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Vermont News Updates For Thursday, August 27

Sign reading Worship Zoom outside of Congregational Church in Brattlebor
Howard Weiss-Tisman
The Centre Congregational Church in Brattleboro holds weekly services over Zoom.

Vermont reporters provide a roundup of ongoing local coverage of the coronavirus, protests against police violence and more for Thursday, August 27.

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The latest coronavirus data:


Vermont Department of Health reports 11 new cases of COVID-19

The Health Department reported 11 new cases of COVID-19 Thursday.

The cases are spread over Rutland, Bennington, Addison, Windsor, and Caledonia counties.

More than 1,300 people have recovered from the disease in Vermont.  Four people are currently hospitalized and 58 people have died. The state has tested more than 124,000 people.  

- Sam Gale Rosen

Multi-day protest against police violence continues in Burlington

As of midday today [Thursday], about twenty-six protesters continued a vigil outside the Burlington Police Department as part of a multi-day demonstration.

The protesters held signs calling for the firing of three Burlington police officers involved in high profile use of force investigations.

The demonstration was organized by The Black Perspective, a Burlington-based racial justice group. It comes amid national protests against police violence, following the shooting of Jacob Blake by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

Activists have been at Battery Park, with many camping out, since the initial protest Tuesday evening.

They declined to speak to VPR, but protesters have said they intend to demonstrate until the officers are fired.

- Abagael Giles

Welch calls for flexibility in spending parameters for federal COVID-19 relief

Congressman Peter Welch says it's critical that Congress passes a second major COVID-19 stimulus package that allows states to determine their own spending priorities.

Welch said the first Congressional stimulus bill gave individual states very little flexibility.

For instance, Gov. Phil Scott wanted to use some of the state's $1.2 billion to help fund the Vermont State Colleges but was told by federal officials that wouldn't be allowed.

Welch says this strict approach needs to be changed.

“But I absolutely believe there's got to be significant flexibility at the state and local level because I think how Vermont responds to the areas of real impact – those decisions should be made here not in Washington," Welch said.

Congress is expected to consider a second stimulus package when it returns to Washington after Labor Day.

Listen to the full conversation.

- Bob Kinzel

Dartmouth to bring students back to campus

Dartmouth College announced this week that it will open its campus to students returning for the fall semester.

Cait McGovern is president of the student assembly, which supports the decision.

“We’re confident in Dartmouth’s plan, and in the ability of students to follow Dartmouth’s guidelines, and to have a safe re-opening for our entire community,” McGovern said.

Dartmouth is opening its campus over the objection of more than one hundred-and-eighty faculty members, who signed a letter asking the school to offer only remote classes during the pandemic.

The college says it will review its decision to open for in-person classes if more than one-percent of the campus tests positive for COVID-19.

- Howard Weiss-Tisman

Legislature to consider new professional licensing bill

The Vermont House will soon take up a bill designed to make it easier to get a professional license in  Vermont if a person is licensed in another state.

The uniform licensing legislation covers 48 professions, from nurses, to plumbers, to hair stylists. The goal is to streamline license review and eliminate redundancies in the process.

Chittenden Republican Jim Harrison briefed his colleagues on the bill Thursday.

“This creates uniform licensing standards across various agencies within the state. And it makes it very easy to transfer your license from another state to Vermont, whether that's being a teacher, a plumber, an electrician, a dentist,” Harrison said. “All of this is very positive.”

The Senate has already approved the bill, and the House is expected to pass it during a month-long legislative session.

- John Dillon

Vermont inmates allege lack of care in Mississippi prison hit by COVID-19

Vermont inmates at an out-of-state prison experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak say they’re being kept in the dark and don’t always have access to appropriate care.

More than 80% of the 219 Vermont prisoners at the privately run Tallahatchie County Correctional Facility in Mississippi have tested positive for the virus.

Two are in the infirmary and none are hospitalized, according to the Vermont Department of Corrections.

Harry Norway is of the inmates who tested positive. The 50-year-old said he’s worried because he has diabetes — a condition that can lead to more serious cases of COVID-19.

Norway said he’s had a fever of about 101, but prison officials wouldn’t give him any fever reducing medication. Instead, he has to purchase it from the prison commissary.

“They tell us everything that we can take for it. We're allowed to order it off commissary. They won't give us nothing for it. We have to purchase it off commissary,” Norway said.

Vermont DOC said inmates should be provided the medicine they need and it will look into the situation.

CoreCivic, the company that runs the Mississippi prison, said in an email that any claims inmates aren’t getting medical care are quote “patently false.”

- Liam Elder-Connors

Vail Resorts plans to open Mount Snow, Okemo, Stowe ski resorts on time

The Colorado-based company that owns the Mount Snow, Okemo and Stowe resorts plans to open the mountains on schedule for skiing this year.

Jamie Storrs is a spokesperson for Vail Resorts.

“We’ve been getting a ton of questions from all sides asking what does this winter look like, and with this announcement today we can say that we’re planning on having a great season from the beginning to the end,” Storrs said.

Storrs said there will be new policies in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

He said everyone will be required to wear a mask and the number of people on the lifts will be limited.  

Skiers and riders will also have to purchase their tickets through a reservation system.

- Howard Weiss-Tisman

$5,000 reward offered for information about missing Barre resident

The Barre Police Department is offering a $5,000 reward for information about a missing man who is now believed to be a victim of foul play.

Ralph Jean-Marie, nicknamed "Rizz", was reported missing in April. Initial reports said Jean-Marie was involved in an argument and walked away from the location where he was staying on April 13. Police now believe that one or more individuals are directly responsible for Jean-Marie's disappearance.

- The Associated Press

New owner of Green Mountain College campus hopes to open new school

Raj Bhakta, the founder of Shoreham based WhistlePig Whiskey, told VPR that he hopes to create a new kind of worker's college on the former Green Mountain College campus in Poultney.

If the $5 million purchase closes next month as planned, Bahkta wants to create a specialized school that would focus on agriculture and the trades with a heavy dose of entrepreneurship.

“I think that reincarnation of Green Mountain College is going to be a combination of making it very Hands-On and learning how to sell it because the two are critical,” he said.

Bhakta said he hopes to create an apprentice-type tuition-free curriculum on the campus.

Read the full story.

- Nina Keck

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