Lisa Tyler, owner of Forever Dream Drafts, visits Vernon Green Nursing Home, in Vernon, Vt., with her horse to bring a smile to the faces of the residents and staff members, Wednesday, April 15, 2020. The nursing home is sheltering-in-place because of the COVID-19 pandemic to help prevent the residents from contracting the virus. (Kristopher Radder/The Brattleboro Reformer via AP)
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MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — A look at developments in Vermont on Thursday related to the coronavirus outbreak:

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STATE COLLEGES

The Vermont State College system may need to take drastic steps including closing campuses because of the coronavirus outbreak, Chancellor Jeb Spaulding told lawmakers this week.

The system was already projecting a $4 million deficit before the outbreak hit and now is having to refund room and board fees to students studying at home and provide paid leave to employees, Spaulding told the Senate Education Committee on a conference call, Vermont Public Radio reported. Enrollment is expected to drop in the fall.

“We are looking at a reconfiguration,” Spaulding said. “How do we get smaller? Do we get smaller everywhere? Or do we reconfigure campuses? Or consolidate campuses? Those things are on the table. We will need to make a decision pretty soon about which direction we’re going to go.”

He said he wanted to protect the Community College of Vermont and pointed out that Vermont Technical College provides “in-demand and high-need programs.”

He asked Gov. Phil Scott to give some of the state’s federal stimulus money for education to the state college system and asked senators whether higher education could get some of the $1.25 billion in federal stimulus funds coming to Vermont, he said.

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

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HEALTH INSURANCE REGULATIONS

Commercial health insurance providers cannot charge COVID-19 patients copayments, deductibles or other fees, the state of Vermont said.

The emergency regulation announced Wednesday and promulgated by the Department of Financial Regulation is retroactive to March 13, the day Gov. Phil Scott declared an emergency to confront the COVID-19 pandemic.

“During this unprecedented emergency, Vermonters deserve access to the care they need to stay safe and healthy,” Scott said in a news release. “As we work to expand testing to more Vermonters with symptoms of COVID-19, it is critical that our efforts to help control the spread of the virus are not affected by insurance costs.”

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PRISONS

The Vermont Department of Corrections says none of the 32 COVID-19 positive inmates who were moved to the St. Johnsbury prison from the Northwest State Correctional Facility in St. Albans are showing any symptoms of the disease. One COVID-19 positive inmate remains at Northwest in a negative pressure room with its own air supply. A small number of tests are outstanding.

Two inmates were released to a COVID-19 rehabilitation center with medical plans, said interim Corrections Commissioner Jim Baker.

The department is developing plans to return inmates who have recovered from COVID-19 to their original facility, Baker said during a call-in briefing with reporters.

"It's not pleasant for them being in quarantine like they are, locked into a section where there is a very little movement," Baker said.

The department has created an online portal for relatives and friends of inmates to ask the department questions and get answers quickly amid the outbreak and afterward, the department said Thursday.

Questions can be submitted to the department on the family and friends page of its website.

“In this high-stress time, it’s more important than ever for the Department to quickly and compassionately address the many concerns people have about the safety of their loved ones,” Baker said in a written statement prior to the press briefing.

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AIRPORT GRANTS

Vermont's congressional delegation says Vermont's 10 airports will share more than $9 million in grants to support them during the COVID-19 outbreak.

U.S. Sens. Patrick Leahy, a Democrat, and Bernie Sanders, an independent, and Democratic U.S. Rep. Peter Welch say the flight cancellations caused by COVID-19 are having a severe impact on the state's airports.

The bulk of the money, $8.7 million, will go to the Burlington International Airport in South Burlington. Other grants range from $20,000 to $69,000 and will help the airports to meet operating expenses, continue current construction projects and fulfill ongoing needs.

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NUMBERS

The Vermont Health Department reported Thursday that nearly 770 people have tested positive for the coronavirus in the state. There have been 35 deaths as of Thursday, an increase of five from the day before.