Vermont News Updates For Monday, June 15
Vermont reporters provide a round-up of ongoing local coverage of coronavirus, Black Lives Matter rallies and more for Monday, June 15.
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The latest coronavirus data:
One new case of COVID-19 in Vermont
The Vermont Department of Health has reported one new case of COVID-19 in the past day. The one positive test came back with 1,572 other negative tests.
A total of 1,128 cases have been recorded in Vermont, and more than 50,000 people have been tested.
Some 912 are reported to have recovered from the disease, and 55 people have died. Two people are currently hospitalized.
There have been no new deaths in Vermont in three weeks.
- Anna Van Dine and Elodie Reed
Burlington mayor proposes nearly $2M cut to police budget
Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger is proposing reducing the city's police budget by nearly $2 million dollars.
The majority those savings, about $1.1 million dollars, would come from capping the number of officers at 93 – the current level – and not filling 12 vacant positions. The other reductions would come from moving some programs, like park enforcement, to other city departments.
But Weinberger says the cuts aren’t permanent. He wants to hire a consultant to examine how the changes play out over the next year.
“That study would give us the ability evaluate in next year’s budget process the feasibility of making some or all or I guess even more of these cuts permanent, based on hard metrics,” he said.
Weinberger is also calling for creating a Racial Equity fund. That money would, in part, be used to expand social services programs that could handle mental health calls, instead of leaving that work to the police.
- Liam Elder-Connors
Scott extends state of emergency into July
Gov. Phil Scott has extended the state of emergency for another month even as he eased some restrictions imposed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The governor on Monday allowed outdoor campgrounds to fully open, and he said the state is doing well to combat the spread of the disease. But he says the state of emergency is still needed.
“We have to remember, Vermont is not an island, and this isn't over,” Scott said. “We still have about 130,000 active cases within a five hour drive of us. That's about 20% of our population. This is why I have taken a cautious approach.”
He added the state of emergency is a valuable mechanism that allows him to impose emergency orders, such as closing schools and businesses.
- John Dillon
Gov. says he'd like to end sending inmates out of state
For years, Vermont has sent prisoners out of state to both private and public prisons because of a lack of capacity in Vermont's correctional institutions. Gov. Phil Scott says he'd like that practice to end.
Scott said at Monday’s news briefing that 300 to 400 non-violent offenders have been released over the last several months.
“So we've reduced dramatically over the last three months,” he said. “I think what we need to do, to be quite honest, is make sure we stay there. And then we can try to bring … the offender population in from out of state, and try to get them here within our borders.”
As of Monday, the Department of Corrections says 235 Vermont inmates are being held at a private prison in Mississippi.
- John Dillon
UVM announces 'Reopen Plan'
The University of Vermont plans to have students back on campus only until Thanksgiving this fall.
Finishing the semester online is one part of the university’s “Reopen Plan,” which UVM president Suresh Garimella sent out Monday afternoon.
Students and staff will have to undergo health screenings and practice physical distancing in classrooms. The number of students in residence halls will also be reduced.
UVM says it will continue to fine-tune the plan over the summer.
- Anna Van Dine
Two newspapers resume five-days-a-week printing
The Rutland Herald and Barre-Montpelier Times Argus are returning to a five-day-a-week printing schedule.
Economic concerns from the COVID-19 pandemic prompted the papers to cut back to three days a week in March. They were among many Vermont newspapers to suffer financial hits in recent months.
The Herald and Argus will be delivered Tuesday through Saturday, starting June 30.
- Mark Davis
Winooski, Burlington outbreak appears to be slowing
Vermont's Health Commissioner says a coronavirus outbreak in Winooski and Burlington appears to be slowing and was not caused by the state's gradual reopening.
Commissioner Mark Levine says 83 people have been infected in the recent surge. But he says state officials are seeing signs that the outbreak could be contained.
“We do think we are actually doing a nice job with containment,” he said. “But I would like to see the results of targeted testing this week, where people have the opportunity to walk in with an appointment to get tested in Burlington and Winooski, before I put closure to the outbreak, if you will.”
Besides the 83 people who have tested positive, Levine says the state has begun contract tracing on 78 others.
- John Dillon
Black Lives Matter protests continue across Vermont
For the third week in a row, Vermonters gathered to protest against police brutality and racial injustice. In Waterbury, a crowd gathered in Rusty Parker Park on Sunday afternoon.
Maddy Ziminsky, a 16-year-old Stowe resident, said seeing so many people come together felt empowering.
But she’s angry.
“This is insane, that we’re having to do this and have to have these protests,” Ziminsky said. “But it is necessary to take the proper actions to end the racism that’s happening.”
Ziminsky said she’s experienced racism in her town and at school.
At least eight protests took place around the state over the weekend.
- Anna Van Dine
Principal placed on paid leave following social media post about Black Lives Matter
Windsor School principal Tiffany Riley has been placed on paid leave following a Facebook post seen as critical of the Black Lives Matter movement.
WCAX reports the Mount Ascutney School Board voted unanimously to place Riley on leave.
In a statement released Friday, the board said Riley’s post showed “ignorance, prejudice, and lack of judgment” and went against the values of the district.
Riley has been principal of the K-12 school since 2015.
- Anna Van Dine
Montpelier police investigating vandalism of Black Lives Matter mural
Montpelier police say they are investigating vandalism in the area of a Black Lives Matter mural that was painted along State Street on Saturday.
The graffiti was painted on the sidewalk in between the Statehouse walkway and the newly painted Black Lives Matter street mural. According to police, the messages are about government spending and do not appear to directly reference the mural.
An image of the graffiti shows several messages spelled out in red and white paint. One of them reads “$400 million gone” and another says “call Trump.”
Gov. Phil Scott said the vandalism was "an effort to fuel hate and division," and asked the Vermont State Police to help with the investigation.
- Anna Van Dine
Vermont summer meals program needs $12M
The federal government has given the final go-ahead for schools to continue serving all students with free meals this summer.
Hunger Free Vermont director Anore Horton says schools were waiting for the federal directive before committing to setting up summer programs.
“Whoever is providing the meals can get fully reimbursed by USDA for every meal that they serve,” Horton said. “And so that is the final waiver that we needed.”
According to the Agency of Education, schools have been serving more free meals than usual, even while the buildings have been shut down due to the new coronavirus.
The Montpelier-Roxbury School Distinct usually doesn’t run a summer meal program, but superintendent Libby Bonesteel says they will this year.
“It’s because of COVID,” Bonesteel said. “We would not be doing summer meals if we weren’t in the situation that we are in right now.
But Vermont’s summer meal program needs about $12 million to cover transportation and other costs.
Food security advocates are asking the Legislature to use COVID-19 relief money to support the summer meal program.
- Howard Weiss-Tisman