Summary: Vermont union officials and lawmakers agree on pension reform proposal

Vermont reporters are providing a summary of key takeaways on the coronavirus, the agreement between union officials and lawmakers on pension reform and more for Tuesday, January 11.

Want the daily VPR news in podcast form? Get up and running in less than 15 minutes with Frequency every morning of the week. How about an email newsletter? Add our daily email briefing to your morning routine.

While Vermont’s pandemic state of emergency has ended, the omicron variant is now circulating in the state. Click here for the latest case news, and find the latest vaccination data online at any time.

Editor’s Note: The Vermont Department of Health says it is working on an “accurate report” of the number of COVID-19 cases in recent days. Case dashboard updates for Saturday, Sunday and Monday, depending on the department, will be adjusted with regular “as soon as possible” updates.

1. Educators are bristling with change in direction of school testing

Students in Vermont returned to school last week as the number of COVID-19 cases increases rapidly. Some educators are upset by the Scott administration’s decision to order schools to stop contact tracing and surveillance PCR testing.

The change comes as the high number of cases and the rapid spread of the omicron variant make these strategies less effective, according to the Education Agency. The agency announced the change late Friday afternoon, Seven days first reported.

Nichole Veilleux, leader of the local teachers’ union in Hartford, says the change will contribute to teacher burnout.

“Just the stress level in the way the news was dropped and the way it was broadcast to staff across the state – it just felt like kind of a punch in the face,” she declared.

Over the weekend, the board of directors of the statewide teachers’ union called the move a “demoralizing blow” to educators, students and parents.

More detailed guidance from the Education Agency is expected this week.

-Anna Van Dine

Many school districts virtual or closed due to COVID outbreaks

Many school districts in Vermont are starting this week either virtually or closed due to COVID outbreaks.

Last Friday, the Education Agency announced it was ending contact tracing and surveillance testing programs in the future. Parents and teachers have expressed their disapproval of the policy change on social media.

Sean McMannon, superintendent of the Winooski school district, said Vermont Edition On Monday, with this advice, he can prepare for the safe return of the students to class.

“To get a glimpse, like, that was actually helpful,” he said. “We look forward to getting the advice, in more detail, of the advice written today, along with the science behind it, so that we can really begin to digest it and work out the necessary procedures with our response. COVID. “

School district officials plan to reopen later this week.

– Marlon Hyde

Eight people held in Vermont jails currently positive for COVID-19

Eight people in Vermont jails are currently positive for COVID-19, according to the Department of Corrections.

These cases are spread across four institutions – one at Chittenden Regional Correctional Institution in South Burlington, two at Marble Valley Regional Correctional Institution in Rutland, one at Northern State Correctional Institution in Newport, and four. at the Northwestern State Correctional Facility in St. Albans.

Meanwhile, DOC says 47 staff are positive.

More than three-quarters of those incarcerated in Vermont jails are vaccinated and just over 70% of those eligible for recalls have received them, according to the DOC.

-Anna Van Dine

Rutland Regional Medical Center operates with few beds available

The Rutland Regional Medical Center operates with few beds available.

This is when more COVID patients present to the emergency room and staffing issues continue, made worse by school and daycare closures.

Meg Oakes, senior director of quality and safety, says it has been more difficult than usual to send patients to other facilities that may be more suitable.

For example, young people who need a certain level of psychiatric care.

“We have two patients who are adolescents who have been in the [emergency department] for more than 10 days. So it’s not good, you know. It’s not the best environment for patients in therapeutic terms, ”she said.

She says this is just one example of how stressed the hospital is.

– Lexi Krupp

2. Union officials and lawmakers approve retirement proposal on Monday

A panel of union officials and lawmakers unanimously approved a proposal Monday night that would strengthen Vermont’s public pension system.

Andrew Emrich is a teacher who represented Vermont-NEA in negotiations.

“It’s weighed on people’s minds, so it’s great to get to this moment here, where we can present a framework that helps solve this problem that we find ourselves in,” said Emrich.

Under the proposal, the state would contribute more than $ 300 million this year alone to the unfunded liability of the pension system.

Teachers and state employees would increase their annual contributions to the pension system, as well as accept reduced benefits for future retirees.

The Vermont Legislature will need to approve the proposal before it goes into effect.

– Peter Hirschfeld

More Brave Little State: What’s Up With Vermont Pensions?

State lawmakers consider Statehouse’s return date

The mixed legislative rules committee will decide this week when it is safe for lawmakers to return to the Statehouse.

On Monday afternoon, the panel heard from Dr. Cindy Noyes, an infectious disease specialist at UVM Medical Center.

She told committee members she expects Vermont to have a record number of cases over the next two weeks, and then levels may start to drop.

“It’s hard to look at the numbers from last week and think they might go up, but I think they will. But hopefully by the end of the next three to four weeks, we’ll start to see a plateau and then a reduction in some cases, ”she said.

Lawmakers are expected to return on Jan. 18, unless the Joint Rules Committee extends the current remote session.

– Bob Kinzel

Vermont Senate wants to increase funding for organizations working with young families

The Vermont Senate wants to increase funding for organizations that work with young families.

Lamoille County Senator Richard Westman is asking for more than $ 7 million in new base funding for 15 parent-child centers across the state.

Westman says the centers have become an integral part of the state’s early years programming.

“They make house calls. They offer early childhood services. They do parenting education. They do recreation work. They organize support groups for parents, ”he said.

The bill would also establish a new network of parent-child centers.

Westman said the network would enforce accountability measures for parent-child centers and also distribute the new funding.

– Peter Hirschfeld

3. Study suggests vaccinated women may pass COVID-19 antibodies to babies

A new study by researchers at UMass Amherst shows that women who get the COVID-19 vaccine pass antibodies to their breastfed babies.

Thirty breastfeeding women from across the country who had received the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine participated in the study.

The researchers measured the immune response to the virus from mothers ‘breast milk and their babies’ poop. They found the antibodies in both.

UMass Professor Kathleen Arcaro was the lead author of the research.

“The bottom line is that breastfeeding mothers should be vaccinated for sure and continue to breastfeed. It’s just another way to protect infants from COVID-19, ”she said.

Arcaro says the vaccine itself doesn’t enter the mother’s breast milk, just the immune response.

The antibodies have been detected in infants of all ages, from 1.5 to 23 months.

Arcaro says the study shows that even if a woman has had COVID, she can still benefit from the vaccine.

– Collaboration with New England News

4. Second Democrat announces the appointment of Lieutenant Governor

The executive director of the Vermont Council on World Affairs became the second Democrat to announce a candidacy for lieutenant governor.

Patricia Preston led the board for almost a decade. She says she has brought international leaders to Vermont to discuss climate change, education and economic issues.

“And I’m very proud to say that through this work I have created millions of dollars in economic impact statewide. And really made Vermont a better place for all of its residents, ”she said.

Preston, who was born and raised on a family farm in Orange County, joins Woodstock Democrat Charlie Kimbell in the race to succeed Lt. Gov. Molly Gray.

Gray announced in December that she was running for Congress.

– Peter Hirschfeld

5. Remember Ronald Chesney of Island Pond

Ronald Chesney of Island Pond was a mentor, farmer and friend to many. He was famous for his bear hugs, had piercing blue eyes, a sturdy and strong presence, and was the kind of storyteller who could sit down and visit anyone, his daughter, Rhonda, says.

“The richness of life, that’s what he told us,” she said. “That’s life.”

But above all, Ronald Chesney was a farmer. He loved the land and taught his children how to be a steward of the land.

Rhonda remembers the deep respect her father had when he was in the woods.

“He taught us that the woods were – and are – a place of deep contemplation, sport and joy, and that we were incredibly lucky to be Vermonters,” she said.

Vermonter Ronald Chesney died on December 28. He was 81 years old.

-Anna Van Dine

Elodie Reed and Kevin Trevellyan compiled and edited this article.

Do you have questions, comments or advice? Send us a message or tweet us @vprnet.

Previous Main Street goes virtual learning today, Wednesday
Next Georgia County School Principal on sick leave