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The home for VPR's coverage of health and health industry issues affecting the state of Vermont.

Vermont News Updates For Wednesday, July 22

Humorous message on the Woodstock town smiler
Sarah Priestap
A humorous poll on the Woodstock Town Smiler sign encourages passers-by to consider what masks and mints have in common on July 17.

Vermont reporters provide a roundup of ongoing local coverage of the coronavirus, gubernatorial primary debates and more for Wednesday, July 22.

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The latest coronavirus data:


Vermont Department of Health reports two new cases of COVID-19

The Vermont Department of Health reported two new cases of COVID-19 in Vermont on Wednesday, bringing the total number of cases identified in the state to date to 1,366. One case was identified in Windsor County, and one was identified in Chittenden County.

There are currently two people hospitalized with confirmed cases of the new coronavirus, and 12 people are hospitalized with cases under investigation. To date, 1,152 people have recovered from confirmed cases in Vermont, and the state reports it has now tested 85,742 people.

Currently, 70 people are being monitored for symptoms, as close contacts of confirmed cases. Yesterday, the Vermont Department of Health reported that it was monitoring 97 people as close contacts of confirmed or presumed cases.

The state did not announce any new deaths associated with the coronavirus today. So far, 56 people have died in Vermont after contracting the disease.

More from Vermont Edition: The Latest On Manchester's Potential COVID-19 Outbreak

- Abagael Giles

Brookfield Properties intends to pull out of CityPlace project

The City of Burlington is threatening to sue the developers of a massive downtown project for failing to follow through on promises moving forward.

Mayor Miro Weinberger said the city learned that Brookfield Properties intends to pull out of the CityPlace project. He said the company planned to return management to Don Sinex, a partner in the venture who had previously been in charge of the long-stalled redevelopment plan.

Weinberger said the city sent a letter to Brookfield accusing them of breaking their repeated promises to see the development through. He said they have a "short window of time" to respond.

"If an acceptable proposal is not forthcoming, I will protect the city's interests and long-standing public goals for this project through aggressive legal action," Weinberger said.

Read the full story.

- Liam Elder-Connors

Defender General details failures leading to inmate's death

The Prisoner's Rights Office issued a report Wednesday detailing failures by prison guards and medical staff which led to the death of inmate Kenneth Johnson, a Black man who was charged with rape and human trafficking.

The office is part of the Office of the Defender General, which is headed by Matt Valerio.

"There's a culture of ignoring medical complaints by inmates that has to be overcome," Valerio said. "And in this particular case, I ... believe that there was a racial component to it as well."

The report details months of complaints by Johnson as well as video footage of Johnson in agony while nearby nurses do nothing to help.

The Prisoner's Rights Office also notes the tumor found constricting Johnson's airway could have been treated, if doctors had found it before he died.

- Emily Corwin

Champlain Valley School District announces fall reopening plan

The Champlain Valley School District has announced a hybrid model for school reopening this fall and a fully remote option as well. 

In a letter to parents Wednesday, Superintendent Elaine Pinckney outlined the plans.

In the hybrid model, students will be in school in-person for two days each week and will access instruction remotely on the remaining days.

A fully remote model is also being offered as a way for students to access their education from home without utilizing school buildings. 

CVSD includes schools pre-K through 8th grade in Charlotte, Hinesburg, Shelburne and Williston, as well as Champlain Valley Union High School in Hinesburg. 

- Karen Anderson

Marlboro College merger approved by Attorney General's Office

The Attorney General’s Office has released a notice of non-objection to the closing of Marlboro College.

In a statement Monday, the AG's office confirmed that Marlboro’s plans to merge with Emerson College in Boston and sell its campus to Democracy Builders is consistent with state laws and within legal standards.

Emerson will accept Marlboro undergraduates in good standing for the 2020 semester.

- Karen Anderson

More from VPR: Marlboro College Has Deal In Place To Sell Campus

Pediatric infectious disease expert advocates for in-person learning

A pediatric infectious disease specialist at UVM Medical Center said he thinks that Vermont is in a relatively good position to open schools for in-person learning.

Dr. Benjamin Lee said that Vermont has low rates of transmission of COVID-19, as opposed to states like Arizona, Florida and Texas, where the disease is spreading widely.

"Here in Vermont, I think we're extremely well-poised to be able to do this safely. In areas where we're seeing lots and lots of viral transmission, it does become a very challenging question, because so much of this depends on what the local circumstances are," Dr. Lee said.

Dr. Lee and a colleague are co-authors of a commentary in the medical journal Pediatrics, which argues for the importance of schools reopening for in-person learning in the fall.

Read or listen to the full story.

- Sam Gale Rosen

Dana Colson Jr. seeks the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor

Dana Colson Jr., a candidate seeking the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor, said he hopes to use the position to push for rolling back regulations and making the state more business friendly.

Colson said support for farming and forestry will help the state's economy by rippling out to associated businesses that support those industries. 

"I was asked yesterday at an event, you know, what would be the first thing I'd want to do if I was elected? I said, 'Open Vermont up for business,'" Colson said. "You know, I'm a very pro-business candidate. I've got a lot of experience in that area."

Colson is one of five candidates seeking the GOP nomination for lieutenant governor.

Read or listen to the full interview.

- Sam Gale Rosen

New Hampshire's governor launches public service campaign to promote masks

New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu has announced a public service campaign to encourage wearing masks during the coronavirus pandemic, and state lawmakers have approved a policy requiring masks when they enter the Statehouse.

The social media-based campaign will target people ages 15 to 40. Sununu said that, just as disposable masks were made available earlier this year for businesses, a couple-hundred-thousand reusable cloth masks will be made available soon through Community Action Programs, health district offices and school districts.

Sununu hasn't issued a statewide mask mandate, but encourages them when social distancing isn't possible.

- The Associated Press

Political analyst says gubernatorial challengers will face a difficult race

Four candidates are challenging Gov. Phil Scott for the Republican gubernatorial nomination.

Middlebury College political science professor Matthew Dickinson said even in a normal year, challengers have difficulty gaining traction against incumbents in Vermont.

But he said this year will be even harder, with Scott presiding over frequent media briefings as he leads the state's ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"It's all positive, non-partisan coverage," Dickinson said. "It's coverage that focuses on an issue that affects all Vermonters, regardless of your ideology or your partisan beliefs. And so I think that has made it an even greater climb for his opponents to defeat him."

Dickinson said, assuming Scott wins the August primary, it may be helpful to have received criticism from the party's conservative wing.

"That actually I think plays to Scott's advantage. If he is in fact the nominee, being attacked from your right sort of makes it easier to portray yourself as a typical moderate Republican, which is the only type of Republican that plays well in Vermont," Dickinson said.

The four running against Scott are John Klar of Brookfield, Doug Cavett of Milton, Emily Peyton of Putney and Bernard Peters of Irasburg.

Early voting has started and the primary is on Aug. 11.

Read or listen to the full story.

- John Dillon

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