News Roundup: Vermont Dept. Of Health Reports 219 New COVID-19 Cases
Vermont reporters provide a roundup of top news takeaways about the coronavirus and more for Friday, Sept. 17.
While Vermont's pandemic state of emergency has ended, the delta variant is now circulating around the state. Click here for the latest on new cases, and findthe latest vaccination data online any time.
1. Vermont Dept. of Health reports 219 new COVID-19 cases
State health officials reported 219 new COVID-19 infections Friday, and two more virus-linked deaths.
With today's new cases, Vermont has now surpassed 31,000 infections and 296 deaths from the coronavirus since the start of the pandemic.
Right now, 41 people are hospitalized with the virus, including 12 people in intensive care.
The rate of Vermonters with one dose of the vaccine hasn't budged since Wednesday, and remains at 87.1%.
— Matthew Smith
DOC says outbreak at Newport prison is officially over
The Department of Corrections announced Thursday that an outbreak ofCOVID-19 at Vermont's largest in-state prison is over.
DOC says three consecutive rounds of testing at Northern State Correctional Facility in Newport found no new cases among staff or the incarcerated population.
The outbreak began about a month ago after two employees at the prison tested positive. Seven staffers and 33 people held at the facility ultimately tested positive.
The entire prison was re-tested Thursday to determine if outside visitation can resume.
— Liam Elder-Connors
Derby Elementary to go remote after multiple COVID-19 cases
More than 400 students at Derby Elementary school are all learning remotely after multiple cases of COVID-19 at the school.
In a message on the elementary school's website, North Country School Superintendent John Castle states all classes shifted to remote instruction Thursday.
WCAX reports there have been 17 COVID-19 cases in the elementary school since the start of the school year.
Castle says, despite mitigation efforts, there is "too high a presenceof the virus in the school community to continue with in-person instruction without risking an outbreak."
Derby Elementary will remain remote through all of next week, with plans to return to the school on Monday, Sept. 27.
— Matthew Smith
2. Ripton may not leave ACSD after all
The town of Ripton might not end up leaving its school district after all.
The State Board of Education wants the Addison County town to discuss folding back into the Addison Central School District.
Ripton has been engaged in efforts to withdraw from the district, in order to keep its small elementary school open.
Ripton has almost completed the withdrawal process, but has few options to provide the necessary services to students.
State Board of Education Chair Oliver Olsen says the board encourages Ripton and the local district to stay together.
"With the direction to find a way to bring Ripton back into the ACSD as a full member of ACSD, and with the intention of keeping ACSD whole as a supervisory district, including Ripton," he said.
The town and district will come before the state board again before the end of the year.
— Anna Van Dine
3. Leahy hopeful on future of stimulus bill
Sen. Patrick Leahy says he's growing more optimistic that progressives and moderates in the Democratic caucus will agree on a massive spending plan.
The $3.5 trillion bill provides big increases for child care programs, Medicare, affordable housing and climate change initiatives.
Leahy, who chairs the Senate Appropriation committee, says he's been meeting this week with both sides of the caucus on this issue:
"This is a once in a generation opportunity. We ought to take advantage of it," he said
Leahy says a final compromise could reduce the price tag of the legislation without affecting important policy priorities.
— Bob Kinzel
4. Green Mountain Peace Party rebrands
A long-running Vermont political party that helped Bernie Sanders kickstart his career is re-branding.
Vermont's Liberty Union party is retiring the name it has used since the 1970s.
It will now call itself the "Green Mountain Peace and Justice Party."
VTDigger reports party leaders fear the political climate of 2021 could lead to misconceptions about its platform, which includes advocacy for nonviolence, human rights and socialist ideals.
The party has never won a statewide election.
After several unsuccessful bids for U.S. Senate and governor, Bernie Sanders left the party in 1977. He won his first political office, as mayor of Burlington, running as an independent in 1981.
— Liam Elder-Connors
5. Vermont to welcome 500 Afghan refugees
Vermont has been approved by federal authorities to welcome up to 100 Afghan refugees to the state.
Gov. Phil Scott said announced Thursday that the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, a national nonprofit resettlement agency, was approved this week by the U.S. State Departmentto welcome the refugees.
An exact timeline of their arrivals has not yet been established.
Scott said there is a "moral obligation" to help refugees from Afghanistan.
Tracy Dolan, the director of the State Refugee Office, said the refugees “are eager to find jobs and rebuild their lives.”
Before they arrive in Vermont, Afghans will have completed medical and security screenings, and will be authorized to work.
— The Associated Press
Abagael Giles compiled and edited this post.