Vermont buy-local program sells out; Kinney Drugs to provide COVID testing
MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - A Vermont buy-local coupon program that supports Vermont businesses sold out after being unveiled Tuesday.
The $500,000 Buy Local Vermont program went online Tuesday morning. It allowed Vermonters to sign up for a $30 coupon to a business in their county. About 1,500 businesses participated.
But the first-come-first-serve program was so popular that the state’s system got bogged down.
About 30,000 Vermonters tried to get the coupon, but only half did. They sold out first in Chittenden, Washington, Lamoille, and Addison Counties.
As of Wednesday morning, the site says it’s all out.
Weeks ago, Gov. Phil Scott pitched a similar buy local program that would give every household $150 in discounts. That proposal was shelved in the Vermont House of Representatives because they say it didn’t help low-income Vermonters.
BACK TO SCHOOL
With Vermont students returning to school, Governor Phil Scott says being prepared is key. “Even though we are by far the safest state in the nation, with the lowest number of cases and the lowest positivity rates, we know there will be bumps in the road and we know there will be cases tied to schools,” he said.
Education Secretary Dan French said he hopes the state will move to the next step allowing for more in-person learning that could happen later this month. “Reopening our schools is the best thing we can do for our children. Reopening our schools allows us to re-establish the routines, relationships, and activities ... that are essential to the well-being and healthy development of our students,” French said.
Guidance on physical education, science labs, and students with disabilities is coming soon.
As students return to school, the state is standing up more child care hubs so parents can get back to work. Vermont now has 24 regional hubs in locations serving 3,500 students. There are still some 3,000 open slots.
The state is still struggling to find workers to staff the hubs and needs space in St Albans, Randolph, Manchester, and Grand Isle.
Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine says a total of 146,782 Vermonters have been tested so far, about 1/4 of the population. He says a Walgreens pop-up pilot project went well and now Kinney Drugs will do COVID testing at 11 locations around the state. He says the tests should be covered by insurance. The state has created a new online system for registering for appointments and the reporting of test results that Levine says will bring the results wait time down to about two days.
“This comprehensive tool ensures that results are more easily accessible while still protecting the privacy of the individuals' health testing,” Levine said.
Vermont has seen a total of 1,654 cases as of Tuesday with three new cases Monday. The number of deaths is still at 58.
The governor says if the state continues to see favorable trends and we don’t see spikes with schools reopening and college students returning, that he may ease restrictions on lodging and restaurants even more. He says the vast majority of Vermonters who are still unemployed work in the hospitality sector. Human Services Secretary Mike Smith says he thinks there’s a chance of expanding the hazard pay program to send money to towns for volunteer first responders.
PENCE VERMONT VISIT
The governor did not speak with the vice president who vacationed in Vermont over the weekend. He says his choice to stay here shows that Mike Pence knows it’s safe too. He says he expects an influx of people who will choose to live in Vermont because of that but that we need to make the state more affordable to keep them here.
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