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Leahy: Vermont to get nearly $2B in virus relief package

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Vermont is poised to receive almost $2 billion in support from the nearly $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief package that is making its way through Congress, U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said.

The legislation, which passed the Senate on Wednesday and is expected to pass the House on Friday, includes $1.25 billion to support the state and counties that are addressing the economic devastation caused by the virus.

Among other appropriations for Vermont, the bill will provide $20 million to support public transportation, $5.4 million to support public health preparedness and $4.7 million in community development block grants.

"Vermont is already reeling from the impacts of the spread of the coronavirus," Leahy said in a news release late Wednesday. "I have heard from hundreds of small businesses and entities across the state, struggling to support their employees and maintain their businesses."

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death.

On Thursday, the Vermont House gave final approval to a series of measures designed to help the state respond to the COVID-19 outbreak.

The legislation approved by the House included provisions to make sure anyone who loses their job or has to leave one to care for someone who is ill will be eligible for unemployment benefits; make it possible for state and local elections to go forward later in the year; and temporary modification of the state's open meeting laws so local government can function remotely.

Numbers rise

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The Vermont Department of Health reported Thursday that the number of people who have tested positive in the state jumped by almost three dozen to 158 and that there was an additional fatality, bringing to nine the number of people in the state who have died from COVID-19. The department did not say where the death occurred.

Unemployment up

Unemployment claims rose dramatically in Vermont, as they did elsewhere in the country. The Vermont Department of Labor reported Thursday that 3,667 initial claims were filed during the week of March 15-21, compared with 659 the previous week.

Drug warning

As reports appear in the news of certain drugs being potentially used for treatment or prevention of COVID-19, the Vermont Department of Health strongly urged caution Thursday.

At this time, the department said, the U.S. Drug Administration has not approved any drugs specifically for the treatment of patients with COVID-19.

Though the anti-malarial drugs chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, among others, have been widely discussed as potential treatments, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said there are no data currently available from randomized clinical trials that would inform how these drugs could be used to treat COVID-19.

In fact, health officials said, there are significant potential risks to taking such drugs, including death.

Health officials said most people who get COVID-19 can manage their symptoms at home with rest, drinking fluids and taking fever-reducing medication.


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