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Vermont working on testing program to keep kids in school

September 28, 2021 GMT

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — The Vermont Agency of Education is preparing to begin a new testing program that would allow unvaccinated students to stay in school after being exposed to someone with COVID-19, officials said Tuesday.

The voluntary “test to stay” program would use rapid COVID-19 tests for individuals who would otherwise be required to quarantine outside of school.

“We all know how important it is to keep kids in school,” Gov. Phil Scott said Tuesday at his weekly virus briefing where he introduced the program.

Scott many students who have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 don’t ever become a case and yet they still they have to quarantine outside of school.

“This is valuable classroom time that is lost, making it difficult for schools to manage logistically and causing major disruptions for parents who have to scramble for child care, change their work hours and make sure their kids don’t fall behind in school,” he said.

Education Secretary Dan French said said the exposed students would take the test that gives an almost instant result each day before entering their school building for seven days after their last contact with the positive individual. As long as as the test came back negative, they would be able to stay in school.

Scott also said the state would be expanding its recommendation that schools require masks for students through Nov. 1. The voluntary program that is being followed by all but one Vermont school district had been scheduled to expire Oct. 4.

The agency initially recommended that schools require masks for a time and then allow schools to loosen masking restrictions for fully vaccinated students once those schools reached the 80% vaccination or greater level among students eligible to be vaccinated, those over age 12.

Scott said the suggestion was being extended a second time to give the state more time to watch the progress of the delta wave of the virus that has driven up case counts in the state.

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DEVELOPMENT GRANTS

The Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development is accepting applications for more than $10.5 million in capital improvement grants to boost the state’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The money comes from the American Rescue Plan Act.

The funding is intended for “transformational projects” that will help retain existing businesses, attract more businesses, create jobs and strengthen communities by encouraging capital investments and economic growth.

Grants for for-profit or nonprofit groups will be for up to $1.5 million. The entrants must show impact from COVID-19, support for the hospitality sector or be in certain areas.

Potential applicants will have an opportunity to submit a letter of intent to get feedback and input from the investment team. The deadline for the formal application is Dec. 27.

“We want to work with communities prior to receiving formal applications so that any additional information required for consideration can be identified in a collaborative manner,” Department of Economic Development Commissioner Joan Goldstein said in a statement.

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NUMBERS

On Tuesday, the Vermont Department of Health reported 82 new cases of the virus that causes COVID-19, bringing the statewide total since the pandemic began to just under 33,330.

There were 44 people hospitalized with COVID-19, including 12 in intensive care.

The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Vermont has risen over the past two weeks from 162.71 new cases per day on Sept. 12 to 209.57 new cases per day on Sept. 26.

The seven-day rolling average of daily deaths in Vermont has risen over the past two weeks from 0.86 deaths per day on Sept. 12 to 1.71 deaths per day on Sept. 26.

The Associated Press is using data collected by Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering to measure outbreak caseloads and deaths across the United States.

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Follow AP’s coverage of the pandemic at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic.