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Vermont News Updates For Monday, September 14

wooden buckets of squash and pumpkins below a COVID-19 sign warning customers only four people can go inside at one time
Shanta Lee Gander
Harlow Farm in Westminster works its autumn vibe while also keeping customers safe from COVID-19.

Vermont reporters provide a roundup of ongoing local coverage of the coronavirus, action in Vermont's Legislature and more for Monday, September 14.

Want VPR's daily news in podcast form? Get up to speed in under 20 minutes with The Frequencyevery weekday morning. How about an email newsletter? Add our daily email briefing to your morning routine.

The latest coronavirus data:


A dozen more people test positive for the coronavirus

The Vermont Department of Health identified 12 new people testing positive for the coronavirus on Monday. Another 800 people tested negative.

Four of the cases are in Chittenden County, three are in Washington County and two are in Lamoille County.  There is one each in Bennington, Windsor and Grand Isle counties. 

The department has reported 1,696 cases to date. One person in Vermont is in the hospital with COVID-19, and 58 people have died.

- Karen Anderson

Duxbury middle school closes following students testing positive for coronavirus

A middle school in Washington County is closed for the week after two students tested positive for COVID-19.

In a statement Sunday afternoon, Harwood Union Unified School District Superintendent Brigid Nease said that the two students had been in class at Crossett Brook Middle School in Duxbury last Tuesday.

The school will not hold in-person instruction this week "due to the number of students and staff that will be required to quarantine." The other schools in the district will remain open, according to the statement.

State officials have said they expect positive cases as students return to school. The district is working with the Vermont Department of Health to conduct contact tracing.

- Anna Van Dine

More from VPR: Vermont Prepares For Projected Increase In COVID-19 Cases As Public Schools, Colleges Open

Lawmakers advance bill to expunge records of "low-level" marijuana possession

As Vermont lawmakers edge closer to creating a legal market for marijuana, they've also advanced a bill to require the automatic purging of criminal records for people convicted of possessing small amounts of the drug.

West Rutland Republican Tom Burditt says the state has already legalized possession of an ounce or less, so it makes sense for criminal records to be expunged as well.

“We have approximately 10,000 Vermonters who continue to struggle to live, work, find a house, raise their families and continue to be productive members of society with that cloud of a past, non-violent, low-level minor marijuana conviction hanging over their heads,” Burditt said. “That's just one reason for expungement.”

The bill comes up for a final vote in the House on Tuesday.

A House and Senate conference committee is also close to agreement on a bill that sets up a tax and regulate system for cannabis.

- John Dillon

Hazy skies in New England due to wildfires in western U.S.

Hazy skies over much of New England Monday are the result of smoke from intense wildfires in the western United States.

Brooke Taber, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Burlington, says the smoke is being carried by the jet stream where we’d normally blue skies with such strong, high pressure.  

"You can see a large plume of smokey-filled skies all the way from Montana, across the northern Great Lakes and into the Northeast,” Taber said. “So, it's gonna be several days before these conditions improve. It should make for some nice sunsets the next couple of days though."

Taber says the haziness will likely continue for several more days, but he says because the smoke is high above the ground, it shouldn't cause poor air quality.

- Henry Epp

Climate bill awaits governor's signature

Vermont's newest climate change legislation has passed the House and Senate and now awaits the governor's signature.

The Global Warming Solutions Act requires Vermont to meet targeted reduced carbon emissions, and creates a climate council to come up with plan to reduce pollution.

Representative Felisha Leffler of Enosburg Falls told Vermont Editionwhile she agrees with the philosophy of the legislation, she feels the responsibility should fall on the Legislature, not a council.

"The council is not elected. They're not accountable,” Leffler said. “I think if the Legislature really wants this, the onus should be on the Legislature. We should be the ones making these big decisions and the ones accountable."

Gov. Phil Scott has expressed concerns about the bill and may veto it.

Listen to the full conversation.

- Emily Aiken

State Board of Education to hear from two merged schools who want to break up

The first proposal to break up an Act 46-merged school district will go before the State Board of Education this week.

The State Board will hold a virtual meeting Wednesday to hear from the southern Vermont towns of Halifax and Readsboro, both of which voted overwhelmingly to dissolve their recently-merged school district.

Voters in the two towns approved the merger in 2017, largely to avoid a state-mandated consolidation which could have led to the closing of one of the schools.

But the two towns have not seen eye-to-eye on proposed building upgrades, and they faced challenges around staffing and travel time between the schools.

- Howard Weiss-Tisman

COVID cases continue to rise in Quebec

The number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise in Quebec as more than 200 new cases have been reported daily for the fifth consecutive day.

Health Minister Christian Dubé said the province is seeing an increase in outbreaks, as well as community transmission.  Hospitalizations, however, remain steady, and no new deaths have been reported in the province.

- Karen Anderson

Fish and Wildlife to treat lake tributaries for sea lamprey

Fish and wildlife officials say four tributaries of Lake Champlain will be treated with a pesticide this fall to control sea lamprey that prey on fish.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife will treat the Winooski, Missisquoi, LaPlatte and Lamoille rivers. Officials say yearly assessments continue to show improvements in fish populations with lower wounding rates of fish by lamprey and more older, larger trout and salmon. But wounding rates remain above target levels.

Vermont and New York officials recommend that the treated water not be used for drinking, swimming, fishing, irrigation, or livestock watering while water-use advisories are in effect.

- Associated Press

Potential COVID exposure in Stowe schools

In Stowe, students and staff may have been exposed to individuals who tested positive for COVID-19.

According to WCAX, a letter from the Lamoille South Unified superintendent warns of “very low-risk COVID-19 related situations.”

According to school officials, the affected individuals have been isolated and referred to their health care providers, and necessary disinfection measures have been taken.

- Karen Anderson

Rutland dairy business closure a loss of local "culture"

Rutland's Thomas Dairy, just off Route 7, is a local landmark and has produced milk for almost a century. So news that the dairy would close at the end of the month hit the region hard.

The company says the pandemic had greatly reduced their business with colleges, tourism and restaurants, and Lyle Jepson, executive director of the Chamber and Economic Development of the Rutland Region, called the news incredibly sad.

"It is kind of an iconic place to drive by, because it's what you think about Vermont,” Jepson said. “And the family has been very supportive of employees and very supportive of the community. It’s more than just the loss of a business. It's the loss of what we have come to know as our culture in the Rutland region."

Thomas Dairy reportedly employed about 30 people.

- Nina Keck

More from VPR: Thomas Dairy, Fifth Generation Rutland Milk Business, To Close

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