Vermont Reports 214 New COVID-19 Cases, 3 Deaths
Vermont reporters provide a roundup of top news takeaways about the coronavirus, Wednesday's insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, the governor's inauguration and more for Thursday, Jan. 7.
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The latest coronavirus data:
1. Vermont reports 214 new COVID-19 cases, 3 deaths
The Vermont Department of Health on Thursday announced 214 new COVID-19 cases.
Of the new cases announced Thursday, 72 were in Chittenden county. Addison County also saw a sharp increase, with 41 new cases.
Vermont’s most populous county has seen more than 500 new cases in the last two weeks.
Three more people have died, bringing the pandemic death toll to one hundred and fifty-five. Currently, 36 people are hospitalized, including three in ICUs.
As of Tuesday, more than 17,000 Vermonters had received the first dose of a COVID vaccine.
- Abagael Giles
USDA renews food box program
The Farmers to Families food box program will continue.
The Rutland Herald reports the federal food relief program started during the pandemic was set to end last year.
The Vermont Food Bank had planned to continue the program independently, with $1.4 million of its own funds to carry the program through February.
Now the federal Department of Agriculture says it'll spend $1.5 billion in food for the Farmers to Families program, continuing the program in Vermont and other states.
Nationally the program has distributed more than 132 million food boxes.
- Matthew Smith
2. Vermont lawmakers, Congressmen call for Pres. Trump's removal
Vermont lawmakers are formally calling for the removal of President Donald Trump from office.
The House and Senate approved a joint resolution this Thursday afternoon that says Trump should either resign, or be removed from office by his cabinet members.
Lawmakers say the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday was instigated by the president.
- John Dillon
Gov. Scott renews call for Trump to resign or be removed from office
Republican Gov. Phil Scott called for Trump’s removal shortly after the insurrection began on Wednesday.
Scott welcomed lawmakers back to work Thursday and noted they were meeting as the nation reels from the violent events Wednesday inside the US Capitol.
“These actions were not patriotic and these people are not patriots,” Scott said. “The fact that these flames of hate and insurrection were lit by the president of the United States will be remembered as one of the darkest chapters in our nation's history.”
On Wednesday, Scott said Trump should resign or be removed from office by his cabinet or Congress.
- John Dillon
Welch, Leahy call for use of the 25th Amendment
Sen. Patrick Leahy is also calling on members of Pres. Trump’s cabinet to immediately remove him from office.
The 25th amendment allows the Vice President and a majority of Cabinet members to determine that a president is unfit for office.
Leahy says the action is needed because Trump encouraged a group of his extreme supporters to take over the Capital Building on Wednesday.
“What the president did was an impeachable offense,” Leahy said. “He incited a riot. His words got people killed. But the one way it could be done immediately is the 25th Amendment, and I hope they would. I want him out of there."
Congressman Peter Welch is also calling for the immediate removal of President Trump from office for his role in the siege of the Capital Building on Wednesday.
“That was direct engagement by the President of the United States in inciting a riot for the purpose of overturning an election,” Welch said. “He has no basis to occupy one more millisecond of power in that office. He is a dangerous, deranged man.”
Welch said he would also support efforts to impeach the president if there's time to take that action in the next two weeks. Leahy said he would also support impeaching Trump but he says he doesn't think there's enough time to accomplish that.
- Bob Kinzel
Vermont attorney general calls for federal investigation into Pres. Trump’s role in Wednesday’s insurrection
Vermont Attorney General TJ Donovan is calling on the federal Department of Justice to investigate President Donald Trump’s role in Wednesday’s insurrection.
Donovan said in an interview Thursday that Trump may have violated federal criminal law by inciting his supporters to storm the Capitol.
“And it’s got to be viewed in the totality of the context, in terms of the lies and the fabrications that he’s told his supporters, and the outright statement to march on the Capitol,” Donovan said.
Donovan sent a letter to acting U.S. Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen asking him to launch a criminal probe.
He says his office is willing to assist in any investigation Rosen chooses to undertake.
- Peter Hirschfeld
Vermont State Police trooper suspended for social media posts supporting insurrection
A Vermont State Police trooper has been suspended for social media posts his superiors say appear to support the violence in Washington D.C. on Wednesday, as well as advocate for the insurgency to continue.
In a statement, Public Safety Commissioner Michael Schirling said state police sergeant Lucas Hall is suspended without pay while the agency completes an investigation. Schirling says that process will take a few more days.
He said it’s a violation of law enforcement’s oath of office to advocate for “the overthrow of the Constitutionally-defined democratic election process.”
- Steve Zind
3. Amid heightened security, Vt. lawmakers certify election results
Vermont lawmakers have formally certified the results of statewide races in the November election.
The House and Senate voted unanimously Thursday to accept ballot counts conducted by a canvassing committee.
Windham County Senator Jeannette White said this year’s certification took on new significance, after rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday.
“Many might consider this report and the approval largely ceremonial,” White said. “But in light of yesterday’s events, we are reminded that every single step we take to defend and preserve our democracy is important and to be taken seriously.”
All six of Vermont’s statewide officeholders, including Gov. Phil Scott, took their oaths of office Thursday.
Scott, who will deliver his State of the State address later Thursday evening, asked lawmakers to set an example for civil debate – a leadership need he says is even greater now, with the discord in the nation’s capital.
As Scott welcomed lawmakers at the start of their legislative session Thursday, he said a major focus of their work will be the continuing COVID pandemic.
“Let's set priorities that support Vermonters in all 14 counties,” he said. “Let's help them not only get through this crisis, but get through it stronger. Let's learn the lessons of this pandemic and resist the temptation to do things the way we've always done them.”
Scott told a joint assembly the change was long overdue.
Security was tight at the Vermont Statehouse Thursday, following the riot that occurred in Washington, D.C. Wednesday as pro-Trump supporters stormed the Capitol building.
A state police spokesman would not comment on specific security measures. But he said police constantly assess risks based on local, national and international events.
Most of the Legislature met remotely today, although Lt. Gov. Molly Gray was sworn in inside the Senate chamber. Gov. Phil Scott took his oath of office for a third term outside, on the Statehouse steps.
The street in front of the capitol was closed briefly Thursday. But by mid-afternoon, traffic was flowing and snowboarders could be seen using the statehouse steps for jumps and tricks.
- John Dillon
4. Former GOP Senate Minority Leader decries insurrectionists, says party faces an 'internal conversation' about the future
Caledonia Republican Sen. Joe Benning said Thursday he's ashamed that rioters who stormed the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday consider themselves part of his political party.
Benning is the former Senate Minority Leader in Vermont. He said he "rejects" anyone who took part in the insurrection who calls themselves a Republican, including the President.
"I think the actions of Donald Trump, in inciting this, tells me he has no right in calling himself a Republican either," Benning said.
Benning said he expects the pro- and anti-Trump factions of the Vermont GOP will have an "internal conversation" about how the party goes forward.
He said the two sides managed to work together in the November election, but after Wednesday's insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, Benning said he sees a deepening schism.
“We're going to have an internal conversation about how we proceed from here,” he said Thursday. “And make no mistake on my part: I will be in favor of not following the Trumpian antics that were displayed yesterday.”
Benning says he plans to stay in the Republican Party, and he wants to see President Trump leave the party.
- Henry Epp
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