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Vermont News Updates For Wednesday, August 12

Seniors partake in drawing class outdoors on common
Howard Weiss-Tisman
?The River Gallery School held a drawing class with members of the Brattleboro Senior Center, outside, on the Brattleboro Common on Tuesday, Aug. 11.";

Vermont reporters provide a roundup of ongoing local coverage of the coronavirus, the statewide primary and more for Wednesday, August 12.

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The latest coronavirus data:


Vermont Department of Health reports 5 new cases of COVID-19

The Vermont Department of Health reported five new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday. One person is currently hospitalized with a confirmed case in Vermont, and eight people are hospitalized with symptoms under investigation.

To date, 58 people have died. State officials reported no new deaths today.

So far, 1,302 people have recovered from the virus and 105,073 people have been tested.

- Abagael Giles

Health Department: Winooski outbreak over

An outbreak of COVID-19 that began in the city of Winooski is over, according to the state health department.

The outbreak was first identified in June. Winooski is a small and densely populated city that is home to many New American families.

More from VPR: How Vermont's Multilingual Communities Are Providing Grassroots Translation, Resources For COVID-19

Health Commissioner Mark Levine says it’s been 28 days since any coronavirus infection connected to the outbreak.

Levine says one key takeaway is the importance of outreach to non-English speaking communities.

“But importantly what we learned about delivering culturally and linguistically appropriate information is now a fundamental part of our outbreak response plans,” he said.

A total of 117 infections were associated with the outbreak, with the majority in Winooski and others in Burlington and nearby towns. Two people were hospitalized, and there were no deaths connected to the outbreak.

Read the full story.

- Liam Elder-Connors

Norwich University plans to conduct 700 COVID tests per week

Five hundred students have arrived at Norwich University in Northfield. So far, three have tested positive for COVID-19.

Daphne Larkin is a spokesperson for Norwich and she says, by design, all the students who arrived last weekend came from areas with high rates of COVID-19 or they used commercial transportation.

“And so this week is basically a sort of all-campus quarantine, so only the most essential employees to the functioning of the campus are there,” Larkin said.

As soon as the cases were identified, the three students were isolated and their roommates were quarantined.

All Norwich students will be tested again this weekend, and the university plans to conduct 700 tests per week throughout the semester. Around 1,300 more students will arrive at the Northfield campus at the end of the month before classes start on Aug. 31.

- Anna Van Dine

Democratic gubernatorial nominee David Zuckerman says he wouldn't reopen schools this fall

Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman won the Democratic nomination for governor in Vermont’s primary election Tuesday.

Zuckerman now faces a general election campaign against Republican Gov. Phil Scott, who’s won high approval ratings for his handling of COVID-19.

But Zuckerman says he doesn’t agree with all of the approaches Scott has taken to addressing the pandemic.  Zuckerman told VPR Wednesday if he were governor, he would not open schools for in-person learning this fall.

“Right now I think it’s dangerous to do so. I’ve heard from a lot of teachers who are concerned, and I think we needed better planning to give them the opportunity to do that,” Zuckerman said. ”I would say probably not until we have better, clearer guidance for our instructors.”

Zuckerman defeated three other Democratic candidates in Tuesday's primary.

Read/hear the full story.

- Liam Elder-Connors

Lake Carmi clean up progress promising example for Lake Champlain

The state says efforts to reduce phosphorus pollution in Lake Carmi are beginning to pay off. And the water quality work in Franklin may provide some lessons for Lake Champlain, which has seen multiple algae blooms this summer due to phosphorus runoff.

No one is declaring Lake Carmi healthy again. But the state says improvements in farming and other land use changes have cut the phosphorus flowing into the water body. They calculate the reduction is 41% of what's needed to meet clean-up goals.

Oliver Pierson manages the Lakes and Ponds Program at the Department of Environmental Conservation. He says similar measures adopted more broadly in the Lake Champlain watershed could also yield improvements.

“What we're doing up there is what we like to think is best management practices for reducing phosphorus loading into lakes,” Pierson said. “And these types of practices need to be implemented anywhere in any watershed of the lake where there's similar issues, including Champlain.”

Pierson notes that the big lake has other sources of phosphorus pollution besides agriculture, including stormwater runoff and sewage overflows.

- John Dillon

St. Albans City votes to create police advisory board

The St. Albans City Council voted unanimously to create a police advisory board at its regular meeting on Monday night.

The St. Albans Messenger reports the council also unanimously adopted a roadmap for police reform and a new hiring policy.

The police reform roadmap is a statement of values intended to guide the work of the department as it makes changes and seeks to cultivate racial and economic diversity within the department.

- Karen Anderson

Gov. says he's open to president's unemployment payment executive order

Gov. Phil Scott says he’s open to an executive order signed by President Donald Trump on Saturday that would extend supplemental benefits for unemployed Americans.

Trump wants to use federal disaster relief money to fund a $300 weekly add-on to state unemployment checks.

“We are going to assess that, and if it’s okay to do, we’re fine trying to find a path to doing so,” Scott said.

Trump’s plan would require states to contribute an additional $100 a week to unemployed workers. But Scott says Vermont could use federal coronavirus relief money to cover the cost.

A $600 weekly unemployment benefit passed by Congress earlier this year expired at the end of July.

- Peter Hirschfeld

School sports will be allowed to proceed this fall

School sports teams will be allowed to return to the playing fields this fall.

Jay Nichols, with the Vermont Principals Association, said the low prevalence of COVID-19 in Vermont spurred the decision to allow fall sports.

"We've got mitigation strategies in place that we think are safe, and we think the mental health ramifications of not having sports is more of a worry than actually providing sports," Nichols said.

Athletes, coaches and spectators will be required to wear facial coverings during all sporting events, except for cross country running.

And football will be limited to non-tackle games of seven-on-seven.

Read the full story.

- Peter Hirschfeld

Gov. Scott expects cases will rise when kids return to school

Gov. Phil Scott said Tuesday he wants schools to bring students back to the classroom for in-person learning this fall. But he said the decision to do so will likely result in new cases of COVID-19.

"As we've said before, because of the nature of this virus, and even though we have the lowest number of cases in the nation, we're likely to see some cases and clusters connected to schools," Scott said.

Scott said though that the risk of keeping students home for another year is greater than the public health threat posted by COVID-19.

And he said the Department of Health has developed new protocols to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in school buildings.

Read the full story.

- Peter Hirschfeld

Preliminary results suggest record turnout in 2020 primary

As of midday Wednesday, preliminary results show Vermonters turned out in record numbers to vote in Tuesday's statewide primary.

So far, it appears more than 166,000 people voted in the 2020 primary.

That shatters the previous record set in 2016, when about 120,000 people voted.

The Secretary of State's Office said 273 of the state's 275 voting districts had reported unofficial results by noon.

Election officials warn that results are subject to change ahead of next week's canvas, when official results will be determined.

Eric Covey, Chief of Staff for the Secretary of State's Office, said Vermonters should be proud.

For live updates on the primary, check out our 2020 Vermont Primary Liveblog, here.

- Abagael Giles

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