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Hotel housing for homeless to continue for 30 days for some

September 21, 2021 GMT

The more than 54O homeless people who were expected to lose access to hotel rooms paid for by the state during the pandemic will continue to have the benefit for another 30 days as the state takes a pause to examine paths forward, Gov. Phil Scott said Tuesday.

This summer, the state had extended the hotel voucher program for 84 days for families with children, people with disabilities, pregnant women and other vulnerable people, and gave $2,500 checks to those no longer eligible.

That extension was expected to end on Thursday for about two-thirds of the people in the hotels, said advocates who held a press conference on Monday.

Scott said Tuesday during his weekly virus briefing that he thought it was a good idea to push back the end of the extension for 30 days.

“We’re going to have to get very creative in finding enough housing, but we feel that we can accomplish this,” Scott said of the hotel capacity. “Again, we just want to make sure we take this pause to make sure that we all agree on the path forward and so we can get more permanent housing up and ready as well.”

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In other pandemic related developments:

COVID-19 CASES

Vermont state officials had expected a surge in COVID-19 cases to start to decline but said Tuesday after the high case numbers last week that it’s now too soon to tell what will happen in Vermont following the Labor Day holiday and return to school.

“It’s a moment in time where we’ll just need a little bit more data to understand the trajectory that we’re going to be on,” said Michael Pieciak, commissioner of the Vermont Department of Financial Regulation who has been handling the virus data for the state.

Three more deaths were reported, bringing the total to over 300, he said, adding that Vermont has the lowest per capita death rate in the country through the pandemic.

The state reported 129 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, for a total since the start of the pandemic of more than 31,900. A total of 48 people were hospitalized with 19 of them in intensive care.

Unvaccinated people account for about 80% of hospitalizations and 83% of people in intensive care units, Scott said, as he urged more people to get vaccinated.

“If you’re still on the fence or just haven’t found the time, please take a look at this data and do some soul searching because vaccines are safe, effective and they’re the best path forward, not just for yourself but for your family and friends and the rest of us, so we don’t have to move backwards or need new restrictions,” he said.

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SCHOOLS-CONTRACT TRACING, TESTING

Vermont is planning to restrict contract tracing in schools to those where the student vaccination rate is less than 80% because of limited resources, Education Commissioner Dan French said Tuesday.

One large high school with an estimated vaccination rate of over 90% in students reported they spent over 20 hours doing contract tracing but only identified a few students needing to quarantine. A school nurse in the Champlain Valley area said close contacts are missing between eight and ten days of learning and spending up to 12 days quarantining, even after testing, French said.

“We think we can leverage our relatively high vaccination rates among eligible students to shift our limited contact tracing resources toward the elementary level, where most students are not yet eligible for vaccination,” he said.

In schools with a higher than 80% vaccination rate among students, a letter will be sent to parents and students in the affected classroom or program recommending that they get tested.

The state is also prioritizing testing in schools when there is a case and starting a pilot program to use take-home PCR tests in five districts, paid for by the state, French said.

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CITY EMPLOYEES-MASKING

City employees in Rutland, Vermont, are now required to wear masks.

The mask mandate went into effect on Tuesday, after the Board of Aldermen rejected a proposal to ban such mandates in the city on Monday night, the Rutland Herald reported.

City employees who do not wish to wear masks must notify their department head and provide proof of vaccination, Mayor David Allaire said.

“At the request of the unions and most of the department personnel, it was decided, yes,” Allaire said on Monday night of the mask requirement.

In the early months of the pandemic, the board had discussed a mask mandate, but it was rejected in favor of a resolution to encourage the use of masks.