State Reports 433 COVID Cases In Past 3 Days

Jan 11, 2021

Vermont reporters provide a roundup of top news takeaways about the coronavirus, state capitol security concerns and more for Monday, Jan. 11.

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1. Vermont breaks 9,000 COVID case threshold

Vermont has now seen more than 9,000 cases of COVID-19, after health officials reported 109 new cases Monday, plus a weekend tally of 324 new infections.

As of Monday, 47 people are hospitalized with the disease, including 10 in the ICU.

Breaking down the newest cases by county, Chittenden saw 30 cases, with 18 in Lamoille, 12 each in Bennington and Windsor, and 10 in Addison.

- Matthew Smith

$133M in federal funds go to schools for COVID health and safety measures

The Scott administration hopes most schools in Vermont will return to offering in-person education to students by this spring.

Education Secretary Dan French says currently about 75% of Vermont schools have a hybrid mix of in-person and online classes.

French says the state is receiving $133 million in new federal pandemic funds to help schools implement new health and safety measures.

"As the conditions improve in the coming months with the advent of more vaccine and warmer weather, we expect most schools will be able to return to nearly full in-person instruction after April vacation,” French said.

State officials say the pandemic positivity rate for teachers and other school staff is considerably lower than the general population.

- Bob Kinzel

Essex High, Rutland City schools go remote

Students at Essex High School switched to remote learning for Monday and Tuesday after district officials learned about a positive COVID-19 case in a member of the school's learning community.

The district announced Sunday that all Essex High School staff and students will learn remotely at the start of this week.

All EHS students who attend the Center for Technology in Essex, Islands, Georgia, and Westford are also online. Other students are allowed to attend in person today.

The district says health officials confirmed the person who tested positive was not exposed to the virus at the high school.

Also on Monday, the Rutland City Public Schools went to remote learning due to COVID-19.

- Matthew Smith

Quebec sets new daily case count record over weekend

COVID-19 cases continued to rise in Quebec over the weekend.

The province tallied a record-breaking 3,100 new cases Saturday, and more than 2,500 new cases Sunday.

Saturday also saw the imposition of a province-wide 8 p.m. curfew, the latest effort to blunt the spread of the coronavirus.

Quebec recorded 80 deaths from the virus this weekend. Health care providers remain taxed across the province, with nearly 1,400 people hospitalized and more than 200 people requiring intensive care.

- Matthew Smith

2. Montpelier police prepare for possible armed demonstrations on Jan. 17

Law enforcement agencies in Vermont will be on high alert this week as Montpelier prepares for the possibility of armed protests at the Statehouse.

Montpelier Police Chief Brian Peete says his department is aware of calls for armed demonstrations at the Statehouse on Jan. 17.

“So as we’re looking at national trends, we’re looking for specific threats that may be here, we just want to make sure that we’re prepared,” Peete said.

Commissioner of Public Safety Michael Schirling says Vermont State Police are working with federal authorities to monitor potential security threats to the Statehouse.

Schirling says the state is developing a security plan for the days leading up to President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20.

Read the full story.

- Peter Hirschfeld

New Hampshire man charged in connection to insurrection

A Bridgewater, New Hampshire man is among those facing charges after the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol last week.

The Valley News reports 61-year-old Thomas Gallagher was charged by the U.S. Justice Department with two crimes on Friday: entering a restricted building or disorderly conduct impeding government business, and violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds.

Justice department officials say Gallagher was among a crowd shouting at Capitol Police on the upper level of the Capitol's visitors center. He was arrested with five others after they refused to leave the building.

- Matthew Smith

Rep. Peter Welch calls on Pence to invoke 25th amendment

Congressman Peter Welch is calling on Vice President Mike Pence to remove President Trump from office by invoking the 25th Amendment.

If a majority of Cabinet members agree to the motion, Pence would become president until Jan. 20.

Welch says the action is needed after Trump instigated a mob riot at the Capitol last week in an effort to overturn the results of the November election.Five people died.

"Pence has indicated he's probably not going to do it, but he obviously should,” Welch said. “And you're seeing a couple of the cabinet members who have been enabling President Trump and his behavior for four years, now resign. They're jumping ship, but that's the right thing to do — that's the stand up thing to do."

If Pence doesn't act, Welch says House Democrats will move immediately to impeach the president. That's something that Welch says should happen by the end of the week.

- Bob Kinzel

Elise Stefanik stands by challenge to 2020 election certification, opposes impeachment

New York's North Country Congresswoman Elise Stefanik stood by her challenge to the legitimate results of the 2020 presidential election during a visit to Dannemora Saturday.

Northeast Public Radio reports Stefanik was one of the more than 100 Republican representatives that challenged the certification of the Electoral College results in Congress last week the same day pro-Trump extremists mobbed the Capitol. Five people have now died as a result of that violence.

Stefanik was in Dannemora to support corrections officers holding a rally outside the Clinton Annex on Saturday, calling on the state of New York to rescind a decision to close the facility.

Stefanik was re-elected in November. She says she stands by her support of Trump, and her objections to certifying the election. Trump has made false claims that the election was stolen.

“President-elect Biden was certified,” Stefanik said. “But that debate was important for the American people to hear. But when it comes to the violence, we of course should come together to condemn those violent acts."

Stefanik says she opposes efforts by Congress to impeach Trump over Wednesday's insurrection.

- Matthew Smith

3. Stamford could lose insurance over resistance to public health order

A decision by the Bennington County community of Stamford to terminate Gov. Scott’s COVID-19 emergency health order could have an impact on the town’s insurance policy.

Joe Damiata is with the Vermont League of Cities and Towns and said Stamford may not be covered because they're violating state law by not following the governor’s order.

“You know we don’t try to tell them what to do,” Damiata said. “We just want to give them a heads up, so if something does come of this decision, and there’s a suit, they’re not surprised by this exclusion, if it applies.”

A majority of the Stamford Select Board says the governor’s guidance to not gather violates the Constitution, and the board wants to challenge the order in court.

Vermont Attorney General TJ Donovan’s office responded with a letter saying the town does not have any authority to opt out of the governor's emergency orders.

- Howard Weiss-Tisman

4. Peter Welch quarantining, getting tested for COVID following "super-spreader" event at Capitol

Congressman Peter Welch is self-quarantining and being retested for COVID-19 after being inside the U.S. Capitol during last week’s riot, an event health experts are concerned could develop into a super-spreader event.

Welch and many of his colleagues were taken to a safe location during the riot, but he says a number of members didn't wear masks while they waited for law enforcement officials to clear the mob from the Capitol..

Welch says he previously had received the first dose of the COVID vaccination.

"There were a couple of hundred of us who were in that secure location,” he said. “A lot of my Republican colleagues did not put masks on, it's the biggest breach of the social distancing requirements that I've been trying to adhere to, but I am concerned about that. I haven't any symptoms, but there is no question that we were in a super-spreader situation."

Welch's office is trying to confirm reports that some of his colleagues held in the secure location have tested positive in recent days.

- Bob Kinzel

5. Health care costs down in 2020, but could balloon in 2021

Gov. Phil Scott says lower-than-expected health care costs in 2020 means insurance companies should reimburse policyholders in Vermont. But insurance industry officials say health care expenses could balloon in 2021.

Scott says the coronavirus pandemic has actually depressed health care spending. And he wants insurance companies to give some of that money back to customers.

But Sara Teachout with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Vermont says the financial picture in the health care industry is still coming into focus.

“We really can’t bet our members’ health care coverage on the unknown, so there’s still so much uncertainty about what’s happening with health care and health insurance and our members seeking care,” she said.

Teachout says it’s still unclear whether claims in 2020 were lower than Blue Cross had anticipated.

And she says there could be a spike in claims as the pandemic abates.

- Peter Hirschfeld

6. Vt. women receiving more unemployment insurance than national average

The number of women in Vermont receiving unemployment benefits during the pandemic is much higher than the national average.

The state's Joint Fiscal Office issued a report last week examining who's been receiving jobless benefits.

Women made up about 73% of those who collected unemployment during the second week of November.

The national average is 50%.

Women are being disproportionately affected by the pandemic because they tend to work in industries that are especially hard-hit, such as retail or hospitality.

Or they’re staying at home with children or older relatives, the report says.

In contrast, women only made up about 38% of the unemployment recipients in Vermont during the recession in 2009, which affected so-called white-collar jobs much more.

- Howard Weiss-Tisman

7. Burlington fire kills two people

A structure fire killed two people in Burlington over the weekend.

Early Saturday morning, firefighters responded to a three-alarm fire at 199 King Street. They extinguished the blaze, which was in the second and third floors of the six-unit apartment building.

Two of the building's residents, 31-year-old Michael Loyer and 55-year-old Henry Burawa, died as a result of the fire.

According to a statement from Mayor Miro Weinberger, this is the city's first fatal fire since 2012.

A preliminary investigation found that the blaze was accidental.

- Anna Van Dine

8. About a fifth of Vermont resident hunters bag a bird in 2020

The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department has released final turkey hunt numbers from 2020.

The department notes Vermont hunters took just over 6,000 turkeys last year. That's about 300 more than the year before, but down from 2018.

The majority of the bearded birds were bagged during the regular spring season, when one-fifth of resident hunters were successful.

The department says a near-record of turkey licenses were sold last year, second only to 2010.

- Anna Van Dine

9. Three Upper Valley police chiefs resign

Three Upper Valley police chiefs are resigning.

The Valley News reports Hartford Police Chief Phil Kasten cited family and career considerations for his resignation last week. He's been with the department since 2015.

In Plainfield, 23-year-veteran Chief Paul Roberts stepped down due to difficulties with the physical demands of the job.

Windsor Police Chief Bill Sampson submitted his resignation in December to take a position as police chief in Middleton, Massachusetts. He's been with the Windsor police since 2014.

- Matthew Smith

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