Vermont Research Newsletter: Stories of hope and resilience

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Little free libraries become food banks
Vermont’s food banks have experienced a sharp increase in demand in recent weeks as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. A twitter user reported last week that some Vermonters are using Little Free Libraries to help distribute non-perishable items to those in need. A note below the shelf urges donors to sanitize items before placing them and to consider also donating items like soap or paper goods. Click here to donate to the Vermont Foodbank or consider donating to your local food shelf.

Local businesses step up
As healthcare workers and first responders continue to face shortages of essential items like sanitizer and masks, local businesses are stepping in to help. Silo Distillery, Mad River Distillers, Saxtons River Distillery, Barr Hill, Smugglers’ Notch Distillery, and Green Mountain Distillers are all producing hand sanitizer for distribution to both hospitals and the public. Vermont Glove has shifted production to producing masks, and Generator VT is making face shields. And it’s not only businesses helping to combat the shortage. Pat Loomis, a resident of Barre, has sewn upwards of 100 masks herself to send to the Central Vermont Medical Center.

Click to learn how to sew fabric masks for your local hospital or medical center.

Virtual art museums
Sarah Laursen and Sarah Briggs of Middlebury College Museum of Art are in the process of creating a statewide online hub for visual arts.
The new website is a portal for 360-degree tours of Vermont’s museums and galleries from Big Heavy World ‘Tiny’ Museum of Vermont Music History to Cold Hollow Sculpture Park. The website also includes a list of at-home activities from Vermont arts institutions to share with family or students.

Media coverage
Along with our health professionals, the Vermont media been on the front-lines of covering the unfolding crisis. A number of media outlets have COVID-19 newsletter and bulletins, see for example the VT Digger newsletterSeven Days news blogVPR newsletter and expanded coverage on Vermont Edition and WCAX’s on-going coverage here. At the same time as media outlets have stepped up coverage, loss of advertising revenues have shuttered some and caused lay-offs at others. Paul Heintz writes about the closing of the Waterbury Recordand media layoffs here. As Governor Scott says below, this is a critical time to support local media. 

We talk directly with several reporters and editors about covering COVID-19 in our MudSzn Podcast.

Community noise-making
In a unique take on the viral videos circulating of people singing from their balconies in Italy, residents of Shelburne are going outside at 6 p.m. every evening and banging pots. Pot-banging is a popular form of protest, known in many parts of the world as cacerolazo or casserole, but according to the Shelburne News, “the Shelburne iteration seems more rejoicing than angsty”. 

Worker protections
The states leading public policy institute, Public Assets, publishes policy updates, including a recent policy paper on worker protections. The study draws attention to Vermont’s low level of uninsured  (3%)n – better than most states —  but points out that there is a large population of underinsured Vermonters who will be vulnerable (182,000).

Report on Vermont’s Energy Use
The Energy Action Network posted  a new report on Vermont’s 2019 energy uses showing that the state has been spending $2 billion a year on fossil fuel. Three-quarters of those dollars leave the state. While COVID-19 has sharply reduced travel, what happens next remains to be seen. A new webinar series from Sustainable Transportation Vermont explores issues like telecommuting and travel behavior.

Stuck at Home
Vermonters stuck at home by Seven Day’s Eva Sollenberger tells stories of Vermonters self-isolating. And Erica Heilman at RumbleStrip Vermont has compiled stories from Vermonters and others around the country on their responses to COVID-19. Brave Little State continues to post podcasts related to this moment in time, including a new piece on schooling your kids at home.

Check out our new website for our podcast Mudszn!

Webinars and LiveStreams
Many of Vermont’s cultural institutions have stepped up to provide content on-line, including the Vermont Historical Society and the Vermont Humanities Council, with a series of new podcasts called the Portable Humanist. And ExpertsLive is a weekly series from UVM’s College of Arts & Sciences featuring leading researchers and faculty on the issues of the day.

Spanish Flu in Vermont Historian Mark Bushnell wrote a piece ion the impact of the Spanish Influenza on Vermont – a pandemic that killed millions worldwide. In Vermont schools and churches were closed by health authorities, public gatherings shut down. Historian Michael Sherman also discussed the 1918 influenza early this week with WCAX.

It’s important to note that it has been over 100 years since the Spanish Influenza claimed the lives of so many Vermonters. Listen to the most recent episode of HISTORY This Week to learn about the many differences between the current coronavirus pandemic and the 1918 influenza pandemic.

Listening in Place
The Vermont Folklife Center has created a crowd-sourced Sound Archive to document daily experiences and provide a place for Vermonters to gather in online Virtual Story Circles. According to the center, “The Listening in Place Sound Archive will preserve recordings submitted to us by Vermonters, creating a living document of how Vermonters are coping with this global reality.”

And the beat goes on Musicians around Vermont are embracing new methods of performance and education amid the new social distancing measures. Concerts, lessons, and workshops are occurring over live stream, and neighbors are performing for each other in outdoor gatherings (from a safe distance). For example, see this video of Vermonters playing music in the era of COVID-19!

Seven Days has listed livestream concerts here.

Delivering food & exercise
A local chef is cooking free meals for families in the Brattleboro, VT community and delivering the food to their doorsteps. Another resident is baking sourdough bread and spreading the message that “we must always work at being kind.” 

Local lacrosse coaches are creating new virtual training programs for their high school teams. These workouts are a way for players to stay healthy and have some friendly competition even though they are not playing. 

Traffic to the University of Vermont’s online library portal has been higher and more frequent than expected, according to a recent case study. Librarians at the University of Vermont worked to make resources available online and are looking ahead to provide customized content that is responsive to students’ user profiles. 

Ski community gives back
The ski community in Vermont has rallied to support those who have been displaced by ski area closures. J Skis, Burton, and other gear manufacturers replaced ski and snowboard gear that was stolen from an employee locker room at Sugarbush, and a GoFundMe page has raised over $5,000. After closing all resort operations, Killington and Stratton distributed leftover food to their employees and local families.

Gov. Phil Scott on supporting local media
On Sunday, Gov. Phil Scott posted a video to twitter asking residents to support local media outlets during the coronavirus pandemic. “Like many in business, trusted news organizations are being hit hard by this pandemic. If you can, please consider subscribing to your local paper or contributing to a VT news organization…”

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Copyright © 2019 Center for Research on Vermont, All rights reserved.
The Vermont Research News is a bi-monthly curated collection of Vermont research — focused on research in the Vermont “laboratory” — research that provides original knowledge to the world and research that adds to an understanding of the state’s social, economic, cultural and physical environment.

Send your news items to Newsletter Editors Eliza Giles or Richard Watts.In a collaboration with VT Digger, the newsletter is now published online. CRVT is responsible for the content. The newsletter is published on the 1st and 15th of each month.

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