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News Roundup: Vermont Communities To Celebrate Juneteenth Saturday

A person walks down a path with greenery on either side
Abagael Giles
/
VPR
An angler walks out to the end of the causeway in South Hero in early June to fish by the Local Motion bike ferry, which begins daily service today.

Vermont reporters provide a roundup of top news takeaways about Juneteenth, the U.S.-Canada border and more for Friday, June 18.

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1. Vermont reports three new COVID-19 cases

Health officials reported three new COVID-19 infections in Vermont Friday.

The number of Vermonters hospitalized is also at three, with one person in intensive care.

Some 670 more Vermonters got their first dose of a COVID vaccine Thursday, pushing the state's vaccination rate to 80.7%.

- Matthew Smith

2. Communities to celebrate Juneteenth Saturday

The town of Hartford is holding a Juneteenth celebration Saturday in White River Junction.

It’s the second year the community has officially recognized the holiday.

Joe Major is one of the organizers and executive director of the Upper Valley Aquatics Center.

“Being an African American man in a community that is 94% white, and having them say, ‘You know what, this is important, and we should acknowledge this,’ is pretty cool,” Major said.

The celebration will feature performances by local theater companies, and speakers including Congressman Peter Welch.

- Lexi Krupp

Burlington to hold first Juneteenth celebration

The city of Burlington holds its first-ever Juneteenth celebration Saturday, with a focus on both celebration and education.

The holiday marks the day when the last enslaved people in the U,S. learned of their freedom, more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was issued in 1862.

The city's executive director of racial equity, inclusion and belonging Tyeastia Green says when she arrived in Burlington last year, she was surprised by how few people knew about Juneteenth.

"Because of that, education was at the top of my mind when we were planning this,” Green said. “We have to make sure people know what Juneteenth is. We have to make sure people know the history of the country and the history of the last 150-plus years."

Among the educational programs Saturday are a talk titled "Contextualizing Juneteenth" and an exhibit called "Black History 101."

Read/hear the full interview.

- Henry Epp

3. U.S.-Canada border still closed to non-essential traffic until at least July 21

The U.S.-Canada border will remain closed to non-essential travel for another month, until July 21.

That's according to Bill Blair, Canada's Minister of Public Safety. Blair tweeted Friday that the government will have more updates this coming Monday about safety requirements for Canadians and permanent residents who are allowed to enter the country.

The international border has been closed to most travel since March of last year. But pressure has been mounting for the two countries to ease travel restrictions. Earlier this month, Vermont's congressional delegation sent a letter to the Biden administration encouraging it to work with the Canadian government toward fully reopening the border.

- Henry Epp

4. State committee rejects proposal to rename Townshend's "Negro Brook"

A proposal to change the controversial name of the so-called "Negro Brook" in Townshend was rejected by a state panel Thursday.

It’s up to the Vermont Board of Libraries Geographic Naming Committee to approve name changes to mountains, lakes and brooks. And after meeting for more than two hours Thursday, the board unanimously voted to keep the controversial name of the brook that runs through Townshend State Park.

The proposal was submitted by two social activists from Chittenden County. But Vermont State Librarian Jason Broughton said the petitioners never worked closely with the southern Vermont town on their idea.

"One of the single most important acts the State Board of Libraries requests of all petitioners is to have a unifying petition,” Broughton said. “This is why we ask people to go to the local community and garner support."

The chair of the Townshend Select Board says he wants the town to vote on the proposed name change at town meeting next year.

- Howard Weiss-Tisman

5. State health officials ask Vermonters to keep eye out for cyanobacteria blooms

Sunday is the first day of summer, and state health officials want Vermonters to get in the habit of looking for blooms of cyanobacteria before recreating in lakes and ponds. Blooms often resemble pea soup in texture, and may be green, blue or turquoise with an oily, paint-like sheen.

The microscopic organisms grow naturally in freshwater. But when the right recipe of warm water and lots of nutrients like phosphorous align, their populations explode – making them visible and sometimes toxic to dogs and swimmers.

Bridget O’Brien is with the Vermont Department of Health. She says it’s best not to fish during a bloom, and that boating can also aerate toxic water.

“So it’s not recommended that you’re boating or jet skiing through cyanobacteria blooms, as you’re more likely to breathe in those water droplets,” O’Brien said.

People who are exposed should rinse off with clean water right away.

You can track blooms, learn to recognize and report them online, here.

- Abagael Giles

6. Sanders wants expanded Medicare, climate change, health care measures in infrastructure bill

Sen. Bernie Sanders wants a major expansion of the Medicare program to be included as part of a $6 trillion, comprehensive infrastructure bill that's being considered by Congress.

Sanders wants to lower the eligibility age of Medicare from 65 to 60, and he's proposing that the program provide dental, vision and hearing benefits.

He says the expansion can be paid for by allowing the Biden administration to negotiate prescription drug prices for a variety of federal health care programs.

"We could raise between $500-600 million in new revenue and we can use that money to expand Medicare to cover dental, hearing and vision,” Sanders said.

Sanders also wants the bill to allocate roughly $1 trillion to help fix roads and bridges along with upgrading water treatment plants. He hopes to address climate change, health care, and paid family leave, too, and proposes raising money by ensuring all wealthy individuals and corporations pay their fair share of federal income taxes.

Opponents of these policies argue that they have little to do with the traditional components of an infrastructure package, but Sanders disagrees.

"Infrastructure has to do with the foundations of a modern society, and anyone who thinks that infrastructure is just roads and bridges is terribly wrong,” Sanders said.

Senate Democratic leaders are hoping to have the details of the infrastructure package worked out by the end of the month.

- Bob Kinzel

7. Red Cross seeking blood donors

The American Red Cross is seeking volunteers to give blood in Vermont.

The nonprofit supplies around 40% of the nation’s blood supply. It says hospitals are facing a severe blood shortage. There are more trauma and emergency room visits than usual.

The Red Cross also says people who deferred care during the pandemic are now seeking surgeries and care for serious medical cases that tend to require more blood.

Red Cross Regional Communications Director Jennifer Costa says the Red Cross needs a consistent showing of volunteers.

“Blood can’t be stockpiled and it is perishable, so what we’re trying to do is level out these peaks and valleys and supply a steady stream into the system,” Costa said. “And the best way to do that is to have people make those appointments and keep those appointments.”

Costa says there are often fewer donations during the summer, which only makes the situation more challenging.

- Reed Nye

8. Gov. Phil Scott honors Vt. National Guard member with Soldier's Medal

Gov. Phil Scott awarded the Soldier's Medal to a Vermont National Guard member who risked his own life in rescuing two lost and injured skiers in Stowe last year.

Sgt. 1st Class Dustin Dearborn was honored Friday at the Army Mountain Warfare School in Jericho for his heroism on Feb. 29 and March 1 of last year.

The Guard says Dearborn responded to a request for aid from the Vermont State Police, and did multiple ice climbs in freezing conditions in the dark to reach and recover the skiers.

- Associated Press

9. Vt., Azores teens connect over message in a bottle

Two teenagers on opposite sides of the Atlantic Ocean have connected, after one found a message in a bottle tossed into the ocean by the other.

The Valley News reports Sean Smith of Royalton, Vermont was celebrating Thanksgiving in Rhode Island in 2018 when he and his siblings wrote eight messages, put them in bottles and placed them in the ocean.

This spring, 17-year-old Christian Santos was spearfishing in the Azores when he found Smith's message, which included an email address. When the story hit news wires this week, Smith learned that the message had been found. He said he was shocked and had forgotten he'd put the message in the sea.

The two teens connected over a Zoom call, set up by a reporter with the Boston Globe. Smith's mother, Laurie Smith, tells the Valley News the boys loved talking to each other and "they plan to connect again soon."

- Henry Epp

This post was compiled and edited by Elodie Reed.

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