Vermont reporters provide a roundup of top news takeaways about the coronavirus and more for Tuesday, June 8.
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The latest coronavirus data:
There were 13 new COVID-19 infections in Vermont reported Tuesday.
That's after state health officials tallied just four cases Monday and 14 over the weekend.
There are now two people hospitalized due to the virus. One person is in intensive care.
As of the 11 a.m. hour, the state's progress toward its 80% vaccination goal – last updated on Sunday, June 6 – remains at 79.2%.
- Matthew Smith
The City of Burlington has dropped its mask mandate for fully-vaccinated people.
Seven Days reports the Burlington City Council voted unanimously Monday night to lift the citywide mask mandate requiring face coverings inside city buildings and stores.
The state has already changed its rules to allow fully-vaccinated people to go maskless in most situations.
The council's resolution requires unvaccinated people to still wear masks. Businesses can enact stricter mask rules if they choose.
Masks will still be required – regardless of vaccination status – on public transportation, in schools and in health care facilities.
- Matthew Smith
A coalition of Rutland interfaith and activist groups is welcoming four Central American asylum-seekers.
A couple seeking asylum with their seven-month-old-son arrived in Rutland early Monday.
Another asylum seeker from Central America – a man in his 40s – was expected late last night Monday.
They are being sponsored by Bridge 2 Rutland – a nonprofit made up of volunteers from area faith communities and social justice organizations.
Ellen Green, the group’s executive director, says the individuals have all been vetted by the UN High Commission on Refugees, and cleared by US Customs.
“To have them arrive here and know that they’re safe, after thinking about them for so long and knowing that they weren’t safe …” Green said. “To offer someone safety is wonderful.”
Green says the newcomers will live with host families in Rutland, and be supported by the group until they’re cleared to work.
She says additional asylum seekers are not expected at this time.
- Nina Keck
Elected officials and dairy industry experts are working on ways to boost milk prices for Vermont farmers.
Laura Ginsburg, with the Agency of Agriculture, told members of a dairy taskforce Monday that, for example, milk with high butterfat levels yields higher prices than conventional dairy.
“So if we can support farmers in producing milk that is of that higher quality standing, and has those higher component levels, then we’re going to increase the value that the farmer gets,” Ginsburg said.
The coronavirus pandemic has lowered demand for dairy products, and depressed milk prices nationwide.
A special commission will spend the summer and fall looking for ways to help the Vermont dairy industry recover.
- Peter Hirschfeld
Sen. Patrick Leahy says it's important to have some Republican support for a proposed $2 trillion infrastructure package.
But Leahy says the Democrats should be prepared to "do it alone" if a reasonable compromise isn't reached this week.
The bill would distribute billions for highway and bridge projects, water treatment plants, and broadband programs.
Many Republicans object to the provisions that include money for affordable housing, addressing climate change and child care services.
Leahy says it's time to move forward with this bill.
“We might have to do it alone. The fact is that the American people want this done,” Leahy said. “We know it has to be done and if we don't do it now, if we wait for a few more years, it's just going to cost three-times as much."
Senate Democratic leaders are expected to make a decision about the future of the bill by the end of the week.
- Bob Kinzel
At a time when some states are restricting access to voting, Vermont is moving to expand it.
Gov. Phil Scott has signed a bill that permanently keeps a system in place that was used on a trial basis in the November election.
That's when ballots were sent out to all registered voters.
Secretary of State Jim Condos encouraged lawmakers to pass this bill because he says it makes voting more convenient and it boosted voter turnout.
Condos says it's secure system to use.
“You know, despite the rhetoric that's out there, it's a safe way to do it,” Condos said. “It worked in the pandemic and we expect we'll even be beefing it up more so, as we go into 2022."
Condos says 75% of Vermont voters in November either mailed in their ballots or voted early using the trial system.
- Bob Kinzel
A new buyer has stepped forward to purchase the assets of Koffee Kup Bakery, and the buyer says it has no plans to re-open the Brattleboro or Burlington bakeries.
The Brattleboro Reformer reports Flowers Foods, based in the state of Georgia, made an offer late last week. The news came to light during a court hearing Monday.
A court-appointed receiver says Flowers Foods, whose products include Nature's Own, Tastykake and Dave's Killer Bread, among others, will pay former employees all owed paid time off.
The paper reports the sale has closed. While Flowers Foods says it has no plans to resume operations in the two Vermont facilities, or a third bakery in Connecticut, the company says it's still assessing its options.
Koffee Kup abruptly closed its doors in late April.
Other buyers vying to purchase its Vermont operations were East Baking Company in Holyoke, Mass., and Mrs. Dunster's, in New Brunswick, Canada.
- Brittany Patterson and Matthew Smith
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