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State: 860 vaccine doses spoiled

MONTPELIER — State officials say about 860 doses of novel coronavirus vaccine had to be destroyed at Springfield Hospital because they were kept at a temperature that was one degree too warm.

They say they are hoping a promised 16% increase in the vaccine allotment will help make up for what was lost.

At Gov. Phil Scott’s news conference Wednesday, Mike Smith, secretary of the state Agency of Human Services, said he had just received a text message about the spoilage as state officials were walking into the room. Smith said he didn’t have many details, but 860 doses of Moderna vaccine had reached a temperature of 9 degrees at the hospital when they are meant to be stored at 8 degrees.

He said the hospital consulted with the vaccine manufacturer and they were told to destroy the doses because they might not have been viable anymore.

“This is unfortunate because we’ve had minimal, minimal wasted doses in this state,” Smith said.

Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine said as of a week ago, just fewer than 30 doses total had been spoiled or wasted.

Levine said he wasn’t making any excuses, “but the reality is, in any kind of large vaccination program these things happen.”

The commissioner said the incident will be investigated to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Smith said a team from the Department of Health would be sent to the hospital to look into the matter.

Levine said there are guidelines in place, including sensors on freezers and refrigerators, to tell officials when something like this happens.

“That’s why the public can generally feel very, very confident and comfortable that what they are getting injected into them has passed all the quality standards and has been maintained in a state where it is still viable, it will still be effective and it won’t be spoiled or harmful in any way,” the commissioner said.

The governor said state officials would release an update on the spoilage later Wednesday, but no such update had been released as of 6 p.m.

The state is currently in the process of vaccinating those 75 years or older after vaccinating first responders, health care workers and older Vermonters living in long-term care facilities.

According to the state’s vaccine dashboard, 46,157 people have received their first shot of the vaccine. Both available vaccines require two shots, weeks apart, for maximum efficacy.

State officials said it will take about 5 weeks to vaccinate the 75-plus group. That’s because the state is only taking in about 8,800 doses per week.

The governor said state officials were told by the federal government Tuesday afternoon that allotment will increase by 16% for the next three weeks. Scott said some of these new doses might be needed to make up for what was lost in Springfield. He said members of his administration were still working on how to get this increase in doses into the arms of residents and expected an update by Friday.



Two brown horses wearing winter coats are pictured on a farm above a snowy knoll in North Shrewsbury.

Horses at the top

Library hears feedback on move

Rutland Free Library on Wednesday heard input — and some pushback — about its planned move.

The library board held a public forum on Zoom, moderated by Paul Costello of the Vermont Council on Rural Development, as part of a public engagement process ahead of its planned move to the former College of St. Joseph campus.

Library Director Randal Smathers said while the board had not 100% settled on the move, it was likely to go forward.

The plan, announced last month, involves the library buying the building, which included offices, as well as the CSJ library, for $1.2 million from Heartland Communities of America, the developer that plans to convert most of the campus to a senior-living facility.

The library is a private organization while its current location on Court Street is owned by the city. There have not yet been public discussions about what the city might do with the building at 10 Court St. were the library to leave downtown.

The library board has said the move will spare the organization costly repairs and renovations to the old building and give the library space to expand programming.

Pushback has come from a number of residents concerned about moving an institution such as the library away from downtown.

“We don’t have a lot of large institutions in our community,” said Joe Kraus. “Because the library has been there for 100 years, I don’t think we fully appreciate its impact. We would appreciate it once it’s gone.”

Kraus likened moving the library to moving the Paramount Theatre out of downtown and said if the current building is inadequate, the city should build a new one in the downtown parking pit — an idea the board unsuccessfully explored several years ago.

Marion Farrell recalled getting her first book from the library when she was 4 years old. The book was Ludwig Bemelmans’ “Madeline” — and Farrell expressed concern about a lack of public engagement prior to the library announcing its plans to move.

Yvonne Daley echoed those concerns. “The public needs to be involved in the decision of where the public library will be,” Daley said. “We honor your work, and we respect you, but we just feel that this was sneaked in on us.”

Paul Gallo, a former member of the library board, said that roughly two-thirds of the library’s funding comes from the city, creating a fiscal responsibility to city taxpayers. Board Treasurer Barry Cohen replied that they were well aware of their responsibilities.

“This thing is going to be a windfall for the taxpayers,” he said, noting that the city takes out a bond every 11 years or so for building upgrades, and was due for another one. The city also could put the Court Street building on the tax rolls. “We have thought about this deliberately and there is no question about the benefit to the taxpayers.”

Cohen said he has been a cardholder for 50 years, and he loved the library.

“A library is not static,” he said. “If it is, it just becomes a cemetery for books.”

Tricia O’Connor told the board she expected she would go from using the library seldom to “quite a bit” at the new location, and that, as a taxpayer, she was especially pleased to think of the savings.

Norm Cohen said he was excited by the notion that the library would have a shared-use agreement with Heartland for the Tuttle auditorium and the possibilities of those facilities being right by the city’s new recreation center.

“To think that you could go from the gym to the library to a 2 o’clock in the afternoon movie or gathering or something — for just us seniors, it’s just amazing.”

Jessie Butterfield said that as a wheelchair user, she has had a number of problems accessing the current library — sometimes getting hit by the door. She said she hopes that at the new location they will find space for more audio materials and some Braille materials, of which she said the library had none.

Other suggestions included: lower shelves in the new children’s area; a dedicated teen area like the one at the Manchester library; and an effort to bring musical acts to the theater that might not manage the Paramount.

Smathers said he expected to schedule another meeting next month.

In the meantime, former board member Pat Hunter suggested a presentation on what other libraries are doing so the Rutland community can have a better understanding of what modern libraries can be.

“It’s not the same as it was when I was a child,” Hunter said. “I have fond memories, but it’s completely different today.”



Local youth selected for national magazine council

Jackson Kitts wants to change the world.

He cares deeply about animals and protecting the environment. Ask him about the American chestnut tree and he will tell you there are only a few hundred left, but 20 of them reside in Pine Hill Park where he and his science teacher tend to them on a weekly basis.

It’s that passion that made the eighth-grader from Christ the King School in Rutland stand out to the editors at The Week Junior, a youth-oriented extension of The Week magazine. Kitts was recently selected as one of 12 young people from across the country to serve on the magazine’s inaugural Junior Council.

Launched last March, The Week Junior covers the top news stories every week for children aged 8-14, and focuses on other topics of interest to kids, including science, the environment, sports and the arts.

According to editor-in-chief Andrea Barbalich, the publication currently has a circulation of about 75,000 in all 50 states.

She said the magazine has drawn interest from teachers and homeschooling families who were in search of supplemental learning materials during the pandemic. It recently launched a teacher’s guide to help educators better use the magazine to facilitate discussion and writing projects.

“It’s our mission to inspire a love of reading to help children make sense of the world around them and form their own opinions about it,” said Barbalich, calling the junior council “a very natural extension of that mission.”

The councilors, who range in age from 8 to 14 and represent 10 different states, were selected from a field of 1,500 applicants.

Jackson first learned about the council after his mother, who reads The Week, got him a subscription to the junior edition. He said he decided to apply because the council was billed as an opportunity for kids who wanted to change the world.

The application consisted of five questions, one of which asked why kids’ voices were important.

“Kids’ voices are important because, sometimes, adults don’t think the same way we do. We see things from a different perspective,” he said Wednesday.

He elaborated in his application that “pretty soon this will be our Earth, and it’s our job to take care of it.”

He discussed his passion for helping animals, writing, “(If) you just rescue one animal you are saving a life. … Animals deserve just as good a life as us humans.”

Kitts was asked to list his activities and interests as well, which include playing soccer and baseball, building websites, computer programming and math.

In December, Kitts learned he was one of 24 semifinalists.

For the next phase of the process, he had to submit a video listing three “amazing” facts about himself.

In the video, he described the time he delivered a speech in school to more than 500 people at age 11, his work preserving chestnut trees and his experience coming from a diverse background. (Kitts is part Thai, Italian and Chinese.)

“We were looking for kids who showed kindness and creativity and commitment, and Jackson certainly did show all three of those traits,” Barbalich said, calling his application “optimistic and hopeful.”

She added that Kitts “showed a desire to change the world around him.”

The junior councilors held their first meeting last week on Zoom.

Kitts said topics discussed included civil rights, cancer awareness and his chestnut tree project.

“I’m looking forward to collaborating with the editors and helping create and change the world,” he said.

The council will meet twice monthly between now and May. During those sessions, they will work alongside editors to develop reporting projects with the goal of having their work featured in the magazine at the conclusion of the program.

As they tackle and discuss the issues of the day, they will get the opportunity to develop skills in journalism and activism as they receive first-hand experience in the editorial process.

Along the way, they will hear from various guest speakers, including authors, journalists, elected officials and people working in the nonprofit world.

Barbalich said the speakers represent a wide variety of people who show the kids “how to make their voices heard in the world.”

She said after the first meeting, she has already witnessed an “intense interest” in the journalistic process among the councilors.

“These are children who want to speak up about the issues they care about,” Barbalich said, adding that through this experience they will “learn how to turn their ideas into action.”

She explained that the junior councilors demonstrated that they were not only knowledgable about the world, but committed to making a difference.

“They are part of an incredible and very empathetic generation of children who really care about the world and want to help solve the problems that we have,” she said.

Jackson, who called The Week Junior “a really good magazine for kids,” expressed his eagerness to get to work and have an impact.

“Now that we’re part of the council, we’re going to make it even better,” he said.




On the job

President Joe Biden signs executive orders Wednesday to transform the nation’s heavily fossil-fuel powered economy into a clean-burning one. A8

Drop the puck

The Castleton men’s and women’s ice hockey teams are preparing to begin an abbreviated 2021 season. B1