The state’s move to Phase 3 of its COVID-19 vaccine rollout — and the ensuing spike in signups — topped headlines this week as residents age 70 and older became eligible.
In other pandemic-related news, Vermont Maple Open House Weekend was again cancelled this year. The Messenger was also able to catch up with local public works officials to discuss a memo from federal agencies warning of potential cybersecurity issues.
In addition, the Messenger was able to follow up with local legislators regarding a pair of opposing senate bills on the issue of using school resource officers. Locally, we also sat down with the current director of the Saint Albans Museum, as well as the person who will be replacing him.
Here are five big stories the Messenger covered this week:
1. Phase 3 begins with surge in appointment calls
Starting at 8:15 a.m. Tuesday, Vermonters age 70 and older became eligible to schedule vaccinations. During a press conference updating the public on the state’s response to the pandemic, Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine said that not only were those 70 and older quick to schedule appointments, but residents who didn’t initially schedule appointments when they were eligible previously have also been scheduling appointments.
Gov. Phil Scott also announced on Tuesday that, starting next week, the state would be seeing roughly 2,500 additional doses per week from the federal government as efforts to distribute the vaccine at the federal level continue to pick up.
2. Senate bills weigh in on SROs
A pair of bills in the state senate have very different takes on whether or not school resource officers have a place in public education.
Senate Bill 63, proposed earlier this month, would bar schools from contracting with law enforcement to staff SROs, but it was soon met with an opposing bill proposing precisely the opposite: Senate Bill 76 proposes extending grant funding for SROs, and includes four years of annual grants to encourage schools to use them.
3. Feds warn of wastewater cybersecurity issues
A four-page FBI document distributed to water treatment officials in Franklin County and across the state Friday lays out steps to avoid cyberattacks such as the one that happened in Florida last week.
The document, forwarded by Jill Draper, an environmental technician at the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation, carries recommendations for following “Cyber Hygiene.” Some recommendations include, “Update to the latest version of the operating system (Windows 10),” “Install independent cyber-physical safety systems” and “set random passwords to generate 10-character alphanumeric passwords.”
St. Albans Public Works Director Martin Manahan says the city is continuously looking for ways to reduce the risk and update procedures.
“We have a very secure cyber security system in place that is continually monitored by IT staff. The people using the St. Albans City municipal water system can be very confident that we are constantly monitoring and testing our system to provide safe drinking water throughout our community,” said Manahan.
4. Museum leadership set to change
The keys to the legends and libraries of lore are passing into new hands next week, as the mantle and mission of the Saint Albans Museum is taken up by its new executive director, now former associate director Lisa Evans.
The beloved museum has been tenderly cared for and grown by the current keeper of Saint Albans history, Executive Director Alex Lehner, who has grown and cultivated the collection of artifacts since he became executive director in 2016.
”The future of museums is connecting with people here and now,” Evans said in an interview on Wednesday. “That’s something really important that Alex has set up on a good trajectory for us. Now it’s my turn to take us down this path.”
5. Maple Open House Weekend cancelled
A sweet and beloved tradition that celebrates maple season kicking into high gear has been cancelled for a second straight year, but the Vermont Maple Sugar Makers’ Association (VMSMA) has some ways for you to honor your love of the sappy goodness from the comfort of home.
Maple Open House Weekend is usually a time for Vermonters to open the doors of their sugar houses and invite visitors from near and far inside to learn, taste and explore first hand the maple sugar industry. However, the VMSMA has made the decision to cancel the weekend once again for safety reasons related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“While this year’s cancellation is much less of a surprise than 2020 and we know that it’s the right call, Vermont sugar makers miss having in-person opportunities to share their craft during the sugaring season,” said the VMSMA.