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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 Thursday, September 24

An empty shelf of canning supplies at hardware store
Howard Weiss-Tisman
/
VPR
At Brown and Roberts Ace Hardware Store in Brattleboro, canning supplies were in high demand.

Vermont reporters provide a roundup of ongoing local coverage of the coronavirus and more for Thursday, September 24.

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The latest coronavirus data:

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

The Vermont Department of Health reported two new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, bringing the total number of cases identified to date to 1,724.

There are currently two people hospitalized with active cases in Vermont.

So far, the state reports it has tested 158,189 people for active cases of the disease. There are currently 35 people being monitored as close contacts of confirmed cases.

Of the new cases reported today, one was identified in Chittenden County and one was identified in Franklin County.

- Abagael Giles

In debate, Scott supports building a new prison to bring home Vermonters incarcerated out of state

The Republican candidate for governor says a new corrections facility should be part of Vermont’s criminal justice reform effort.

Incumbent Gov. Phil Scott faces Democratic/Progressive challenger David Zuckerman in the Nov. 3 election.

In a VPR-Vermont PBS debate Thursday, Scott said expanding capacity to bring back more than 180 inmates currently housed out of state is an important step in reforming the criminal justice system.

“Bringing the offenders back into Vermont is important as well, and I believe that building … a new facility, is going to be key to doing that,” Scott said.

State data show Vermonters of color are disproportionately incarcerated and stopped by police.

Scott says the state must invest in prevention and diversion programs to address the disparity.

Zuckerman says he supports expunging cannabis convictions to help deal with racial inequities in Vermont's criminal justice system.

Listen to the full debate.

- Matthew Smith

Sanders rebuke's Trump's statements about peaceful transfer of power

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders says it's up to the American people, not President Donald Trump, as to whether there will be a peaceful transfer of power after the presidential election.

In a speech at George Washington University Thursday, Sanders pushed back on comments Trump made on Wednesday, when he did not commit to peacefully leaving office if he loses the election.

Sanders had this message for the president:

"Too many people have fought and died to defend American democracy, and you are not going to destroy it. The American people will not allow that to happen."

Sanders called for the creation of a bipartisan election commission to oversee the election, an idea proposed last week by former Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats.

- Henry Epp

Castleton University renews ties with Rutland to create internship opportunities

Castleton University is renewing ties with the Rutland business community to help fill jobs and create more workplace opportunities for students.

The university had previously collaborated with the Rutland Economic Development Corporation, but those efforts were curtailed when the university faced a budget shortfall in 2018.

Kimberly Rupe is with the newly formed Chamber and Economic Development of the Rutland Region. She says it will team up with Castleton University to restart and expand previous efforts.

“Well, we certainly have the relationship with the employers,” Rupe said. “And I think a big component to this new partnership is to develop new internships. “

Castleton University said the collaboration is being supported by a grant from the U.S. Department of Education.

- Nina Keck

Leahy calls on Senate to delay vote over anticipated Supreme Court nominee

Senator Patrick Leahy says a decision by Republican Majority leader Mitch McConnell to push through the confirmation of a new Supreme Court justice could have a serious and lasting impact on the U.S. Senate.

McConnell has vowed to quickly hold confirmation hearings on a nominee to fill the vacancy.

Speaking in a meeting of the Senate Judiciary committee, Leahy said the Senate is already operating "in a dark place and is headed to only darker places still."

“Let me tell you my fellow senators, it subverts Senate norms, it's subverting those Senate norms in basic decency and fairness in the raw pursuit of power [and it] is deeply corrosive to this committee, to our very system of government, so I urge my colleagues to change course," Leahy said.   

President Trump is expected to nominate a new Supreme Court Justice this weekend.

More from Vermont Edition: Sen. Leahy, Deb Markowitz Reflect On The Death Of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

- Bob Kinzel

Scott, Zuckerman debate over whether to raise taxes to meet COVID needs

How should Vermont plan for the economic uncertainty from the coronavirus pandemic?

The question drew contrasting answers in Thursday's VPR-Vermont PBS debate with the candidates for governor.

With future federal COVID funding uncertain, incumbent Republican Phil Scott pledged no new taxes in next year’s budget.

“This isn’t the time to increase the burdens on Vermonters, this is the time to get back to the fundamentals, to make sure that we provide for those in need, but also focus on the economy,” he said.

Democrat/Progressive challenger and current Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman called for higher taxes on the wealthy to help weather any economic difficulties.

“I would look to Gov. Dick Snelling, who, when times were tight, said we can lean on our wealthiest Vermonters, to say let’s help us get through these difficult times."

Both Scott and Zuckerman agree: the next fiscal year will be challenging for state government.

Listen to the full debate.

- Matthew Smith

Zuckerman, Scott spar over Global Warming Solutions Act

Incumbent Republican Phil Scott faces Democratic/Progressive candidate David Zuckerman in the November 3 election.

Last week Scott vetoed the Global Warming Solutions Act — which creates a state climate commission to oversee mandated carbon cuts.

Scott calls the new law unconstitutional — but pledged to follow it if he's re-elected.

“Vermonters want action now. The legislature is saying, it’s no longer OK to put forward goals that are ambiguous. The legislature and the governor and government as a whole need to be held accountable,” Zuckerman said.

Lawmakers overrode the governor’s veto this week — allowing the measure to become law.

- Matthew Smith

Zuckerman says he favors some wind projects to meet renewable energy goals

The candidate challenging the incumbent governor for the state’s top office says he favors some controversial wind projects to help Vermont meet its renewable energy goals.

David Zuckerman —the Democratic/Progressive candidate for governor — faces incumbent republican Phil Scott in the November 3 election.

In a VPR-Vermont PBS debate Thursday, Zuckerman said he supports local and sustainable energy — including some ridge line wind projects.

“We need both distributed energy, where we support solar energy on folks’ roofs, small-scale wind, and we do need to look around the state to find those few places where we can place industrial wind,” Zuckerman said.

Scott says he's opposed, and successfully stopped, the use of ridge lines for large-scale wind projects.

Look out for video and audio from the full debate here.

- Matthew Smith

Construction crew uncovers human remains in Burlington

A construction crew working in Burlington has found human remains, apparently from a soldier from the War of 1812. According to researchers, there may be hundreds of soldiers buried in the city.

UVM archaeologist John Crock said the remains are likely from a large military hospital which was in Burlington at that time. He said many of the dead were probably killed by disease.

“You know, there was an epidemic in the winter of 1812-1813 of pneumonia, or influenza. Soldiers were also battling typhus. The majority of those who died were really deaths that resulted from this kind of close-quarters living with epidemic disease raging through these camps,” Crock told Morning Edition.

Crock said the particular dig will have to be completed in about a week.

Read or listen to the full story.

- Sam Gale Rosen

New poll shows younger Vermonters are more likely to doubt general election will be fair

According to the new VPR-Vermont PBS poll, many younger voters are questioning whether this year's presidential election will be conducted fairly.

Castleton University political science professor Rich Clark was the director of the poll.

He says he's concerned that while two thirds of voters over 65 who were polled said they are confident it will be a fair national election, only 40% of voters between the ages of 18 to 45 share that confidence.

“As somebody who teaches college students this concerns me, I'm hoping that it's a sign of skepticism and not cynicism and that it passes but yeah younger voters tended to have the least confidence in the system,” Clark said.

Among all age groups, 54% of people responding to the poll, expressed confidence in the results of the 2020 presidential election.

Listen to the full conversation.

- Matthew Smith

U.S. House approves bill that includes stopgap funding for USCIS

The House has approved funding to prevent furloughs for employees of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Representative Peter Welch announced the bill's passage Wednesday. It provides the funds needed to prevent approximately 1,100 furloughs scheduled in Vermont this year. 

USCIS twice postponed the layoffs before announcing last month that it would not furlough anyone during the 2020 fiscal year, which ends September 30. 

According to The St. Albans Messenger, the Senate is expected to approve the stopgap bill, which will secure funds through December 11.

USCIS employs roughly 2,500 workers at the Vermont Service Center based in St. Albans and Essex.

- Karen Anderson

Vermont State Police plan to relocate central Vt. barracks to Berlin

The State Police are planning to move the Central Vermont barracks from Middlesex to Berlin.

Plans call for renovating the state-owned building that once housed the Midstate Regional Library, just off Interstate-89 in Berlin, into a state-of-the-art barracks. Work could start this fall. It is scheduled to be completed by late 2021.

Berlin is in the process of extending a municipal sewer line along the largely undeveloped stretch of Paine Turnpike North, where the barracks will be located. The town is hoping to secure a new town center designation for the area.

- The Associated Press

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