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News Roundup: Vermont Reports 139 New COVID-19 Cases

A white plywood sign featuring the ridge of the green mountains reads Vermont above with black lettering and a red heart as the m.
Brittany Patterson
/
VPR
In St. George, a sign offers a message of hope amid the melting snow on March 17.

Vermont reporters provide a roundup of top news takeaways about the coronavirus and more for Thursday, March 18.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. Vt. Department of Health reports 139 new COVID-19 cases

There were 139 new COVID-19 infections across Vermont today.

Of the new cases, 16 were in Orleans County, where an outbreak at the Newport prison has resulted in at least 190 cases among inmates and staff.

Other counties with large case numbers today include: Chittenden with 37 cases, Franklin County with 16 cases and Rutland County with 15 cases.

Currently there are 21 people hospitalized with the virus, including three in the ICU.

The health department's vaccine dashboard shows just over 29% of Vermonters 16 or older have gotten at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine.

- Matthew Smith

Newport prison outbreak grows to nearly 200 COVID-19 cases

The state prison in Newport has reported 12 new COVID-19 infections, bringing the total number of cases linked to the facility to about 190 since the first cases were detected in February.

In a release Wednesday night, the Vermont Department of Corrections reported 10 new cases among incarcerated individuals at Northern State Correctional Facility, and two new cases among staff.

In all, 175 inmates and 15 staff have tested positive, plus others who tested positive through community testing.

Prison officials say 135 of the infected inmates have now been medically cleared to leave isolation.

The facility remains on total lockdown – as it has since February. Officials say the entire prison will be tested again Thursday.

- Matthew Smith

2. Vermont House advances bill that seeks to clarify statewide use-of-force policy

The Vermont House has advanced a bill that clarifies when it's appropriate for law enforcement officers to use a chokehold.

Many states examined this issue following the death of George Floyd after a Minneapolis police officer held his knee on Floyd's neck for more than 8 minutes.

South Burlington Rep. Martin La Londe says the new bill is needed because legislation passed last session only "indirectly' sanctioned the use of a chokehold when a police officer felt their life was in danger.

La Londe says this new bill leaves no doubt that there are some very limited situations when it can be used:

“[Such as] if an officer's only option is use of a firearm that could result in more fatalities than if the officer could use a chokehold in such a situation,” La Londe said.

The bill also makes it a crime if a police officer fails to report that a colleague illegally used a chokehold in the apprehension of a suspect.

- Bob Kinzel

3. Vermont attorney general voices concern about proposed border surveillance towers

Attorney General TJ Donovan says he's worried about the privacy implications of a series of surveillance towers that federal officials plan to build along the state's border with Quebec.

The proposes towers are for two locations in Champlain, New York, and the Vermont communities of Highgate Center, Franklin, Richford, Derby, Derby Line and North Troy.

Donovan said he understands the need by U.S. Customs and Border Protection to monitor the border for illegal activities.

But the attorney general says the agency "has failed to make a compelling case" that the scale and scope of the planned towers are necessary, and hasn't addressed privacy concerns around the towers.

The Vermont chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union and its New York counterpart submitted comments Monday about the project, expressing concerns about privacy and safety.

Border officials say more than two-dozen similar towers have been used by the Border Patrol’s Buffalo and Detroit sectors.

- Brittany Patterson

4. Green Mountain Power enters into new agreement with Global Foundries over power

Vermont's biggest utility says it supports efforts by one of the state's largest private manufacturing companies to become its own self-managed utility.

Green Mountain Power says it's entered an agreement with Global Foundries to let the company manage its own power needs at its Essex facility by 2023.

The company says controlling its own power is key to remaining competitive. But as the largest electricity customer in the state, losing Global Foundries could have negative impacts on other ratepayers.

That's why GMP says its deal includes a nearly $16-million-fee Global Foundries will pay to offset the costs and impacts of the transition.

If approved by the state's Public Utility Commission, Global Foundries would become the third-largest utility in Vermont.

- Matthew Smith

5. Gov. Scott calls on state department to send more refugees to Vermont

Gov. Phil Scott is asking the federal government to resettle more refugees in Vermont.

VTDigger reports Scott sent the State Department a letter Monday asking for a three-fold increase in the number of refugees sent to Vermont next year.

The state is set to receive 100 refugees by September, although, so far, only about one-quarter have arrived.

The governor told the agency refugees are "an integral part" of the state's efforts to grow its economy and population.

The administration says more than 8,000 refugees have settled in Vermont since the start of the Federal Refugee Resettlement Program.

But, Scott said, in recent years the rate has slowed and Vermont can and would like to receive more.

- Brittany Patterson

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