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Sen. Leahy Tests Negative For COVID-19

Sen. Patrick Leahy speaking in front of a placard with his name on it
Carolyn Kaster
/
Associated Press
Sen. Patrick Leahy speaks during a Senate Judiciary Committee oversight hearing on Aug. 5. While two other members of the committee have tested positive for COVID-19, Leahy's test came back negative Monday.

Vermont reporters provide a roundup of top news takeaways about Sen. Patrick Leahy testing negative for COVID-19, a coronavirus outbreak in Addison County and more for Monday, October 5.

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1. Sen. Patrick Leahy tests negative for COVID-19

Sen. Patrick Leahy has tested negative for the coronavirus.

There was concern that Leahy might have been exposed last Thursday at a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee, because two members of the panel later tested positive.

Leahy’s communications director David Carle says the senator was tested Monday morning.

“For the sake of prudence, he was tested this morning, and that test has come back negative,” Carle said. “He continues to exhibit no symptoms from the virus."

Leahy is calling for a delay in the confirmation hearings of U.S. Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett, because he says four members of the Senate Judiciary Committee are now in quarantine.

- Bob Kinzel

2. 26 migrant workers test positive for COVID-19 at Champlain Orchards

The owner of Champlain Orchards in Shoreham confirmed Monday that 26 of his employees who were living in the same bunkhouse have the coronavirus.

Owner Bill Suhr says all of the individuals are men from Jamaica who came to work under a seasonal agriculture visa program.

Suhr said all of those who were infected had undergone a two-week quarantine starting in mid-September. But one individual reported not feeling well last week, just after finishing quarantine. The rest of the crew was tested on Saturday.

“They are all feeling well, that's really important to start the story with,” Suhr said.

The orchard was closed to the public over the weekend. Suhr says it will remain closed for at least another day.

Read the full story.

- Henry Epp

3. Vermont positive cases see largest daily jump in four months

The Vermont Department of Health reported 33 new cases of COVID-19 Monday, the largest daily increase in four months. Some 26 of the reported cases are in Addison County and are associated with an outbreak among migrant workers living shared housing at Champlain Orchards, according to the orchard owner. 

Four of the new cases are in Chittenden County, and there is one each in Franklin, Bennington and Windsor counties.

One person is currently hospitalized with the disease in Vermont, and 167,506 people have been tested. A total of 1,817 people are reported to have tested positive for the coronavirus, and 1,625 people have recovered.

- Karen Anderson and Elodie Reed

4. Use-of-force bill on governor's desk

Law enforcement officials in Vermont are urging Gov. Phil Scott to veto a use-of-force bill approved by lawmakers last month.

Many police offers say they support the creation of a new statewide use-of-force policy. But Commissioner of Public Safety Michael Schirling says this legislation would send police agencies into murky legal waters.

“The fundamental concern is that when new words are added, words the courts have not used in prior guidance, that we will have to try to figure out in the near term how to operationalize them. And we will be wrong,” Schirling said.

Supporters of the legislation, like Falko Schilling with the ACLU of Vermont, say the new use-of-force standard would encourage police officers to place a heavier emphasis on de-escalation tactics.

“So what this bill would do is say, ‘We’ll look up to what led to that use of force, and judge whether the officer was acting reasonably, whether there’s things they should have known, or ways they could have de-escalated the situation before resorting to force,’”  Schilling said.

The governor hasn’t said yet what he plans to do with the bill.

Read/hear the full story.

- Peter Hirschfeld

5. Chittenden County meets annual, though not overall, affordable housing production goal

An effort to increase housing production in Chittenden County is still failing to meet affordable housing goals.

The Building Homes Together Campaign, which began in 2016, aimed to create 700 new affordable housing units by 2021 in Chittenden County. Four years into the effort, there have only been 449 built.

Chris Donnelly is director of community relations at Champlain Housing Trust, one of the organizations leading the campaign. And he says while they’re still not reaching their overall target, last year marked the first time they exceeded their annual affordable housing production goal.

“The reason we met that goal was we passed the 'housing for all' revenue bond back in 2017, and those apartments are actually becoming occupied now,” he said.

More from VPR: Chittenden County Housing Production Steady, But Affordable Units Still Lag

Donnelly added the group exceeded its goal for all types of housing development, with an average of 787 new units annually since 2016. But he says projections indicate next year there will be a drop in development due to the pandemic.

“The financing has really kind of dried up for a lot of developers, and the construction costs continue to go up and up and up,” he said. “Some of this is  policy on the federal level with tariffs.”

Donnelly says right now, projections show only about 300 housing units will be finished next year.

- Liam Elder-Connors

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