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Vermont Reports 197 New COVID-19 Cases, 4 Deaths

Skaters skare on the frozen, white west river against a blue sky
Shanta Lee Gander
/
For VPR
Skaters make the most of a sunny day on the West River in Brattleboro, while social distancing.

Vermont reporters provide a roundup of top news takeaways about the coronavirus and more for Thursday, Jan. 14.Want VPR's daily news in podcast form? Get up to speed in under 15 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:

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1. Vermont Department of Health reports 197 new COVID-19 cases

The Vermont Department of Health on Thursday reported one of the biggest single-day case jumps since the start of the pandemic.

Of the 197 new cases reported Thursday, 73 are in Chittenden County. Windsor County saw 31 new cases, and Bennington County saw 28.

Four more Vermonters have died, bringing the statewide death toll to 162.

Hospitalizations remain high, with 44 people currently admitted. Eight people are in ICUs.

Vermont's seven-day positivity rate – that is, of those tested for COVID-19 in the last week, how many tested positive – is now at 2.9%.

- Abagael Giles

2. National Guard on standby as Vt. State Police ramp up surveillance in Montpelier

Vermont State Police have begun ramping up patrols in Montpelier as they prepare for the possibility of armed protests at the Statehouse this weekend.

Commissioner of Public Safety Michael Schirling told lawmakers Thursday that police agencies are on guard across the state.

“I think it’s safe to say there is a heightened state of alert and concern that we have not seen since 9/11,” Schirling said.

Schirling says intelligence officials haven’t uncovered any evidence that protesters will be gathering in large numbers at the Statehouse this weekend.

And he says police aren’t aware of any credible threats to specific people or buildings in Vermont.

Members of the Vermont National Guard will be on standby this weekend in the event that protests at the Statehouse turn violent.

Schirling told lawmakers on Thursday that Guard soldiers are available to support state and local law enforcement agencies.

“There is no indication at this point that we will ask the governor to activate Guard assets, but the Guard has been in the loop so we’re not caught flatfooted in the event that we need their assets,” Schirling said.

More than 50 Vermonters traveled by bus to Washington, DC, last week to rally in support of Pres. Donald Trump.

However, Schirling says none of them appear to have been involved in the breach of the U.S. Capitol.

“There’s no indication that folks that were on that bus to D.C. pose any kind of a risk or participated in any way – based on what we know today – in the incursion and the insurrection into the Capitol,” Schirling said.

- Peter Hirschfeld

3. Rep. Peter Welch says he will attend the presidential inauguration, in-person

Congressman Peter Welch says Congress should expel any members who assisted the protesters at the mob rally at the Capitol last week.

There are reports indicating that some protesters were given tours of the Capitol just days before the riot, and may have used the opportunity to better understand the layout of the building.

Welch is calling for a full investigation of all of the tours that took place in the days leading up to the riot. He said it’s been months since the public has been allowed to tour the Capitol, unless a member of Congress leads the tour.

“And there’s some indication that some members did that, and that’s grounds for expulsion if a member of Congress is doing that,” he said. “And I don’t care if it’s a Democrat or a Republican.”

Welch is also calling for an investigation of House members who spoke at the rally that preceded the riot at the Capitol.

Welch wants the U.S. Senate to hold an impeachment trial for president Trump, even if it's after he leaves office.

Welch says it's important to hold Trump accountable for his role in inciting violence at a rally at the Capitol last week.

It was there, Welch says, that the president repeated his false claim that the Democrats had stolen the election.

“So he promoted this with a big lie about an illegal election or unfair election, [with] no basis for it and he employed violence as a political tactic,” Welch said. “And there is absolutely no place in our democracy for violence to be the means of persuasion."

Welch says the Senate trial could be relatively short and wouldn't necessarily interfere with the agenda of President-elect Joe Biden in the first days of his presidency.

Welch says he will attend inauguration in D.C.

Welch says he plans to attend the Inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden next week and is not overly concerned about his personal safety.

Law enforcement officials report that some pro-Trump extremists may be planning a large protest of the inauguration.

Welch says backers of Biden shouldn't be intimidated by these threats.

"I feel that it's extremely important for our democracy that Joe Biden be elected, and I feel it's important for me to be there, as Vermont's representative, to carry on the tradition of the peaceful transfer of power,” Welch said.

Welch said law enforcement officials have put extensive security measures in place to protect the inaugural ceremonies next week.

- Bob Kinzel

4. New England states send National Guard soldiers to Washington, D.C.

About 100 Vermont Army National Guard Soldiers will head to Washington this week to provide security and other support for the presidential inauguration.

New Hampshire will also send 50 Guard members, while Maine plans to send as many as 200.

The request came from the National Guard Bureau following the breach of the U.S. Capitol by pro-Trump extremists last week and the threat of more demonstrations.

Up to 20,000 National Guard troops and officers are expected in D.C. ahead of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration on Wednesday, Jan. 20.

- Matthew Smith

5. Vt. Legislature passes bill allowing towns to adapt Town Meeting Day voting for safety, amid the pandemic

A bill allowing towns to use mail-in voting and adopt other procedures to protect the public during the COVID-19 pandemic is on its way to Gov. Phil Scott.

The Senate passed the measure on Thursday. The House approved it earlier this week.

Windham Democrat Jeannette White chairs the Senate Government Operations Committee. She said that the bill does not force towns to use mail-in ballots or to cancel in-person meetings.

“It does not mandate anything at all. It is permissive; a town could still hold their town meetings exactly as they have in the past. They could mail out ballots, they could change the date,” White said. “It is permissive, not mandatory for them to do anything.”

White says the governor and the Legislature have also directed $2 million in federal COVID relief money to help towns with mail-in voting.

- John Dillon

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