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Vermont News Updates For Tuesday, June 9

Black Lives Matter protesters line the streets in downtown Waitsfield
Anna Van Dine
More than 100 protesters lined the street in the village of Waitsfield on Saturday, June 6 to protest the killing of George Floyd and police violence against black people in America and in Vermont..

Vermont reporters provide a round-up of ongoing local coverage of coronavirus, protests against systematic racism and more for Tuesday, June 9.

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The latest coronavirus data:


Vermont Department of Health reports nine new cases of COVID-19

The Vermont Department of Health reported nine new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday. Seven of those cases are in Chittenden County, where there's been increased testing due to an outbreak in Winooski.

There are currently two people hospitalized with the disease in Vermont.

So far, 55 people have died after contracting confirmed cases of the new coronavirus, and over 900 people have recovered since the pandemic began.

Officials have confirmed 1,084 cases of the virus in Vermont since early March. To date, 901 people are known to have recovered, and 44,228 people have been tested.

- Amy Kolb Noyes and Abagael Giles

Racial minorities in Vermont suffer higher rates of COVID-19 than white residents

Data from the Department of Health continues to show racial minorities in Vermont suffer from higher rates of COVID-19 than their white neighbors. This trend has likely been bolstered by a recent outbreak in Winooski, one of Vermont's most diverse communities.

Maria Mercedes Avila is the health equity liaison for the University of Vermont's medical school. She said health disparities with COVID-19 are caused by structural racism and economic inequality.

"We also know that some of the best practices for addressing health disparities and inequities is to diversify the workforce," Avila said. "For example, we need to be creating a pipeline of our community members into the health [care] and other health disciplines."

Additionally, Avila said public health officials need to improve their real-time translation services, and deploy more outreach workers in Winooski and elsewhere.

Read the full story.

- Emily Corwin

Vermonters must register online to pick up Farmers to Families food packages

The state is now asking Vermonters to registeronline before picking up Farmers to Families food packages. By registering for a food distribution event, recipients will be assigned a specific pickup time. Registering will also allow the Vermont Foodbank to offer services for people with ongoing needs.

Food packages were distributed Tuesday at the Champlain Valley Exposition Center.

Other events will be held Wednesday in Middlebury, Thursday in Brattleboro and Friday in Morristown.

- Amy Kolb Noyes

Burlington Police Commission to host emergency meeting Tuesday evening

The Burlington Police Commission is holding an emergency meeting Tuesday night to consider a new use-of-force policy for the department.

The move comes as cities around the country have considered reforms in the wake of recent protests over police brutality.

The new policy includes a number of new directives, including an emphasis on de-escalation and a requirement that officers must intervene if they see colleagues using excessive force.

The reforms were recommended by a city group tasked with examining police practices in Burlington after several incidents of alleged excessive force last year, including the release of footage of an officer shoving a black man into a wall.

Plans to move forward with the reforms were delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

But the policy has now been fast-tracked in light of protests around the country and in Vermont in response to the killing of George Floyd - a black man who died in Minneapolis after a white police officer kneeled on his neck for more than eight minutes. That officer has been charged with murder.

- Liam Elder-Connors

Chittenden County State's Attorney pledges to review pending cases for racial bias

The top prosecutor in Vermont's largest county will review all pending cases against black individuals in an effort to check for racial disparities.

Chittenden County State's Attorney Sarah Fair George said deputies were already reviewing their cases due to court delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

She said she's directed her staff to examine if black individuals were treated differently than white individuals in similar cases.

"What I've told deputies, is to err on the side of bias, like, if you think there may have been, that it may have played a part, then we need to remedy that," George said. "This isn't the time to weigh in favor of the state. We need to weigh in the favor of the person."

George said there are about 1,300 cases to review and she's not sure how many involve people of color.

- Liam Elder-Connors

Libraries prepare to reopen, with book quarantines

Vermont libraries have been reopening this month - but because of the state public health guidelines, they may look and feel different.

Randal Smathers directs the Rutland Free Library. He said any materials returned will be quarantined for four days. But he said touching books is much less of a concern than the transmission of airborne particles.

He said they've installed plexiglass sneeze guards around staff areas. Additionally, the library requires everyone to wear masks and has removed most of the chairs.

"So we're not that 'Come in, sit down, read the paper, read a magazine and hangout,' place," he said. "Right now, we're a place where you can borrow materials, you can access a computer, you can come in and print out an unemployment form - because those are the kinds of things that we had requests for when we were closed. And we just couldn't - really, we weren't allowed to - have people come into the library and do that sort of thing."

He said curbside services will continue.

More from VPR: 'I Feel Like A Superhero': Pittsford Librarian Gets Books To Her Patrons

- Nina Keck

Chittenden County State's Attorney calls for statewide system to handle police use-of-force complaints

The chief prosecutor in Vermont's largest county is calling for a statewide system to handle police use-of-force complaints.

Chittenden County State's Attorney Sarah Fair George said the state needs a standard that applies to all law enforcement agencies and the Attorney General's office should review any complaints filed against officers.

George said county prosecutors, like herself, should not be involved, since they work closely with those agencies.

"I really would love to say that I'd never let a relationship that I might have with an officer impact a decision that I've made on an excessive force [allegation], but I think that's probably optimistic of me to think," she said.

George said completed use-of-force reviews should also be publicly posted.

More from VPR: Amid National Protests, Vermont State Police Don't Expect Body Cameras This Year

- Liam Elder-Connors

Restaurants are unlikely to turn profit at required 25% capacity limit

While many restaurants in Vermont returned to indoor dining Monday, others remained closed - concerned about occupancy restrictions set by the state.

Restrictions require restaurants operate at 25% capacity, and parties must remain six feet apart.

Speaking on Vermont Edition, Deputy Commerce Secretary Ted Brady said many restaurants risk closing permanently if they don't open soon. And those that are currently open likely won't see profits because of the 25% capacity limitation.

"Let's be honest," Brady said. "This has been as much an economic crisis as a health crisis. Thousands of businesses were forced to close their doors and if we don't get them open, they will disappear from the fabric of Vermont."

Brady said his agency is asking the Vermont Legislature for $250 million in direct grants to businesses that were forced to close or had a large reduction in business. He said the most recent version of the bill from the Legislatire only includes $70 million in direct grants.

Listen to the full episode, here.

- Emma Pinezich and Lydia Brown

Bike Ferry slated to reopen this fall

The bike ferry serving the Colchester Causeway in Lake Champlain will reopen this fall.

Local Motion, which operates the ferry, announced Tuesday that it plans to resume operations in early September, after the causeway reconstruction project is completed.

That project is back on after the pandemic halted construction.

Local Motion said it will later announce the schedule and protocols to ensure compliance with state and CDC guidelines around COVID-19.

- Amy Kolb Noyes

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