The Daily Numbers
The health department reported six new cases of COVID-19 in Vermont on Sunday. The state’s cumulative total since the start of the pandemic is now 23,486.
Two of the new cases are in Washington County. Each reporting one care are Bennington, Franklin and Windham County, with one case pending validation in Orleans County.
With one new case reported on Sunday, Bennington County has has had 74 cases reported in the past 14 days. Windham County has had 62 new cases in the same period.
Twelve Vermonters were hospitalized with the disease as of Sunday, and two of those patients were listed in intensive care.
No new deaths from the pandemic were reported Sunday. The state death toll for the pandemic stands at 249.
So far, 385,115 people have been tested. The reported statewide seven-day average for positive tests remained stable at 1.1 percent.
The number of Vermonters reported to have recovered from COVID-19 was reported Sunday as 21,384.
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.
As of Sunday, the Vermont Department of Health is reporting 67.3 percent of eligible Vermonters — 368,436 people — have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. OF that number, 263,000 people — 48.1 percent — have received a first and last dose.
According to the data as of Sunday morning, 68.2 percent of eligible Bennington County residents and 61.5 percent of eligible Windham County residents have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
Currently, the highest percentage of eligible residents vaccinated belongs to Addison County at 75.1 percent. At 50.7 percent, Essex County has the lowest.
All Vermonters age 16 and older are eligible for vaccines and can make appointments on the Health Department’s website or by calling 855-722-7878.
Vernon town meeting to be hosted outdoors
The town of Vernon is planning to hold its annual town meeting outdoors this year.
Earlier this year the Vernon select board moved the community’s town meeting, which is usually held in March, to May 23 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The whole process will be new but as far as what they’re voting on should be pretty much the same,” said Interim Town Administrator Wendy Harrison.
The Brattleboro Reformer reports the meeting is scheduled for 2 p.m. on May 23 on the lawn outside the town hall.
In addition to masking, participants will answer health-related questions upon checking in. Social distancing rules also will be applied. No food sales or table leafletting will be allowed.
At the meeting, townspeople will decide a number of economic issues for the community.
Leahy announces $12 million In federal COVID relief
At a State House press conference Thursday, Senator Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, announced that Vermont will receive $12 million in COVID relief funds that will help communities strengthen their responses to substance use disorders and address new challenges brought on by the pandemic, according to a report by Vermont Business Magazine.
Leahy was joined by Governor Phil Scott, Lieutenant Governor Molly Gray, and Vermont’s Health Commissioner, Dr. Mark Levine, for the announcement.
“This funding could not come at a more critical time. The isolation and financial hardships brought on by COVID are challenging enough for anyone, but think for a moment about what this has meant for people in treatment and recovery for Substance Use Disorder, particularly those living in our most rural communities,” Leahy said.
The funding includes a two-year, $6 million flexible block grant to the Vermont Health Department under the COVID Supplemental Appropriations bill passed last December, and a similar grant that will be coming from the American Rescue Plan Act that passed in March. The money will be administered through Vermont’s Division of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Programs to support prevention, treatment and recovery programs in communities around the state, according to the article.
Connecticut data show COVID-19 vaccine effective
Of the more than 1.4 million Connecticut residents who are now fully vaccinated, 242 later became infected with COVID-19, according to data released Friday from the state Department of Public Health.
Among the 242 so-called “vaccine breakthrough cases,” 109 people had no symptoms of the disease. DPH reported three deaths among vaccinated individuals who were confirmed to have had underlying medical conditions. They were between the ages of 55-64, 65-74, and 75 years and older.
Nationally, there have been 132 vaccine breakthrough deaths, DPH said.
“The main takeaway is that COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective and cases of infection after a person is fully vaccinated are very rare,” Dr. Deidre Gifford, the state’s acting public health commissioner, said in a statement. Cases of COVID-19 in fully vaccinated individuals in Connecticut is less than 0.1 percent, according to the DPH data.
Maine’s tourism industry took a 27 percent hit last summer
Maine’s tourism industry saw visitation drop by about 27 percent last year during the pandemic, but the impact wasn’t as dire as some feared.
A late-summer boost in travel made up for some of the lost ground early in the pandemic, preventing the tourism season from being a total bust.
Total spending on restaurants, lodging, shopping and other activities fell to about $4.8 billion, according to the Maine Office of Tourism. The total economic impact dipped to about $9 billion from more than $12 billion the year before, the tourism office reported.
Maine Gov. Janet Mills praised the work of health officials and business leaders for pandemic precautions that set the state up for a late-season surge in tourists, the Portland Press Herald reported. The state’s reputation as a safe place helped draw visitors, she said.
“You committed to following public safety and health precautions and attended trainings to slow the spread of the virus and keep our visitors, staff and public safe. The innovation and ingenuity of this industry embodied the very essence of this state,” she said.
Unlike last summer, the state has lifted testing and quarantine requirements for people coming to the state. Occupancy restrictions will grow to 75 percent indoors and 100 percent outdoors later this month.
After court nixes eviction ban, race is on for federal help
The recent court ruling striking down a national eviction moratorium has heightened concerns that tenants won’t receive tens of billions of dollars in promised federal aid in time to avoid getting kicked out of their homes.
A federal judge on Wednesday found the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention exceeded its authority when it imposed the moratorium last year. Housing advocates believe the ban saved lives and not only should continue, but be extended past its initial June 30 deadline.
For now, the moratorium remains: A judge stayed the court’s order following an appeal from the Justice Department.
Without the moratorium, advocates say, the only thing standing between many tenants and eviction is the nearly $50 billion allocated by Congress for rental assistance. Advocates say very few tenants have received any of the money — which is up to individual states to distribute — and they fear it won’t get to the neediest people in time if the moratorium is scrapped.
“Unfortunately, rental assistance funds are not reaching struggling families nearly as quickly as is needed,” said Oren Sellstrom, litigation director for the Lawyers for Civil Rights in Boston. “Here in Massachusetts, tenants report that submitting a rental assistance application is like sending it into a black hole.”
The government didn’t do much better last year, when several states failed to spend the federal coronavirus relief monies they had set aside for rental assistance, the advocates said. Among them were New York, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, Mississippi and Kansas.
Diane Yentel, CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, said some of the same problems are being seen now, namely landlords refusing to participate, programs refusing to give money directly to tenants and cumbersome application processes.
“The CDC moratorium is essential to our efforts to prevent people from getting evicted before they can get rental assistance,” said Caitlin Cedfeldt, a staff attorney at Legal Aid of Nebraska.
Landlords, many of whom have challenged the moratorium, say the court’s decision increases pressure on the federal and state governments to speed up rental assistance distribution.
“Instead of propping up legally-questionable policies, government at every level needs to cut the red tape and focus on distributing the $46 billion in rental assistance efficiently,” Bob Pinnegar, president & CEO of the National Apartment Association, said in an email interview. “Getting rental assistance funds into the hands of those renters and rental housing providers who need it most is the only way to prevent irrevocable harm to our nation’s housing supply.”
President Joe Biden’s administration on Friday announced changes aimed at doing just that. Government agencies implementing the rental relief program will be required to offer assistance directly to renters if landlords choose not to participate, said Gene Sperling. Sperling is the White House coordinator of Biden’s American Rescue Plan, a sweeping, $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package Congress passed to help the country defeat the coronavirus and nurse the economy back to health. Also, the waiting time for delivering the assistance to renters is cut in half if landlords aren’t involved, Sperling said.
“We need to make sure that as we implement these emergency funds that we are nimble enough to address growing needs,” he said.
The eviction ban was put in place last year to prevent families from losing their homes and moving into shelters or sharing crowded conditions with relatives or friends, conditions health officials said could exacerbate the spread of the highly contagious coronavirus.
Proponents of the moratorium argue it is necessary since the pandemic is still a threat and so many people are at risk of eviction or foreclosure. Nearly 4 million people in the U.S. said they faced eviction or foreclosure in the next two months, according to the Census Bureau’s biweekly Household Pulse Survey.
Material from The Associated Press was used in this report.