News Roundup: Vermont Loosens Restrictions For Cross-Border Travel, Outdoor Businesses

Vermont reporters provide a roundup of top news takeaways about the coronavirus and more for Friday, April 9.

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The latest coronavirus data:


1. Vermont reports 145 additional COVID cases, one more person dies

Vermont reported 145 new COVID-19 infections Friday, as well as one more person dying, bringing the total virus-related deaths to 231.

More than a third of the new cases are in Chittenden County. There were about a dozen cases each in Franklin, Orleans, Rutland, Washington and Windham counties.

Six people are in intensive care due to the virus, among a total of 30 people hospitalized for COVID.

State officials say Vermont is continuing to see high numbers of coronavirus cases due to more contagious variants of the virus and people being more willing to gather. Most of the new cases are among younger people not yet eligible for the vaccine.

Health Commissioner Mark Levine says new infections don’t seem to be concentrated among any particular industry.

“Nothing that’s so dramatic that we would immediately say, ‘Gee, there’s an entire workforce that’s at higher risk than another workforce in the state,’ because that’s not what the data is showing up,” Levine said.

Nearly 45% of Vermont’s 16-and-older population have gotten at least one dose of vaccine so far. Starting Monday, people who are 30 and older will be able to sign up for the vaccine.

– Matthew Smith and Liam Elder-Connors

Corrections commissioner concerned by number of incarcerated people refusing vaccine

Nearly half of the 1,200 people held in Vermont’s prisons have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, according to the Department of Corrections.

But officials are concerned by the number of people refusing a shot.

A total of 595 people in DOC custody have received at least one dose of the vaccine. Some 206 people, or about 25% of those offered the shot, have refused it.

Commissioner Jim Baker told lawmakers on Wednesday that was concerning.

“We’re talking with staff now about how we can do an educational piece and try to influence the decision making,” Baker said. “Some of this is just the mistrust individuals have because of their circumstances.”

The commissioner says some incarcerated people also told DOC they’d prefer to get the one-shot vaccine made by Johnson & Johnson.

Baker says he expected the vaccination rate to go up significantly next week when people 30 and older are eligible for shots.

– Liam Elder-Connors

State officials encouraging more BIPOC Vermonters to sign up for vaccine

More than 5,500 Vermonters identifying as Black, Indigenous or as people of color have signed up for a COVID-19 vaccine since last week – that’s when the state started allowing all BIPOC residents 16 and older and members of their households to get a shot.

The state opened up expanded eligibility for BIPOC Vermonters because vaccination rates were lagging behind white residents. State data shows people of color are more likely to get infected by the coronavirus.

Human Service Secretary Mike Smith says uptick of vaccination appointments is encouraging.

“We are moving in the right direction,” Smith said. “But as I said on Tuesday, we need more BIPOC community members to sign up.”

Smith says people can make an appointment at the Health Department’s website or by calling 855-722-7878.

– Liam Elder-Connors

Beginning April 19, non-residents can sign up for COVID vax in N.H.

New Hampshire will remove its residency requirement for the coronavirus vaccination starting April 19.

Republican Gov. Chris Sununu faced criticism from Democrats and college officials over the state’s initial decision to prohibit college students from other states, as well as banning other non-residents like second homeowners from being vaccinated in New Hampshire.

But that restriction was lifted Thursday because Sununu says the state anticipates having plenty of doses to go around.

All New Hampshire residents 16 and older have been eligible for the vaccine since April 2.

– Associated Press

2. Cross-border travel, outdoor business restrictions loosen today

Vermont’s plan to fully reopen from the coronavirus pandemic begins Friday.

Gov. Phil Scott’s strategy, dubbed the “Vermont Forward” plan, ties reopening to vaccine milestones across the state.

Starting today, outdoor businesses shift to universal guidance. That means farmers markets, outdoor recreation, campgrounds and retail operations simply have to follow masking and physical distancing requirements.

Also today, unvaccinated Vermonters returning from out-of-state travel won’t have to quarantine, and instead have to get a COVID test within three days of returning. Unvaccinated visitors to Vermont must follow similar testing rules.

All dates associated with the reopening plan could change based on Vermont’s vaccination rates.

Step 2 of the governor’s plan rolls out in May, and expands indoor and outdoor gatherings and opens up other sectors. But more than half of Vermonters will have to get at least one vaccine dose before those changes take place.

– Matthew Smith

More from VPR: Gov. Announces Reopening Plan That Lifts All Pandemic Restrictions By July 4

3. Vt. Legislature takes up bills to reduce domestic and sexual violence

The House Judiciary committee is backing efforts to expand victim access to sexual assault exams.

Committee Chairwoman Maxine Grad says under current law, victims must go to a hospital for an exam.

Speaking on VPR’s Vermont Edition Thursday, Grad said this policy is too restrictive, and that all primary care health centers should be authorized to do this work.

“And we know that many victims live in rural areas and can’t always access ths critical exam,” Grad said. “This is an appropriation that would ensure that all Vermonters can be safe and free of violence, regardless of where they live.”

The proposal provides these services by amending the current “Bill of Rights for Sexual Assault Survivors.”

Grad is also urging the Vermont Senate to pass legislation that would give a judge the power, in certain emergency situations, to order someone to temporarily relinquish their firearms if there is an “immediate danger” of further abuse.

She says the bill provides a statewide policy on this critical issue.

“This bill is so important, because it will provide consistency, statewide consistency, so that all survivors will have access to justice, so we can prevent and end violence for all Vermonters,” Grad said.

Opponents of the bill say it doesn’t provide defendants with sufficient due-process rights. The legislation, which passed the House by a 2-1 margin, is currently being reviewed by the Senate Judiciary committee.

Hear the full conversation.

– Bob Kinzel

4. Vermont Ski Areas Association: Skier visits down 20% this year

The Vermont Ski Areas Association is reporting skier visits were down by 20% through February of this year, compared with the year prior.

Out-of-state visitors account for more than 75% of the traffic at Vermont ski areas. This year, they had to quarantine before hitting the slopes.

Ski Association President Molly Mahar says fewer visitors this season will have ripple effects across rural economies:

“I think this means that ski areas will be more conservative when making their business decisions, probably over the next couple of years,” Mahar said. “You know, it may affect offerings and staffing levels. We did see employment levels down approximately 35% across the industry this year, so that’s affecting several thousand jobs.”

The good news? As this year’s season comes to a close, not a single Vermont resort has shut down due to the pandemic.

– Abagael Giles

More from VPR: Vt. Distributed $330 Million In Business Recovery Grants. Here’s How It Worked For The Ski Industry

5. Vt. House advances bill decriminalizing buprenorphine

The Vermont House of Representatives has advanced a bill that would decriminalize possession of a drug that’s used to treat opioid use disorder.

Debate over the buprenorphine legislation turned emotional on Thursday when lawmakers, such as Burlington Representative Brian Cina, recalled the loss of friends and family to opioid addiction.

“And so today I’m going to vote yes in honor of all of my clients, friends and neighbors who have passed away from overdoses, and for all of the people who need one more day on their road to recovery,” Cina said.

Supporters of the bill say black-market buprenorphine can serve as a gateway to treatment for people with opioid use disorder.

Critics say buprenorphine is a dangerous opioid that should only be legal when prescribed by a medical professional.

– Peter Hirschfeld

6. Several Vermonters receive Guggenheim Fellowship

Several Vermonters are among the recipients of the prestigious Guggenheim fellowship.

Bradford writer and Dartmouth creative writing professor Alexander Chee was awarded a fellowship for nonfiction.

Also from Dartmouth, English professor Joshua Bennett was awarded a fellowship for American literature. Middle Eastern studies professor Tarek El-Ariss was awarded a fellowship for his literary criticism.

Several Bennington College faculty were also among the winners, including Mark Wunderlich, the director of Bennington Writing Seminars, who was awarded a poetry fellowship. Faculty member Craig Morgan Teicher also was awarded a poetry fellowship for his three volumes of verse.

Several other former faculty and alumni also received fellowships in fiction, film and video, nonfiction and fine arts.

Given since 1925, the Guggenheim fellowships award grants for six to 12 months with no strings attached, with the intention of allowing fellows time to do their work with as much creative freedom as possible.

Montreal filmmaker Alison McAlpine was also granted a fellowship in film and video.

– Matthew Smith

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News Roundup: Starting Tuesday, Vaccinated Vermonters Can Travel Without Quarantine

Vermont reporters provide a roundup of top news takeaways about the coronavirus and more for Friday, Feb. 19.

Want VPR’s daily news in podcast form? Get up to speed in under 15 minutes with The Frequency every weekday morning. How about an email newsletter? Add our daily email briefing to your morning routine.

The latest coronavirus data:


1. Vermont reports 97 new COVID-19 cases

The Vermont Health Department reported 97 new cases of COVID-19 Friday – but no new deaths.

In Vermont, 193 people have died from the coronavirus since the pandemic started last year.

There are currently 38 people hospitalized with the virus and 13 of those individuals are in the ICU.

Just over 83,000 people in Vermont have received at least one dose of the vaccine.

– Liam Elder-Connors

Fully vaccinated travelers will not need to quarantine starting Feb. 23

The state is lifting some of its COVID-19 travel restrictions.

Starting next Tuesday, if travelers have been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus – meaning they have had both shots and waited another two weeks – they do not have to quarantine after their arrival in Vermont.

Gov. Phil Scott said additional changes will be announced next week.

“This change is very narrow, focusing on travel. And I know there will be a lot of questions and some head scratching about why this is allowed, while other things are not,” Scott said. “But the fact is, every step we make comes with questions, and we’re taking it one step at a time to lessen the confusion.”

Scott said despite the relaxation on the travel policy, the ban on multi-family household gatherings still applies. He said the state is taking a close look at that policy now, as more of the population gets vaccinated.

– John Dillon

Health Commissioner says Vermont is seeing a gradual decline in new COVID-19 cases

Health Commissioner Mark Levine said Friday the state is seeing a gradual decline in COVID-19 cases, as the number of Vermonters who are vaccinated steadily increases.

Levine outlined the current virus trends at Friday’s COVID briefing. He said the seven-day average of new cases is declining. And he said the decline is even more pronounced in the 75-and-older age group.

But Levine warned against complacency in the face of a pandemic that has lasted almost a year.

“So even though we are sick of this pandemic, and even though many of us anxiously await a chance to get the vaccine, the virus is still a threat, and we need to stay focused on keeping it from spreading,” Levine said. “Avoid gatherings and crowds, wear your mask, and if you have any reason to get a test, please do it. It’s easy and it’s free.”

Levine said the state recently helped set up testing centers at two southern Vermont ski areas, and found only three positive results from more than 200 tests.

– John Dillon

Special identification cards will be issued to those who complete vaccine regimen

Gov. Phil Scott says Vermonters who have received both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine will be issued special identification cards verifying that they have been fully vaccinated.

Currently about 8% of Vermont’s adult population has received both doses of the vaccine.

Scott says the vaccination cards will help state and federal officials ensure that a person has been vaccinated especially when they travel.

“There is a vaccination card. All states should have this – it’s federally issued, I believe,” Scott said. “Everyone should have the card with them whenever they travel in or out of the state and be prepared to show it when asked.”

Scott says Vermonters who have received both doses will now be allowed to travel out-of-state without quarantining when they come back, beginning two weeks after the date of their second dose.

– Bob Kinzel

State prepares to allow more social activities, salon appointments at nursing homes next Friday

The state is relaxing restrictions on nursing homes now that an increasing number of elderly Vermonters are getting fully vaccinated against the coronavirus.

Human Services Secretary Mike Smith announced the changes at Friday’s COVID briefing. He said that starting next Friday, nursing home residents who have been fully vaccinated will be able to gather with others residents and see visitors.

“This means eating together and participating in other group activities within guidelines,” Smith said. “On a case by case consideration, [we will allow] safe physical contact, and with full vaccination, having visitors indoors, and participating in non-medical essential services such as salon appointments.”

Smith said 93% of residents in skilled nursing facilities and residential care homes have received their first dose of vaccine.

– John Dillon

2. Republican and Progressive Statehouse leaders highlight policy priorities

House minority leader calls for more COVID relief funds for small businesses

House minority leader Patti McCoy says it’s critical for the state to distribute federal COVID stimulus grants to eligible Vermont businesses as soon as possible.

Speaking on Vermont Edition Thursday, McCoy said the goal should be to help as many businesses as possible stay afloat until the impact of the pandemic has been sharply reduced.

She said this could take a number of months.

“It’s not to say that we can lift up businesses for years to come, but to keep them in business and prop them up a bit for the next 6-to-12 months of business,” McCoy said. “I believe that’s what that money should be used for.”

McCoy says she’s also encouraged that another major COVID-19 economic stimulus package could win Congressional approval sometime next month.

Vermont is projected to receive over $900 million from that legislation.

Senate Progressive caucus pushes for income tax surcharge on wealthiest Vermonters

The head of Vermont’s Senate Progressive caucus is opposed to expanding gambling programs to raise new revenue for the state.

Washington County Senator Anthony Pollina told Vermont Edition it makes more sense to impose an income tax surcharge on wealthy Vermonters, than to legalize sports betting or expand the Vermont Lottery.

“Keep in mind that the wealthiest 5% of Vermonters this year are saving. They’re saving $237 million on the federal income tax,” Pollina said. “We could ask those people to pay their fair share and we could find other ways to raise revenue for the state rather than go towards betting and lottery systems, which I think tend to prey upon low- and moderate- income people.”

Legislation authorizing sports betting in Vermont is being reviewed by the Senate Economic Development committee and appears to have some bipartisan support.

Progressives in the House also push for tax reforms

The head of the House Progressive Caucus, Burlington Rep. Selene Colburn, says lawmakers should enact major tax reforms that would place a greater burden on wealthier Vermonters.

Colburn told Vermont Edition the money is needed to fund essential state programs.

She said reforms would begin to address growing economic inequality in the state.

“So we’ve seen, you know, the top one percent, the top two percent, doing better during the pandemic,” Colburn said. “And we know that folks in the bottom 60% of earners are getting less and even further behind than they were before.”

Colburn is backing an income tax surcharge on the wealthy. She also wants to change the state’s education finance system so that all homeowners pay their school tax burden based on their income and not the value of their property.

Listen to the full conversation.

– Bob Kinzel

3. Educations officials across Vermont report truancy is on the rise

Education officials across Vermont are reporting an increase in truancy during the coronavirus pandemic.

Jay Nichols, with the Vermont Principals’ Association, says chronic absenteeism has always been a problem for school districts.

“I think with the pandemic, though, we’ve seen that increase. And every school is talking about how they have a handful of kids that they just can’t get in the building,” Nicholds said.

Nichols say school administrators are devising plans to reconnect with disengaged students.

But he said districts will need financial and logistical assistance from the state in order to successfully reengage lost students.

Read or listen to the full story.

– Peter Hirschfeld

4. 2018 ban on high capacity magazines stands up in Vt. Supreme Court

A 2018 law that banned the possession of high-capacity magazines in Vermont has withstood a constitutional challenge.

In a 4-0 decision announced on Friday afternoon, the Vermont Supreme Court said the restriction on magazines could reduce the lethality of mass shootings.

And the justices said the prohibition on magazines that carry more than 10 rounds of ammunition does not unduly infringe on Vermonters’ right to bear arms.

The court rejected plaintiffs’ claims that the ban could compromise Vermonters’ ability to defend themselves.

Gov. Phil Scott signed the magazine ban into law after an averted mass shooting in Fair Haven in February of 2018.

– Peter Hirschfeld

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Caribbean Travel News Round-Up – Feb. 12, 2021


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News Americas, NEW YORK, NY, Fri. Feb. 12, 2021: Here are the top stories making Caribbean travel news for Feb. 12, 2021:

The DR, Cuba and Jamaica continues to see triple digit increases in new covid-19 cases daily with the DR adding 21 more new deaths Thursday.

The US is warning nationals to reconsider travel to Jamaica & The British Virgin Islands Due to COVID-19.

Dominica has introduced a color coded mandatory quarantine wristband system for arriving passengers on the island. Wristbands can only be removed by a designated health worker and a penalty of $2500 shall be applied if wristbands are removed before the traveler has been medically cleared.

The Island of St. Eustatius says Everyone that wants to enter must register by email to 72 hours before the planned date.

THe Mariott is adding new resorts in the Caribbean. Expect new Marriotts in the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, St. Lucia and Antigua. The properties are owned by Toronto-based Sunwing Travel Group’s hotel division.

AA is set to expand its Caribbean flights this June to St Maarten and Saint Lucia. On June 5, American Airlines will launch new weekly flights between Dallas-Fort Worth and The Princess Juliana International Airport and between Dallas-Fort Worth and The Hewanorra International .

AA is set to expand its Caribbean flights this June to St Maarten and Saint Lucia. On June 5, American Airlines will launch new weekly flights between Dallas-Fort Worth and The Princess Juliana International Airport and between Dallas-Fort Worth and The Hewanorra International in St. Lucia.

Nevis has introduced a specialty cocktail for Valentine’s Day. The recipe is a blend of 1.5 oz. Captain Nils Viking Rum, 1.0 oz. fresh lime juice, 1.0 oz. cinnamon infused simple syrup, 0.75 oz. apple juice, 2 slices of ginger root and finished with a garnish of fresh grated nutmeg.

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PREP SPORTS ROUNDUP: LaRue girls win, Central girls fall Saturday – Elizabethtown News Enterprise

PREP SPORTS ROUNDUP: LaRue girls win, Central girls fall Saturday  Elizabethtown News Enterprise

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Here’s a roundup of top-notch travel deals, whether you’d rather staycation in Alaska or venture abroad

We’re in between the two tallest pillars of the retail universe: Black Friday and Cyber Monday. And many travelers are itching to go somewhere.

It’s a delicate balance for travel companies offering deals, though. Coaxing travelers to fly, to sail or to stay somewhere when COVID-19 is spreading rapidly in many communities is challenging for companies. After all, there’s still no vaccine to fight the coronavirus and preventive measures — masks, physical distancing and hand-washing — can be difficult to enforce.

Also, each state or country has its own protocols for entry, which may include advance testing, quarantine on arrival, or both. And those entry requirements change all the time.

So this week, travelers who are shopping for deals are betting on a vaccine and for improved testing and mitigation conditions in 2021. Feeling lucky?

The Alaska Collection by Pursuit is offering a 40% off sale for 2021 adventures here in Alaska. This includes Kenai Fjords Tours in Seward, Denali Backcountry Adventures and the Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge.

My favorite boat ride in Seward is the six-hour “National Park Cruise,” which departs Seward’s small boat harbor, heads out Resurrection Bay and rounds the corner to visit Aialik Bay. Regular price for the cruise is $169, plus tax, and lunch on board is included. Cruises start on May 1, 2021. The sale price using the code CYBER40 is $112, and there’s no discount on the taxes.

Major Marine Tours also is offering a 40% off sale for its cruises in Seward to Kenai Fjords National Park.

If you want to stay overnight in Seward, which is a good idea, stay at the Seward Windsong Lodge. The hotel opens May 14 and the sale pricing brings the cost down from $179 to $107 per night. Use the discount code CYBER40.

Up in Talkeetna, the Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge is opening for spring break starting on March 6, 2021. The rooms are much cheaper, and the snow will be ideal for skiing, cycling or snowmachining. The regular price is $129 per night, but the sale price is $77 per night. When the lodge reopens for the summer season on May 15, 2021, the rates go up to $229 per night. Using that same discount code brings that down to $137 per night, plus tax.

At Denali National Park, the company Pursuit offers a daily tour from the park entrance all the way back to Kantishna, at the end of the 92-mile park road. The Denali Backcountry Adventure tour includes a meal at the end of the road at Denali Backcountry Lodge. Very few travelers get this far back in the park. It’s a great opportunity to get the perfect shot of Denali, with Wonder Lake in the foreground.

Denali is reflected in a small pond just east of Wonder Lake in Denali National Park on August 23, 2006. (Bob Hallinen / ADN archive)

Usually, the bus tour is $199 per person, but the sale price — including the $15 Denali National Park fee — is $134.40. The discount code is a little different: CYBER40DBA. The tour leaves from Denali Cabins, located 8 miles south of the park entrance. However, the bus will pick you up at other hotels or campsites.

Denali Cabins consists of 46 individual cedar cabins. Usually, the summertime rate is $169 per night, plus tax. But using the CYBER40 discount code, the cost comes down to $101 per night.

There are other Black Friday sales for hotels, but none caught my eye like Fairmont Hotels. I got on their mailing list after staying at their beautiful hotel Chateau Lake Louise in Canada’s Banff National Park.

This is a big hotel in a spectacular setting. The rate when we stayed there was more than $500 per night. I used some credit card points there, as well as at the Fairmont Jasper Lodge farther north on the Icefield Parkway in the Canadian Rockies.

Of course, both of these hotels are off-limits to us right now, since the Canadians don’t want visiting Americans to potentially spread COVID-19.

But Fairmont has some beautiful hotels around the world, including the Olympic Hotel in downtown Seattle. I checked the sale price for a stay in January: $185 per night. The Kea Lani resort in Maui also is a Fairmont resort, but I could not find a date where the Black Friday discount would work. The rack rates started at more than $500 per night.

It’s worth surfing around the Fairmont site to see if there’s a property that works for you in Chicago, California’s Sonoma County or Scottsdale, Arizona.

A view of the Hurtigruten’s vessel MS Roald Amundsen, docked in Tromso, Norway, Sunday, Aug. 2, 2020. (Terje Pedersen/NTB scanpix via AP)

One cruise company that stood out, though, is Hurtigruten. This Norwegian company has the craziest itineraries: around Iceland, to Antarctica and to Greenland. They also offer some itineraries around the coast of South America, in the Caribbean and in Alaska.

There were a few airfare specials on various airlines, but none here in Alaska. Sometimes, when there are no super-specials from Alaska, you have to cobble together a ticket to San Francisco or Los Angeles, along with a ticket to your final destination.

Cathay Pacific has some good Black Friday deals for travel starting in April. So, clearly, they’re banking that travelers will be allowed to visit by then. Here are some of the best rates:

• San Francisco-Taipei: $475 round trip

• Los Angeles/San Francisco-Ho Chi Minh City: $480 round trip

• Los Angeles-Manila: $469 round trip

• Los Angeles-Denpasar, Bali: $474 round trip

Other destinations also are available, including Tokyo and Singapore. But at this time, American citizens are not allowed to visit. Travelers on Cathay Pacific can earn Alaska Airlines miles.

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