Vermont News Updates For Tuesday, July 7
Vermont reporters provide a roundup of ongoing local coverage of the coronavirus, a peaceful rally in Milton, social distancing at swimming holes and more for Tuesday, July 7.
Want VPR's daily news in podcast form? Get up to speed in under 20 minutes with The Frequency every weekday morning. How about an email newsletter? Add our daily email briefing to your morning routine.
The latest coronavirus data:
Vermont Department of Health Reports three new cases of COVID-19
The Vermont Department of Health reported three new cases of COVID-19 Tuesday - one each in Chittenden County, Windham County and Rutland County.
Over 71,000 tests have been administered in Vermont, and 1,254 cases have been identified to date. There are currently 11 people hospitalized with confirmed cases in the state, and 11 people hospitalized with symptoms under investigation.
To date, the state reports that 1,039 people have recovered from confirmed cases of the illness. Currently, 1,770 travelers are being voluntarily monitored for symptoms of the coronavirus and 44 contacts are being monitored for confirmed cases.
- Karen Anderson and Abagael Giles
Vermont State Colleges to receive $5 million in state funding in first quarter
The Vermont State College System will receive $5 million in state funding in the first quarter of the new fiscal year, according to the system's new chancellor.
That money is on top of the $35 million the colleges will receive in federal COVID relief funds.
But Chancellor Sophie Zdatny said the system will need more state support going forward.
"I think we're at a really critical point in the history of the Vermont State Colleges, and we need to determine whether the state is going to step up and support the Vermont State Colleges in the future," Zdatny said.
Zdatny's predecessor, Jeb Spaulding, proposed closing three campuses earlier this year, due to financial troubles. That plan was later reversed. Zdatny said she's committed to keeping a presence in each of those three communities - Lyndon, Johnson and Randolph.
- Henry Epp
University of Vermont asks returned students to sign pledge
The University of Vermont is asking students who have returned to Burlington for the summer to sign a pledge agreeing to follow measures intended to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Thousands of UVM students were expected to return to the city in June – but it’s unclear how many came back and if those that returned followed public health guidelines.
UVM President Suresh Garimella says the university sent the “Green and Gold promise” to students today. He says he thinks it will address concerns that students aren’t following public health rules.
“It’s a promise that comes with sanctions and … the sanctions go all the way from warning to expulsion,” Garimella said.
All colleges in Vermont will be required to have students and staff sign similar pledges before the fall semester begins.
- Liam Elder-Connors
Vermont Studio Center appoints new executive director
After a nationwide search, the Vermont Studio Center has appointed a new executive director. Elyzabeth Joy Holford takes over later this month.
The Johnson-based studio center attracts visual artists and writers from around the world to its residency programs.
VSC described Holford as a musician and lifelong art enthusiast with a passion for poetry.
- Amy Kolb Noyes
Vermont joins national effort to support The National Popular Vote plan
Secretary of State Jim Condos says a new U.S. Supreme Court decision could generate support for the election of presidents by a national vote.
The Court upheld the current Electoral College system but opponents of the College are working on an alternative proposal known as The National Popular Vote plan.
Vermont is one of 16 states that has joined this effort.
Under this approach, states pledge to have their electors vote for the candidate who wins the national popular vote.
The plan could go into place as soon as states representing 270 electoral votes have joined the coalition. Right now they have 196 votes.
Condos supports the National Popular vote plan.
"The National Popular Vote does not change the Constitution and it still leaves intact the Electoral College it just changes how the Electoral votes are cast,” Condos said.
Backers of the National Popular Vote plan are hoping it could be in place for the 2024 election.
- Bob Kinzel
State unveils plan to bring students back to Vermont colleges
Vermont colleges will be required to follow a series of guidelines in order to hold in-person classes this fall, including mandatory COVID-19 testing for all returning students.
Colleges don’t have their fall enrollment numbers yet but up to 56,000 students could return to campuses around the state.
Health Commissioner Mark Levine says all colleges will test students when they first arrive and then again seven days later: “So we will have a great idea then of how the college melting pot if you will, people coming in from various places, looks at that point.”
Rich Schneider is former president of Norwich University and chaired the group that developed the new rules.
He says all students, faculty and staff at universities will be required to sign a pledge agreeing to follow public health measures, like wearing a mask and keeping physical distance from others.
“What the state has required is that anyone that breaches the guidelines … would be immediately disciplined,” Schneider said.
He said discipline could go as far as students being expelled and staff being fired.
Levine said some colleges may also decide to do more testing throughout the semester.
- Liam Elder-Connors
One case of COVID-19 detected at Burlington nursing home
A new case of COVID-19 has been identified at Elderwood, a 150-bed nursing home in Burlington.
The health department plans to test all residents and staff at the facility this week. The nursing home is one of 35 long-term care facilities owned by Elderwood, a New York-based company.
Health Commissioner Mark Levine said the infected individual was a recently admitted to the facility and, per state policy, was already in quarantine.
"Part of our aggressive stance with protecting the most vulnerable in long-term care facilities is to protect the entire facility from the potential danger of a new admission," he said. "So there are testing protocols in place for those new patients and there are quarantine protocols in place."
Elderwood has also suspended all outdoor visitation in Burlington for at least 28 days, according to the facility.
Long-term care facilities have been among the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. About 40% of coronavirus deaths in the country have been at nursing homes. Vermont is no exception. The majority of the state's 56 coronavirus fatalities were related to outbreaks at two nursing homes in Burlington.
- Liam Elder-Connors
Vermont's Sec. of State comments on new Supreme Court ruling
Sec. of State Jim Condos said a new U.S. Supreme Court ruling protects Vermont's system of electing presidents.
Vermont is one of roughly three dozen states that requires presidential electors to cast their ballots for the candidate who wins the popular vote in their state.
Vermont is one of roughly three dozen states that requires presidential Electors to cast their ballots for the candidate who wins the popular vote in their state.
In 2016, seven of the nation's 535 national Electors tried to change their vote when the Electoral College met in December to select a president - some of those actions led to this lawsuit.
Condos said he's pleased that Vermont's law has been upheld.
"From Vermont's standpoint, I think it's a good decision. It basically leaves your law in place," Condos said. "You know, when Vermont voters vote for their president, they expect that vote will be counted and that the Electors will reflect that vote."
Condos said he won't be surprised if the ruling leads to a full examination of the Electoral College system.
- Bob Kinzel
Vermont River Conservancy: social distancing applies at swimming holes
Cooling off at a natural swimming hole is a favorite past time this time of year.
And with COVID-19 closing many public pools and beaches, Vermont's 200 or so swimming holes have seen a big jump in usage.
Vermont River Conservancy works with the state, towns and private landowners to protect swimming holes. Steve Libby is executive director.
"We haven't seen any real problems as far as crowd management goes, but it seems to be a more intensive use year than in the past," Libby said.
As a result, the Conservancy has been reminding visitors to Vermont's swimming holes that no matter how natural the site may be, the governor's public safety guidelines still apply.
- Betty Smith
Milton Students for Social Justice to hold peaceful rally Tuesday evening
Members of the Milton Students for Social Justice are holding a peaceful protest Tuesday evening.
According to WCAX-TV, this comes after school surveillance showed a person dressed in black climbing up the high school's flag pole, cutting the rope and taking off with the Black Lives Matter flag last week.
The students hope to send a message that acts of hate will not be tolerated.
The peaceful rally is happening tonight from 5-7 p.m. in front of the Milton Hannaford Plaza.
- Karen Anderson
Vermont State Police investigate damage to Black Lives Matter artwork in Underhill, Jericho
Vermont State Police are investigating damage to Black Lives Matter artwork painted on roads in Underhill and Jericho.
The Burlington Free Press reports investigators are treating the case as a potential bias-related incident. Police have reported the incident to the Vermont Attorney General's Office, through its bias incident reporting system.
The damage to the artwork was discovered Monday morning by a trooper on patrol. Police said vehicles had burned their tires over the artwork, and someone had also thrown what appeared to be brown and white paint onto the artwork.
Police are investigating whether the incidents are related.
- Karen Anderson