US Citizenship and Immigration Services St. Albans

The sign at the entrance of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services facility on Lower Welden Street in St. Albans is seen in early February.

The news that hundreds of positions at the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services facility on Lower Welden Street in St. Albans City would be relocated to a facility in Essex due to a flood dominated local headlines in the week running up to Valentine’s Day.

As it has for the last year, the COVID-19 pandemic was also in the news. On the plus side, the state is set to receive an additional boost in its weekly allocation of doses thanks to a federal program in cooperation with Walgreens pharmacies. However, cases continue to rise and state officials have recently warned of a spike in cases in several Franklin County communities.

More locally, the CEO of Franklin County Home Health Agency has announced her impending retirement, and the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department spoke with the Messenger about a planned task force to combat sexually explicit text messages being sent by students, known as “sexting.”

Here are five big stories that took place this week.

1. Union says 200 USCIS jobs moved to Essex

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services and a contractor, Sciolex, have relocated positions from the facility on Lower Welden Street to an alternate building in Essex Junction “for the foreseeable future” due to the facility flooding in December, according to government officials.

In addition, the local union for those position says the 200-plus affected employees must report to the new location or potentially lose their jobs.The union statement said a notification from “management” on Jan. 29 notified employees that the Essex Junction location would become the new permanent location for those previously relocated because of flooding damage, and that employees were ordered to report to their new post by Feb. 4 or “face potential termination.”

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2. Federal program to boost Vermont vaccine allocation

The Federal Retail Pharmacy Program will be sending vaccines to Vermont starting Friday.

During his twice-weekly press conference on the state’s response to COVID-19 Tuesday, Gov. Phil Scott and other state officials announced that the program will dole out 1,000 to 2,000 doses a week by the end of this week.Seniors age 75 and older can sign up to be vaccinated using the Vermont Department of Health website or go directly onto the Walgreens website.

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3. Franklin County COVID-19 cases are up

A spike in the number of COVID-19 cases in Franklin County over the past two weeks has health officials concerned.

Enosburg and the surrounding towns of Franklin, Richford, Sheldon and Montgomery have all seen an increase in rates of new cases over the past two weeks, according to a Feb. 9 notice from the Vermont Department of Health. This culminated in a spike of 20 new cases from Tuesday to Wednesday. In addition to the spike over the last day, the Vermont Department of Health reports 214 new cases in the last two weeks.“Cases have impacted multiple households and workplaces,” said Erin Creley, the Public Health Services district director for Franklin County.

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4. Franklin County Home Health CEO to retire

Janet McCarthy, the longtime Franklin County Home Health Agency Inc CEO announced last week that after a long career as one of the area’s premier nurses and leader of the company, she will retire from her position this June.

“I’m really going to miss the people,” McCarthy said. “I’ll still be here, I’ll still be connected. This organization will always have a huge soft spot in my heart ... I’m leaving the best job a girl could ever have.”

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5. Sheriff’s department plans ‘sexting’ task force

Texting, Snapchat and social media have become rapidly evolving methods of communication for youth across the globe, and smartphones are finding their way into the hands of younger and younger people. With that in mind, a planned initiative by the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department hopes to keep new social crazes from spinning out of control.

The plan is form a multi-departmental support and educational staff collaboration that would combine community advocacy, school-based forums, resource officers and law enforcement to create education opportunities for anyone to learn about texting and technology, what to look for as a parent, guardian and educator, and how to cultivate healthy texting habits.

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