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DMV to open 3 offices, tackle backlog of transactions

Published: Aug. 25, 2020 at 8:08 AM EDT|Updated: Aug. 25, 2020 at 6:55 PM EDT
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SOUTH BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - You will be able to go to the DMV again starting Monday. But only in three spots. And even then, only with an appointment.

If you want to renew your license or registration, you can do that online or by mail. You can take many written drivers' tests online.

But some services can't be done online. For instance, if you want to get an enhanced driver's license, you need to go in person. And the state hopes reopening a few offices will help them clear out some backlogs.

"We are committed to doing better," said Gov. Phil Scott, R-Vermont.

Tuesday, the governor promised Vermonters that changes are coming to manage the backlog at the DMV. A backlog mostly of private sale transactions which can't be done online yet.

The state is working on changing that with an online system that could be up and running next month. But for now, to get your temporary plate and registration, you have to work directly with DMV staff. And with 14,000 private sale transactions coming in between July and August, they are taking four to five weeks to fully complete, leaving thousands of drivers frustrated.

"We know we have more to do to meet the needs of Vermonters," Vt. DMV Commissioner Wanda Minoli said.

Minoli said that's part of why they're reopening three DMV locations for in-person service again: South Burlington, Montpelier and Rutland.

But due to COVID-19, there are changes. You can't just walk in anymore. You have to make an appointment ahead of time, something the commissioner touted as a new customer experience.

"Vermonters will no longer need to wait at a DMV office for their turn," Minoli said.

But we heard from Vermonters who don't live near one of the three locations who said getting to the cities would take an hour or more of driving. Minoli said those three locations have the most customers. And they need to work out any bugs in the system and make changes before they open other spots. When I asked, she told me it'll be a couple of weeks at least.

"We will be opening up other ones," Minoli said. "I just don't have a definite date yet, Cat."

Here's what you need to know about making an appointment:

  • The DMV will open up online appointment bookings starting Thursday.
  • If you need to call to make one because you can't do it online, you can do that starting Monday.
  • Appointments themselves start on Monday morning at 8 a.m. The last one of the day is at 4 p.m.
  • You're asked to arrive 10 minutes early for your appointment.
  • Don’t bring guests unless absolutely needed.

The state of emergency does give you a 90-day extension for license renewals and an extra four years to get your photo done.

HEALTH UPDATE

Vermont’s health commissioner says he thinks the recent announcement by the FDA touting plasma treatments for COVID-19 may be premature.

We've told you about plasma therapy, where people who have recovered from COVID-19 and who have antibodies donate plasma, which is then given to patients who are struggling with the virus.

The hope is that the antibodies in the plasma will boost the sick patients' immune response.

On Sunday, the Food and Drug Administration announced it was granting emergency approval of blood plasma for hospitalized COVID-19 patients.

Plasma therapy is considered safe, but Dr. Mark Levine pointed out the evidence that it helps remains anecdotal and has not yet been scientifically proven yet.

"This was from observational data, not from a randomized trial. Unfortunately, all the data is not yet in. And in my opinion, the FDA's actions are somewhat premature. I still believe that the patients who received such therapy should be enrolled in clinical trials so we will know for certain," Levine said.

Tuesday, Levine also addressed the reports of a confirmed case of COVID-19 reinfection in a man from Hong Kong. Levine said the case appears to show people can get the virus twice, but that in this case, the man’s immune system is able to keep it in check the second time around.

Vermont continues to have the lowest number of COVID cases per 100,000 people and the lowest positivity rate in the country.

As of Tuesday, Vermont health officials reported 1,572 coronavirus cases in the state and 58 deaths. A total of 122,078 tests have been conducted, 825 travelers are being monitored, 7,161 have completed monitoring and 1,386 have recovered.

Vermont health experts this week attempted to clarify which people should get tested for COVID-19.

Here’s when the health department recommends testing:

  • For people with COVID-19 symptoms
  • If you’ve been in close contact with someone who tested positive
  • If you’re referred by a health care provider for another reason

Here’s when it’s not recommended:

  • Just to make sure you’re OK before visiting another household or attending a gathering.

Health teams say testing only tells you if you have COVID-19 the day you were tested. You could have been exposed, but it was too early to show up on a test or you could be exposed after you already got the test.

They say testing is not prevention, and a negative test does not necessarily mean it is safe to gather with others.

SCHOOL UPDATE

Education Secretary Dan French says almost all schools are starting in two weeks with some kind of hybrid learning, although Governor Scott says they hope schools will expand to more in-person learning if the data supports it.

French says they are in the process of distributing personal protective equipment to schools this week. More than 1,600 PPE kits are being distributed with gowns, masks, gloves, and face shields. Every Vermont school will get two-gallons of hand sanitizer from the state and some cloth face coverings.

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