With this regular feature, the Banner runs down breaking local and regional developments in the coronavirus pandemic.
The statistics supplied by the Vermont Department of Health at midday each day are accurate as of the end of the previous day. The information is preliminary and subject to change. No figures were reported on Thursday or Friday because of the holiday.
Six Vermonters died of COVID-19 over the past day, the health department reported Sunday. The death toll is now at 127.
Twenty-eight Vermonters are hospitalized with the disease; two of those patients are in intensive care units.
The health department reported 63 new cases of COVID-19 over the past day. The cumulative total is now 7,029.
Twelve of Vermont’s 14 counties reported at least one new case. Rutland County had 14; Bennington County had 10; Chittenden County had nine; Windham County had eight; Franklin County had seven; Windsor County had four; Caledonia County had three; Lamoille, Orange and Washington counties each had two; and Addison and Orleans counties each had one. Essex and Grand Isle counties reported no new cases.
Bennington County has reported 144 cases in the past two weeks, second only to Chittenden County among Vermont counties, and Windham County has reported 91.
Bennington County has the fourth-highest rate of COVID-19 among Vermont counties, at 126.9 cases per 10,000 residents, and Windham County is eighth, at 99.6. Chittenden County is first, at 153.4 cases per 10,000.
So far, 259,788 people have been tested. The reported seven-day average for positive tests is 2.0 percent.
The number of Vermonters reported to have recovered from COVID-19 rose to 4,667.
The health department reported that 358 people were being monitored for the disease as of Sunday. Of these, 203 are visitors to Vermont.
VERMONT NONPROFIT TO CONTINUE FOOD BOX PROGRAM
A federal food box program set to end with the year is being taken over by Vermont Foodbank, which plans to fund it through February.
Foodbank spokeswoman Nicole Whalen tells the Rutland Herald the organization has allocated $1.4 million to continue the Farmers to Families Food Box program for the first two months of 2021.
“The experience will be very much the same for customers, the people participating in the program,” she said. “The only difference they’ll see is probably higher quality food and local food.”
The program started in May as an initiative by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to address both farmers losing their markets to the coronavirus pandemic and food insecurity. The USDA purchased the food from farmers to be distributed to those in need.
The program is giving out 500 boxes of food per day at distribution sites around the state.
Whalen said community support has left the Foodbank feeling like it can manage this for January and February.
For more information about the program, visit https://humanresources.vermont.gov/food-help
VERMONT BEGINS REPORTING VACCINATION DATA
The Vermont Health Department has added a section to its COVID-19 “dashboard,” healthvermont.gov/covid19/, that shows the number of people who have been vaccinated.
As more information becomes available, the vaccination rates will be broken down by sex, age, ethnicity, race, and county, according to Dr. Mark Levine, the state’s health commissioner. The site will be updated each Wednesday by noon, and may be updated more frequently as time goes on, he said.
As of midday Thursday, 6,392 doses had been administered to health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities, the groups that have been prioritized to receive the vaccine first, according to Levine.
ALBANY AIRPORT BEGINS TRAVELER COVID-19 TESTING
Albany International Airport on Friday announced that it has begun offering COVID-19 testing kits to qualified travelers. The testing is being conducted through the SUNY Upstate Medical University in cooperation with Quadrant Biosciences.
In this initial phase of airport testing departing and arriving passengers may be tested. To qualify to obtain a test, as an arriving passenger, an individual must have traveled into Albany International Airport and completed the required four-day waiting period. The fee for the self-administered test is $35.
The tests will be available between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. at the airport’s information desk. For more information, visit www.albanyairport.com/
NEW RESTRICTIONS TAKE EFFECT IN MASS.
New restrictions designed to limit the spread of the coronavirus took effect in the state on Saturday. The new rules state that most industries in Massachusetts are now subject to a 25-percent capacity limit.
The new restrictions apply to restaurants, casinos, office spaces, houses of worship, retail businesses, libraries, and many other kinds of businesses and public spaces. Indoor gatherings are also now limited to 10 people at private homes, public places and events.
The administration of Republican Gov. Charlie Baker also said all hospitals are directed to postpone or cancel all nonessential inpatient elective invasive procedures. That restriction is intended to increase capacity at the hospitals.
MORE THAN HALF OF MASS. COMMUNITIES AT HIGH RISK
More than half the cities and towns in the state are now listed as at high risk for the coronavirus.
A total of 187 municipalities are now considered high risk for transmission, according to recently released state data. The number increased by 29 over the past week, Boston.com reported. There are 351 municipalities in Massachusetts.
The municipalities with the highest average daily cases rates of coronavirus were Lawrence, Nantucket and Saugus.
MAINE SCHOOLS SHOW LOWER TEST SCORES
Schools across Maine are reporting dips in academic performance during the coronavirus pandemic.
Standardized test scores in Gorham dropped by 10 percentage points or more in some subjects, and Biddeford High School reported a 9 point increase in course failure rate in year’s first quarter, the Portland Press Herald reported.
The lower scores in Maine schools reflect broader trends around the country. Maine educators are looking for strategies to help get students back on track during a difficult time for learning.
“It doesn’t come as a shock,” Biddeford High School Principal Martha Jacques said. “Obviously we’re disappointed and we want all kids to succeed, but we’ve also had a group of students that have been out of traditional education for six-plus months by the time they came back to school this fall and the nature of a hybrid model is very different than what they’re used to with an in-classroom model.”
RHODE ISLAND POSITIVITY RATE DECLINING
Rhode Island’s positivity rate for the coronavirus is trending downward.
The latest average positivity rate in Rhode Island is 5.91 percent. State health departments are calculating positivity rate differently across the country, but for Rhode Island the AP calculates the rate by dividing new cases by test encounters using data from The COVID Tracking Project.
The seven-day rolling average of the positivity rate in Rhode Island did not increase over the past two weeks, going from 8.12 percent on Dec. 12 to 5.91 percent on Dec. 26.