Indoor masks back at U of Vermont; hospital to require jabs
BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) — The University of Vermont reinstated an indoor mask requirement for all faculty, staff, students, and visitors on the Burlington campus, officials said Friday.
Also on Friday the UVM Health Network announced that beginning Oct. 1 it will require all its nearly 15,000 employees at its seven locations in Vermont and New York to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or undergo weekly testing.
The requirements come as Vermont and much of the country is coping with another surge of COVID-19 cases, many linked to the more transmissible delta variant of the virus.
“We will continue to monitor the rate of COVID-19 cases on campus, in Vermont, and across the region and will adjust this requirement if conditions warrant,” UVM Provost Patricia Prelock and Gary Derr said in a message to the campus community.
Last month, the university endorsed a plan to require COVID-19 vaccination for all students enrolled this fall. Currently, more than 90% of new and returning UVM students have been vaccinated.
In Chittenden County, where UVM is located, the vaccination rate for people aged 18 to 29 stands at 62%.
In a statement, UVM Health Network President Dr. John Brumsted said the vaccination requirement would apply to everyone.
Vaccination rates vary at the network’s seven different campuses in Vermont and New York, from a low of 82% at the Alice Hyde Medical Center in Malone, New York, to 92% at the Elizabethtown Community Hospital in New York.
The rate at the main hospital, the UVM Medical Center in Burlington is 84%, including 90% of the patient-facing staff, hospital spokesman Neal Goswami said in an email.
“We are not alone in this decision,” Brumsted said in a statement. “Regionally, and across the country, many types of employers – including hospitals and health systems – have instituted mandatory vaccination as a next step as COVID-19 cases continue to rise.”
FEDERAL UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE CHANGES
The Vermont Department of Labor is reminding people collecting unemployment benefits that the expansion of benefits through federal coronavirus relief programs is ending next month. The program is currently paying people an additional $300 per week on top of the regular state payments.
Vermont Labor Commissioner Michael Harrington said Friday that about 9,000 people will be losing their benefits entirely after the federal program ends Sept. 6.
There are currently about 5,500 people who are collecting regular state unemployment benefits. Those individuals will continue to collect the regular state benefits, but they will no longer see the additional $300.
Since the program began the department issued more than 2.3 million payments to more than 100,000 Vermonters who received a total of more than $1.7 billion.
On Friday, the Vermont Department of Health reported nearly 90 new cases, bringing the statewide total since the pandemic began to 25,320.
There were 12 people hospitalized, including eight in intensive care.
No new fatalities were reported, leaving the statewide total at 260.
The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Vermont has risen over the past two weeks from 16.86 new cases per day on July 21 to 55.57 new cases per day on Aug. 4.
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.