ensure that all Vermonters are protected from utility disconnections during the [current] state of emergency.
The PUC noted that many regulated utilities (including Green Mountain Power, Vermont Gas Systems, Burlington Electric Department, the Vermont Electric Cooperative, and others) had already informed the Commission and the Vermont Department of Public Service (DPS) that they are temporarily ceasing disconnections at this time. Other companies have followed suit, such as Comcast and AT&T.
Secretary of State announces COVID-19 emergency measures for healthcare workers, pharmacies
MONTPELIER — Vermont Secretary of State Jim Condos has announced measures taken by the Office of Professional Regulation (OPR) to address healthcare workforce shortages during the COVID-19 pandemic, and to provide emergency guidance to pharmacies.
The Office of Professional Regulation is a division of the Secretary of State’s office.
To address a potential shortage of healthcare workers in Vermont, following the Governor’s issuance of a declared State of Emergency, OPR is issuing temporary licenses to healthcare workers and pharmacies.
The Vermont Secretary of State’s Office of Professional Regulation has the authority to issue temporary licenses in a declared state of emergency under 3 V.S.A. §129(a)(10).
Scott orders childcare centers to close regular operations; provide care for ‘essential’ persons
MONTPELIER — Governor Phil Scott has directed childcare centers across the state to close normal operations, but encouraged continued operation exclusively where needed to provide childcare services for workers who are essential to Vermont’s ongoing effort in community mitigation of COVID-19.
To support those most critical to Vermont’s ongoing COVID-19 response, Scott has ordered schools to provide childcare for “essential persons” working in response to the crisis. District by district information will be available as those local plans are finalized.
The full directive can be seen at governor.vermont.gov/content/directive-2-childcare-essential-service-providers-pursuant-eo-01-20.
Temporary free parking ordered in Brattleboro
BRATTLEBORO — As a precautionary measure, the town of Brattleboro will immediately suspend the collection of all parking fees and cease issuing parking fines until further notice. All meters and parking kiosks will message “Free Parking.” No further permits will be sold until paid parking is resumed.
All previously-issued citations must be paid by mail or online at www.brattleboro.org. The Parking Enforcement Office at 77 Flat St. is also closed until further notice.
This measure is intended to be temporary and will be reviewed as COVID-19 conditions change. Once a decision to reinstate parking fines and fees is made, the public will be notified well in advance of the renewed enforcement activities.
All other parking restrictions will remain in effect during this period. For example, while meters and kiosks will not require payment, parking in front of a fire hydrant or in a crosswalk will not be permitted.
Parking in the Reserved Section of the Brattleboro Transportation Center will still be limited to holders of BTC Reserve Permits only, and Brattleboro Police Department will continue to patrol the streets and parking lots of Brattleboro and will address such infractions. Direct questions or concerns to Assistant Town Manager Patrick Moreland at 802-251-8101.
Tuesday, March 17
Foodworks to start deliveries to clients
BRATTLEBORO — Groundworks Collaborative announced Sunday that its Foodworks food shelf will be moving to a delivery model beginning March 16.
Households needing food will need to call 802-490-2412 or email email@example.com to arrange delivery. Groundworks is actively preparing a list of volunteers willing to make deliveries. Interested volunteers may email volunteer@GroundworksVT.org if you are able to help.
Foodworks is experiencing an increased need for food donations as grocery shelves are becoming increasingly bare. Donations of food dropped-off to Foodworks will be gratefully accepted. The agency asks that anyone interested in dropping off a food donation contact Foodworks in advance to arrange a time.
The Windham Region Hunger Action Council has been coordinating plans around food access. School and town officials, as well as food access agencies, are meeting in preparation to implement these plans.
In the meantime, the Hunger Action Council offered these updates on local food site availability:
• Agape Church on Canal Street in Brattleboro has canceled its Sunday meals until further notice. The church is having an ongoing discussion as to creating pre-packaged boxes of food, but says it is worried about having enough volunteers.
• Brigid’s Kitchen on Walnut Street in Brattleboro started take-out meals on Monday, March 16 and will try to supply as much additional food for those who can cook at home or those who need to self-quarantine. They will continue to offer hot meals and fruit/nuts on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.
• Townshend Community Food Shelf plans to have normal operations.
• Guilford Cares Food Pantry will be open on Thursdays, as usual, from 5 to 6 p.m.
• Deerfield Valley Food Pantry plans food distribution on Thursday, March 19, from 1 to 3 p.m., and Saturday, March 21, from 9 to 11 a.m. Delivery will be made directly to vehicles. For more information, call the Food Pantry and leave a message at 802-464-0148. Food donations may be dropped at Shaw’s supermarket, the West Dover and Jacksonville post offices, and at People’s United Bank.
• Putney Foodshelf will maintain its usual hours, 9 to 10 a.m. on Saturdays, but food delivery will be made directly to vehicles. Volunteers will greet each car, determine what is needed, and prepare a bag for each household.
• Chester-Andover Family Center has closed its thrift shop, but its food shelf remains open. Until further notice, recipients may pick up a pre-packed box of food in our parking lot, during regular food shelf hours; Thursdays from 1 to 5 p.m. and Fridays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. They are asking recipients to come to the door and read the posted instructions regarding how to retrieve their food box.
For additional queries about food shelves around Vermont, call 2-1-1 or visit vermont211.org.
Sheriff’s Dept. adopts new policies in wake of COVID-19
NEWFANE -- In response to the COVID-19 coronavirus epidemic, Windham County Sheriff Mark Anderson said his department is taking a variety of steps to ensure necessary public safety services it provides continue, while taking steps and precautions necessary to minimize the spread of the virus.
“First, we are encouraging elderly, shut-ins, self-quarantined, injured, or ill community members to subscribe to the ‘Are You Okay?” program which provides a regular, scheduled call to check their welfare,” Anderson wrote in a news release. “This free program allows us to continue our community care taking role from a distance and can dispatch emergency services to a subscriber when necessary.”
Anderson said deputies will continue to physically respond to emergencies where life, limb, or property are in jeopardy, but will also handle non-emergency calls via electronic communication when possible.
“To minimize exposure to surfaces, we may request people meet us outside of their homes or businesses,” he wrote. “Deputies may be wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) such as gloves or masks as a precaution.”
Additionally, the lobby is now closed, so people coming to the Newfane office should use the call box by the door.
The Root announces programming changes
BRATTLEBORO — In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, The Root Social Justice Center on Williams Street has decided to take the following actions:
• All in-person Root programs will be suspended and moved onto an on-line and call-in platform, Zoom, at their regularly scheduled times. Program coordinators will be contacting program participants with detailed information.
• No new events are being scheduled at the Root. Additional cleaning and disinfecting protocols are being put into place; and a week of cleaning and disinfection of the space is planned before they reopen.
• While their website is down for revisions, they will be making concerted efforts to communicate through our Facebook page and program groups. Contact The Root at 802-451-0509 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Humane society open by appointment only
BRATTLEBORO — Due to coronavirus, the Windham County Humane Society is now open to the public by appointment only.
To make an appointment to get a rabies vaccine for your pet (waiving income requirements), make a Pet Care Assistance appointment with our vet or get pet food (income requirements in place, apply online), meet their adoptable animals, surrender an animal, or bring in a stray animal, call 802-254-2232 or email email@example.com.
Brattleboro Area Hospice, Experienced Goods closed to public
BRATTLEBORO — Brattleboro Area Hospice’s office, at 191 Canal St., is closed to the public until further notice as a safeguard for all visitors, clients and volunteers.
This closure includes their Medical Supply Loan Closet. Staff are continuing to work at the office.
If one is in need of end-of-life or bereavement support, or need help completing an Advance Directive, contact their care coordinators at 802-257-0775 to discuss the support services they can offer during this temporary closure.
Experienced Goods on Flat Street will be closed until further notice.
Monday, March 16
Windham Southeast schools closed until April 6
BRATTLEBORO — Schools in the Windham Southeast School District — Brattleboro Union High School, Brattleboro Area Middle School, Academy School, Green Street School, Oak Grove School, Vernon Elementary School, Guilford Central School, Putney Central School and Dummerston School — were all closed as of March 16.
School officials say they will remain closed until at least April 6.
All open gym and spring sports are on hold, and school staff are working with the Vermont Principals’ Association and other schools to determine what the spring sports season could look like.
Windham Northeast schools closed
BELLOWS FALLS — Schools in the Windham Northeast Supervisory Union — Bellows Falls Union High School, Bellows Falls Middle School, Central Elementary in Bellows Falls, Westminster Elementary School, Grafton Elementary School, and Saxtons River Elementary School — were closed as of March 16.
The schools will remain closed until further notice, according the the WNESU website.
Closures at Brattleboro Retreat
BRATTLEBORO — In accordance with Governor Phil Scott’s latest Executive Order in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, and to maintain the safety of Brattleboro Retreat students, patients, and staff, the Meadows Educational Center, the BRIDGES program, and the Mulberry Bush Independent School at the Brattleboro Retreat were closed as of March 16.
Also, the Retreat’s Office of Continuing Education has cancelled the entire spring 2020 continuing education conference series. This decision affects their conference venues in both Brattleboro and Agawam, Mass.
Individuals who have already registered for any of our Spring 2020 conferences will have the option to receive a credit toward a future Brattleboro Retreat continuing education conference or a full refund.
Windham & Windsor Housing Trust curtails operations
BRATTLEBORO — Windham and Windsor Housing Trust says it is taking the following proactive measures to do its part to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
• Beginning March 16, their office will be closed to the public and all communications with residents, homeowners, applicants, and the general public will be conducted via phone and email. There will be limited staff in the main office in order to maintain the social distancing recommended by health officials.
• Residents will still be able to drop off their rent via the locked drop box at the main office on Birge Streeet Brattleboro or pay their rent via the U.S. Postal Service. More detailed information about how WWHT will respond to maintenance requests and other resident concerns will be sent to residents via USPS.
• All group classes and activities will be suspended until further notice. This includes activities at their SASH site and Great River Terrace as well as in-person Homebuyer Education classes. Registrants for homebuyer education classes will be encouraged to sign up for the online education option.
Although the office will be closed, the staff says it will continue to support the WWHT community and programs. As the situation evolves, they will post updates on their website, homemattershere.com, they Facebook page, and via email. 24/7 emergency maintenance service is always available to our tenants through the emergency maintenance line at 800-942-3599.
BCTV closes offices to public
BRATTLEBORO — Brattleboro Community Television (BCTV) has made the decision to close its facilities and restrict activities in order to reduce the spread of COVID-19. The closure will take effect as of 10 a.m. on Tuesday, March 17, and will be re-evaluated on Monday, March 30.
During this period, the office, edit suites, and studio will be closed to members and the public. Staff will continue to cover municipal meetings for viewing on cable and online and will accept videos submitted remotely. For more information, or if you have a video or PSA to submit, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sunday, March 15
Gov. Scott orders orderly closure of Vermont schools this week; Windham Southeast schools will be closed Monday
MONTPELIER — In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Phil Scott announced Sunday a Continuity of Education Plan for the orderly dismissal of all schools, and cancellation of all school related activities, no later than March 18.
According to a news release, Scott’s directive “will task local districts with three key components to support the state response — food and special needs services for children; collaborating with the state to provide childcare options for healthcare workers and others essential to the response; and systems for ensuring maintenance of education during the initial dismissal; and a continuing education plan if schools are dismissed for an extended period.”
Further, the directive states that “no student is required to be in school Monday or Tuesday, if their parents or guardians would prefer to keep them home. Education professionals should report to work as scheduled to assist in these efforts during this period of school dismissal. Districts are directed to follow workplace hygiene guidance issued by the Vermont Department of Health.”
Saturday, March 14
Vermont State Police modifies operations in response to COVID-19
WATERBURY — The Vermont State Police, like law-enforcement agencies nationwide, is taking precautions in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to a March 14 news release, commanders have directed members of the state police to make certain modifications to their operations to protect both the workforce and the public.
Under the procedures currently in effect, Vermont State Police barracks are staffed, and members are continuing to respond to calls.
In some cases, however, the state police said it will change the way it handles those calls.
“For instance, troopers will physically respond to major case investigations such as homicide, and to calls regarding crimes in progress, motor vehicle crashes with injuries, missing persons cases and domestic assault, as a few examples,” they said. “As needed, troopers may take precautions such as social distancing, consulting with medical first responders, and using personal protective equipment.
“In other cases, such as minor motor vehicle crashes, vandalism, and thefts, the state police may take reports from the public over the phone. State police members are making these response decisions in consultation with supervisors. The Vermont State Police encourages people who are victims of these types of crimes to report them over the phone rather than by walking in at a barracks.”
Friday, March 13
State declares state of emergency, goal is to slow spread of virus
MONTPELIER — Gov. Phil Scott Scott declared a state of emergency as the state deals with the ongoing COVID-19 situation.
At a news conference at the Pavillion Building this afternoon, Scott said he issued an executive order restricting all non-essential visitors at senior and long-term care facilities. It also prohibits all large non-essential gatherings of more than 250 people. He also suspended all non-essential travel for state employees.
There are no plans as yet to close down the state’s schools, Scott said, but added that state and local officials will continue to monitor the situation and take action as needed.
Scott said the declaration also provides resources to the Department of Public Safety for contact tracing and investigative efforts when a coronavirus case is suspected.
Scott said the emergency order will be reevaluated by April 15.
“We are going to get through this together,” said Scott.
The text of the emergency order can be found here: governor.vermont.gov/sites/scott/files/documents/EO%2001-20%20Declaration%20of%20State%20of%20Emergency%20in%20Response%20to%20COVID-19%20and%20National%20Guard%20Call-Out.pdf.
Rescue Inc. takes precautions against COVID-19
BRATTLEBORO — Rescue Inc. says it “has developed policies and procedures based on guidelines established by the CDC in order to maintain our response as safe and appropriate for our patients” during the ongoing COVID-19 situation.
In a letter to The Commons, Direcor of Administration Ellen Walsh said that Rescue Inc.’s staff of EMTs and Paramedics “are following recommendations on personal protection equipment; they have been trained regarding their proper use and indications — this may include gloves, gowns, googles, masks or other respiratory equipment. Don’t be alarmed if you see our providers in full protective equipment, this is for their safety and yours.”
Walsh added that “decontamination, sterilization of all vehicles, surfaces and equipment is performed to the strictest guidelines and with approved and effective sanitizing products.”
Walsh said that Rescue Inc stations have been closed to outside visitors “to keep our station as clean and sterile as possible. We can be reached by phone at 802-257-7679 or by email at email@example.com. She also stresses that if anyone is experiencing a medical emergency, such as difficulty breathing, pain or pressure in the chest, confusion, bluish lips or face, call 911.
BMC announces closure due to coronavirus precautions
BRATTLEBORO — In the wake of concerns related to the coronavirus, the Brattleboro Music Center announced on March 13 that it is closing temporarily “in order to do its part to help reduce any health risks to the community.”
Updates will be made availble on the BMC website, at www.bmcvt.org or call the BMC at 802-257-4523.
Vermont Department of Corrections suspends in-person visitation
WATERBURY — The Vermont Department of Corrections is cancelling in-person visitations services at all six Vermont correctional facilities. Given the current concerns surrounding COVID-19, the Department said on March 13 that it “is taking all necessary precautions to limit any potential exposure to this virus.”
“Enhanced recreational opportunities will be made available to the inmate population. In addition, GTL (the video visitation provider for the Department) has agreed to offer one free video visitation per week to each inmate beginning March 14,” the department said in a news release.
VT COVID-19 Response Fund established by Vermont Community Foundation
MONTPELIER — The Vermont Community Foundation announced it has established the VT COVID-19 Response Fund to support nonprofit organizations throughout the state that are particularly equipped to address community impacts of the novel coronavirus.
Working with partners at the state and local level, the Community Foundation says it will prioritize the most immediate public health and economic impacts of the new disease, focusing on vulnerable populations and the service providers that support them. The new fund’s grantmaking strategy will be designed with partners who are on the front lines of both immediate response and long-term recovery.
Contributions to the VT COVID-19 Response Fund can be made online through vermontcf.org/vtcovid19response.
State AG’s office warns of price gouging, scams
MONTPELIER — Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan and local business leaders on March 12 called for consumers and businesses to remember their neighborliness in the face of the COVID-19 virus pandemic.
Donovan urged consumers to resist an urge to hoard and warned Vermonters to report any incidents of price gouging or COVID-19-related scams to his office. The Attorney General also released a plain language guidance for businesses on topics related to COVID-19.
In times of emergency, two common problems that can arise in the marketplace are price gouging and unnecessary hoarding. Price gouging is when the price of essential goods or services are inflated during a market crisis. Price gouging is illegal in Vermont under the Consumer Protection Act. For petroleum products, price gouging is by statute illegal when the Governor declares a market emergency.
To assist small businesses through this crisis, the Vermont Attorney General’s Consumer Assistance Program (CAP) prepared a “plain language guidance” on topics related to COVID-19. The topics range from providing sick time to employees to price gouging to continuity planning. The guidance is available at ago.vermont.gov/cap/small-business-help.
Vermonters are also advised to beware of COVID-19-related scams. For more information, visit ago.vermont.gov/cap/consumer-complaint.