Vermont reporters provide a roundup of top news takeaways about the coronavirus and more for Wednesday, Feb. 17.
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The latest coronavirus data:
1. Vermont Department of Health reports 59 new COVID-19 cases
Vermont health officials reported 59 new COVID-19 infections Wednesday.
No new virus-related fatalities were reported, so the pandemic death toll remains at 191.
All counties saw new cases in the single digits, except Chittenden County, which saw 21 new infections.
Hospitalizations rose, with 44 people now hospitalized with COVID-19, including eight people in intensive care.
As of today, just shy of 79,000 Vermonters have gotten at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, including more than 51% of Vermonters aged 75 and older.
Nearly 19,000 Vermonters aged 70 and older registered to get a COVID-19 vaccine on their first day of eligibility.
Health officials say that’s nearly 57% of the newly-eligible group that was able to register starting on Tuesday morning.
State officials started vaccinations with the 1A group, prioritizing health care providers and emergency responders.
By late January, they expanded inoculations to people 75 and older. Eligible Vermonters can sign up for a vaccination:
– Matthew Smith
Got questions about the COVID-19 vaccine in Vermont? We’ve got answers.
Regional case growth appears to be slowing
The Northeast last week saw about 90,000 new COVID-19 infections – the first time since November case growth in the region has been under 100,000.
State modeling shows infections are expected to keep going down.
Commissioner of Financial Regulation Michael Piecak says overall Vermont is seeing fewer cases – especially among older residents who’ve been vaccinated.
“As you can see, the seven-day average for new cases over 75 has decreased from about 10 cases a day on average a month ago, to about 3.29 cases on average today,” Pieciak said.
On Tuesday, the health department reported 53 new cases and one more death – bringing the total number of fatalities to 191.
– Liam Elder-Connors
Nearly 50 UVM students test positive for COVID-19
Nearly 50 University of Vermont students have tested positive for COVID-19 in the last week.
UVM’s student newspaper The Vermont Cynic reports that’s the highest number of positive tests among students to date at UVM.
The infections include 36 students living on campus, and 10 living off-campus. None of the new cases were among faculty or staff.
The paper reports UVM enters its third week of the semester with 80 positive tests, just 19 cases shy of the total number reported during the entirety of the fall semester.
– Matthew Smith
Fewer Vermonters over 75 are testing positive for COVID-19
The Scott Administration is reporting a significant decrease in the number of older Vermonters testing positive for the COVID-19 virus.
Mike Pieciak is the Commissioner of the Department of Financial Regulation.
He says the number of cases among people 75 and older has dropped from an average of roughly 70 per week to less than 25.
Pieciak said one key factor is that many people in this age category have received at least one dose of the vaccine.
“We have seen much more significant improvement in the number of individuals over 75 in Vermont who were contracting COVID-19,” Pieciak said. “Further, since we’re seeing less cases in this most vulnerable age group, we are also fortunately seeing fewer deaths week over week in Vermont.”
Individuals 70 and older are now eligible to sign up for a vaccination.
– Bob Kinzel
2. Gov. Scott to unveil new travel guidelines for people who have been vaccinated
Gov. Phil Scott says on Friday he’ll unveil new travel guidelines for people who’ve been vaccinated against COVID-19.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now says fully vaccinated individuals don’t need to quarantine if they’re exposed to the coronavirus.
Scott says the state is reviewing the CDC guidance and plans to issue new rules for vaccinated Vermonters.
“But there are still many details we’re trying to work out and we know there will be a lot of what-ifs that come as a result,” Scott said Tuesday. “So I want to be clear: this will be very narrow at first, but we hope to announce changes at Friday’s briefing that will allow more mobility for Vermonters.”
More than 78,000 people in the state have received at least one dose of the vaccine. The state on Tuesday stared allowing Vermonters 70 and older to sign up for shots.
Eligible Vermonters can sign up for a vaccination:
– Liam Elder-Connors
More from VPR: Frequently Asked Questions (And Answers) About The COVID-19 Vaccine In Vermont
3. Vermont’s weekly vaccine allotment expected to increase by about 20%
Gov. Phil Scott says the Biden Administration is once again increasing the number COVID-19 vaccines that will be available to all states, including Vermont.
Scott says he was told in a conference call with the nation’s governors Tuesday morning that the Administration is planning to increase the number of available doses next week by about 20%.
Scott said this means the state can begin to schedule additional vaccination appointments in the near future.
“If we receive 2,500 more next week, I’m sure we can add appointments,” Scott said. “You know we’re going to get through this next band in about three weeks so if we can bolster that and add more along the way we’ll do it.”
More than 37,000 Vermonters have now received both doses of the vaccine, including 50% of people aged 75 and older.
Michael Pieciak, commissioner of financial regulation, said Tuesday Vermont ranks seventh in the country on a per capita basis for administering at least one dose of the vaccine.
“We believe this will be an increasingly important metric to keep our eye on, as it both incorporates the effectiveness of the vaccination program across all of the states and also the willingness of each state’s residents to get vaccinated in the first place,” he said.
– Liam Elder-Connors and Bob Kinzel
4. Vermonter incarcerated by the state in Mississippi died suddenly Saturday
State officials say a Vermont inmate held at a private prison in Mississippi died “suddenly” on Saturday.
62-year old Cecil Vivan was one of about 180 Vermonters incarcerated at Tallahatchie County Correctional Facility in Mississippi – a private prison run by CoreCivic. He was serving a 30-years-to-life sentence for aggravated sexual assault.
Human Services Secretary Mike Smith said Tuesday there will be an administrative and medical review of Vivan’s death.
“This involves a review of events leading up to the death, a full review of medical records and an independent external review of the medical history and circumstances of the death,” Smith said.
Another Vermont inmate in Mississippi died in December. Smith says that death was due to a heart condition.
– Liam Elder-Connors
5. Leahy calls Trump’s failure to provide aid to former Vice Pres. Mike Pence during insurrection ‘damaging’
Sen. Patrick Leahy says one of the most damaging pieces of evidence at President Trump’s recent impeachment trial was the president’s decision not to provide aid to Vice President Mike Pence at a time when Pence’s life was in danger.
As a mob stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, attempting to stop the certification votes of the Electoral College, Trump criticized Pence’s failure to challenge the election results.
That is despite the fact that Pence had no legal authority to take that action.
Leahy said the evidence shows Trump did nothing as the mob chanted “hang Pence” as they entered the building.
“The president knew how his own vice president and actually members of the vice president’s family were in danger did nothing to stop it. That was damaging,” Leahy said.
Leahy says a review of security video of the insurrection showed that it was far more violent than he thought at the time.
– Bob Kinzel
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