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.
One Vermonter died of COVID-19 over the past day, the health department reported Thursday. No information about the patient was provided. The death toll is now 61. It was the second consecutive day that the state reported a COVID-related death.
The health department reported 148 new positive tests over the past day for the virus that causes COVID-19, a new single-day high. The state’s cumulative total was reported as 3,310, which is 149 higher than the number reported Wednesday. The department did not explain the discrepancy.
All 14 Vermont counties reported at least one new case. Washington County had 50 new cases; Chittenden County had 36 new cases; Lamoille County had 12 new cases; Franklin County had 11 new cases; Caledonia County had seven new cases; Orange, Windham and Windsor counties each had six new cases; Addison, Bennington, Rutland and Orleans counties each had three new cases; and Essex and Grand Isle counties each had one new case.
Among Vermont counties, Bennington County has the fourth-highest rate of COVID-19, at 48.6 cases per 10,000 residents, and Windham County is seventh, at 43.3. Washington County is first, at 80.8 cases per 10,000.
Seventeen Vermonters are currently hospitalized with the disease; one of those patients is in an intensive care unit.
So far, 205,694 people have been tested. The state’s seven-day rolling average of new tests that are positive is 1.9 percent, the lowest in the Northeast.
The number of Vermonters reported to have recovered from COVID-19 rose by 22, to 2,157.
The health department reported that 370 people were being monitored for the disease as of Thursday, a decrease of four from Wednesday. Of these, 210 are visitors to Vermont.
GOV. SCOTT ISSUES STATEMENT HONORING VERMONTERS LOST TO COVID-19
Flags were lowered to half-staff today on Thursday in honor of all 61 Vermonters lost to COVID-19, as they are on the 19th of each month. The 19th was selected because the first two COVID-related deaths in Vermont were on March 19. Gov. Phil Scott today issued the following statement:
“On April 19, I ordered the flags to fly at half-staff on the 19th of each month to honor those who have lost their lives to Covid-19.
“This month we do so amidst rising case counts across the state, increased transmission and growing concern for the health and safety of our most vulnerable neighbors. Sadly, we’ve now reached the grim milestone of 250,000 deaths nationwide.
“And the group we remember today has grown by three this month. My thoughts are with their families, communities and the healthcare providers who cared for them in this difficult time.
“Today, as we remember those we’ve lost, let’s honor them by renewing our commitment to protect one another, to support one another and to listen to what the science and the data are telling us. If we do, we’ll get through these difficult times faster, and recover stronger, than any other state.”
UTILITY BILL HELP EXPANDED
A program that helps Vermonters who can’t pay their utility bills because of the pandemic has been expanded to include unpaid water and sewer bills.
The program, which is being paid for with federal virus relief money, is available for primary homes and Vermont-based businesses. All water and wastewater systems in Vermont now have access to the program.
“The pandemic has been ruthless in visiting economic hardship on so many Vermonters who have lost income and are struggling to keep up with their basic expenses,” said Public Service Commissioner June Tierney.
So far more than 7,000 people have received benefits through the program.
Deputy Public Service Commissioner Riley Allen said the program also includes water, sewer and wastewater charges from municipal departments, community water systems, fire districts and other agencies that provide those services to consumers.
Applications are available on the Department of Public Service’s website, https://publicservice.vermont.gov/content/vermont-covid-19-arrearage-assistance-program-0.
HOLIDAY TRAVELERS HEEDING COVID-19 RISK
Holiday travelers are weighing the risks of travel during the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, passenger traffic at Albany International Airport during the normally busy holiday travel season is markedly lower than normal. Passenger counts are off as much as 70-80 percent prior to this year’s Thanksgiving travel period.
“While this is a time when families and friends traditionally travel long distances to celebrate together, we find that people are listening to health professionals and are electing to forgo travel to ensure their safety in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Philip Calderone, CEO of the Albany County Airport Authority.
The Centers for Disease Control has stated that staying at home is the best way to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Albany International Airport travelers will find that the Airport has taken extraordinary steps to ensure that the Airport is clean and safe.
• Travelers and staff are required to wear masks while in the terminal
• Social distancing is in effect
• Touch points throughout the Airport are sanitized on a regular basis
• Hand sanitizers are available throughout the airport
• Airport’s air filtration system has been upgraded
• UV lighting has been installed to continuously sanitize escalator rails
Travelers can now check to see when an area within the Airport has been cleaned and sanitized through the use of GE Aviation’s new Wellness Trace App. Albany International Airport is the first airport in the national to install the GE system that allows travelers to use their mobile devices to scan QR Codes at 45 locations including restrooms, ticket counters and the food court, to view when the area was last cleaned and sanitized.
Those that do elect to travel should be aware of New York States requirement to undergo COVID testing.
For travelers who were out-of-state for more than 24 hours:
• Travelers must obtain a test within three days of departure, prior to arrival in New York.
• The traveler must, upon arrival in New York, quarantine for three days.
• On day four of their quarantine, the traveler must obtain another COVID test.
• If both tests comes back negative, the traveler may exit quarantine early upon receipt of the second negative diagnostic test.
U.S. JOBLESS CLAIMS RISE TO 742,000; MILLIONS TO LOSE AID
The number of Americans seeking unemployment aid rose last week to 742,000, the first increase in five weeks and a sign that the resurgent viral outbreak is likely slowing the economy and forcing more companies to cut jobs.
The worsening pandemic and the arrival of cold weather could accelerate layoffs in the weeks ahead. Of the roughly 20 million Americans now receiving some form of unemployment benefits, about half will lose those benefits when two federal programs expire at the end of the year.
“The risk of further job and income loss is high now from business operations being curtailed,” said Rubeela Farooqi, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics, a forecasting firm. “Also, expiration of federal benefits later this year will put renewed strain on household incomes. Overall, the labor market remains under stress.”
The Labor Department’s report Thursday showed that applications for jobless aid rose from 711,000 in the previous week. In March, when the pandemic first intensified, the number had soared to 6.9 million. Before then, applications typically hovered about 225,000 a week.
The surge in confirmed viral infections, and worry about its effect on the economy, are putting pressure on financial markets. The Dow Jones Industrial Average declined in early trading Thursday for a third day.
The economy’s modest recovery is increasingly at risk, with newly confirmed daily infections in the United States having exploded 80 percent over the past two weeks to the highest levels on record. More states and cities are issuing mask mandates, limiting the size of gatherings, restricting restaurant dining, closing gyms or reducing the hours and capacity of bars, stores and other businesses. At least 15 states have tightened curbs on businesses to try to slow infections.