VT health insurers will cover C-19 costs – but will needy workers call out sick?

UVM, Champlain to go to remote learning classes only only medical school will continue onsite

Guy Page

March 11, 2020 – To reduce Covid-19 transmission, state health officials more than ever are urging Vermonters who are sick with flu symptoms to stay home. But what if workers can’t afford to stay home?

The state’s decision to require health insurers to cover Covid-19 testing and treatment costs is a good plan but just scratches the surface of the actual financial cost of reducing transmission, a state health care insurance official said today. Consider this, he said: “If you’re a wage employee and you think you’re sick but you need the money to pay the rent, what do you do?” It is not unlikely that some employees, including low-paid service industry workers who interact with dozens if not hundreds of customers every day, will not call out sick due to financial necessity.

At present there is no plan to financially assist paycheck-to-paycheck Vermonters who know they should call in sick but cannot afford to do so. “It does kind of put the paid family leave bill into perspective,” the official said. It should be noted that even if H107 had passed, it wouldn’t have taken effect immediately. 

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The state prison in St. Johnsbury has suspended all volunteer services, due to Covid-19, effective immediately – except for religious services.

Dearest Valued Volunteers, changing information demands changing responses, NCC Volunteer Services Coordinator Karen Holmes wrote in an email received by volunteers this morning. “With the exception of religious services, we are temporarily suspending all volunteer services effective immediately. I need to emphasize how valuable you all are to the work we do here. The next couple of weeks will no doubt be taxing without your presence.”

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Today, both the University of Vermont and Champlain College announced they will go to remote classes only, and very soon. The Vermont State College board meets tomorrow and will decide whether to follow suit, Rep. Dylan Giambatista (D-Essex), a VSC board member, said today.

The Vermont State Colleges are preparing for the possibility of remote-learning only classes, Chancellor Jeb Spaulding told the Vermont Daily Chronicle this morning. 

Unlike Middlebury College, now in its last week of on-campus classroom instruction, VSC campuses do not have another scheduled break coming up soon. Distance learning staff are working hard preparing faculty and staff for the possibility of a COVID-19 outbreak requiring the closure of classrooms. Spaulding also noted that the University of Maine system is coming at the problem from another perspective: requiring students to stay on campus and not leave during spring break.

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ISO-New England, operators of the regional electricity transmission grid, have cancelled the Consumer Liaison Group quarterly luncheon scheduled for tomorrow in Woodstock. It is likely to be rescheduled for a date in June. 

Photo: This warning to note enter the Vermont State House if exposed to Covid-19 or suffering its symptoms is now posted at each entrance.