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Vermont News Updates For Wednesday, September 23

Two people pick apples from a tree
Elodie Reed
Mother and daughter Jeannette and Katie Leap pick apples at Shelburne Orchards on Tuesday. Orchard owner Nicholas Cowles said with COVID-19 precautions in place, including pre-paying for apple bags and no wagon rides, people are still coming and enjoying.

Vermont reporters provide a roundup of ongoing local coverage of the coronavirus and more for Tuesday, September 23.

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The latest coronavirus data:


One new case of COVID-19

The Vermont Department of Health reported one new case of COVID-19 in Chittenden County on Wednesday. Another 525 people tested negative for the coronavirus.

Two people are hospitalized with the disease, 1,565 people have reportedly recovered and 58 people have died. The state has now tested 157,263 people total.

- Elodie Reed

Interscholastic sports competitions to begin this weekend

Student athletes across Vermont will be able to resume interscholastic competition for the first time since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.

Secretary of Education Dan French says that starting this weekend, fall sports teams will be allowed to compete with teams from other schools.

“We wanted to give our student athletes an extra weekend for what has already been a shortened season,” French said. “This is particularly important for our students participating in activities that have short seasons to begin with, such as bass fishing and golf.”

French says low COVID case counts in Vermont schools have allowed for the resumption of sports competitions.

Many sports will still have to abide by strict coronavirus protocols.

And all athletes, except for those in cross-country running, will have to wear masks while competing.

Read the full story.

- Peter Hirschfeld

Poll shows Scott well ahead of Zuckerman in gubernatorial race, Gray and Milne in near-tie for lieutenant governor

Anew VPR-Vermont PBS pollshows Republican Gov. Phil Scott with a significant lead over Democratic candidate David Zuckerman.

Overall, 55% of poll respondents said they’d vote to re-elect Phil Scott if the election were held today, while 24% said they’d cast their ballots for David Zuckerman.

Better than two-thirds of Republicans said they’d vote for the incumbent governor — but nearly half of Democrats and Independents who responded also said they’d vote for him.

Among those who identified themselves as Democrats, or leaning that way, 41% said they would vote for Zuckerman. Some 16% of Independent voters said they’d cast their ballot for Zuckerman.

In the race for lieutenant governor, the Republican and Democratic candidates are neck-in-neck according a new VPR-Vermont PBS poll.

Among those polled, 35% said if the election were held today, they'd vote for Democratic candidate Molly Gray while 31% favored Scott Milne, the Republican candidate.

Nearly a quarter of those polled were not sure who they would support or they had no opinion.

The poll has a margin of error of 4%.

- Liam Elder-Connors

Today is Alexander Twilight's birthday

Alexander Twilight was born 225 years ago Wednesday.

Middlebury claims him as the first Black college graduate in the nation, and Vermont honors him as the state's first Black legislator. But modern scholarship indicates Twilight's ancestry was mixed.

That racial ambiguity is highlighted in a multimedia online work by artists Eve and Steve Schaub of Pawlet.

Eve Schaub says the work explores Twilight's complex biography and has a contemporary message.

“It speaks to a lot of questions that we're grappling with as a culture today about the construction of identity, not only how we're perceived, but how we present ourselves to the world and how we're accepted,” Schaub said.

The artwork and video, called The Home of My Choice, can be seen online at In October it will be on display at Burlington City Arts.

- Betty Smith

Health commissioner critical of CDC removing guidance about airborne transmission

Vermont Health Commissioner Mark Levine slammed the Centers for Disease Control on Tuesday after the federal agency removed language warning of airborne transmission of the coronavirus.

The CDC updated its guidance last week to include new warnings about the risk of airborne transmission of COVID-19.

The CDC then removed that updated guidance on Monday, saying it was posted in error. Levine says the decision will fuel speculation about the politicization of the nation’s top health agency.

“Keep in mind this speaker, and scientists across the country and for that matter the world, have been calling for the risk of airborne transmission to be recognized by health authorities,” Levine said.

He added that numerous studies have indicated that the coronavirus can be transmitted through so-called “aerosols,” which can travel much farther than large respiratory droplets from coughs or sneezes.

Levine says facial coverings are a critical tool to prevent airborne transmission of COVID-19.

- Peter Hirschfeld

Nearly half of Vermonters feeling less than confident about election integrity according to poll

In a new VPR-Vermont PBS poll, Vermonters expressed doubts about the integrity of the 2020 presidential election.

In general, how confident are you that the 2020 presidential election will be conducted fairly? That was one of the questions put to Vermonters in the recent poll.

Overall, 35% of those polled said they are “somewhat confident” the election will be fair. But 43% said they were either not too confident or not confident at all that the election will be conducted fairly.

Republicans were about as likely as Democrats to doubt the integrity of the election.

The poll has a 4% margin of error.

- Abagael Giles

State officials: Three confirmed COVID cases in Vermont public schools since Sept. 8

Health officials say they’ve confirmed a total of three cases of COVID-19 in Vermont schools since in-person learning resumed on September 8th.

Secretary of Education Dan French says the coronavirus doesn’t appear to be posing a serious threat to students and staff.

“In spite of the few cases we have seen in schools, the conditions remain very positive,” he said. “The cases we have seen in schools were the result of the virus essentially being brought to school. To date, we have not seen transmission of the virus in schools.”

French announced new guidelines Tuesday that will allow schools to resume using common areas, such as gyms and cafeterias.

- Peter Hirschfeld

Medical professionals monitoring COVID-19 patients experiencing symptoms months after recovery

Medical professionals in Vermont have been keeping a close eye on the after-effects of COVID-19, as many Vermonters have reported symptoms long after the fact.

Dr. Katherine Menson, a pulmonologist and intensive care physician at the University of Vermont Medical Center, told Vermont Edition that there are some studies happening in the state that follow these “long-haulers” and their symptoms.

“The subspecialties within specifically the department of medicine have convened together, so physicians who have identified following these patients post-COVID and linking them in with different specialties based on their symptoms,” Menson said.

She added that these patients aren't necessarily older people with health issues: “The data that we've seen coming out across the world is that these patients can just as likely be younger without other medical problems.”

Menson says while there is still a slightly higher rate of long-term effects occurring in elderly people with chronic diseases, patients who are healthy and in their 30s or 40s are at risk of suffering from long-term effects from the virus as well.

Listen to the full conversation.

- Emily Aiken

Gov. Scott receives high approval rating in new poll

The only Republican serving in statewide or federal office in Vermont also has the state’s highest approval rating.

A new VPR-Vermont-PBS poll found that 68% of residents think Gov. Phil Scott is doing a good job.

The poll of 604 Vermonters shows Scott with a higher approval rating than Patrick Leahy, Bernie Sanders or Peter Welch.

Even more notable is where Scott’s approval comes from: 73% of Democrats say they approve of the Republican governor’s job performance. That’s higher than the 65% of Republican voters who feel the same way.

A previous VPR-Vermont PBS poll conducted last month showed Scott with near-universal approval for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

According to the latest poll, 17% of Vermonters disapprove of Scott’s performance as governor.

- Peter Hirschfeld

New poll has Biden well ahead of Trump in Vermont

The majority of respondents to the new VPR-Vermont PBS poll say they plan to vote for Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden this November.

Some 56% of poll respondents said they would vote for Biden if the election were held today, and 32% said they would vote for Republican President Donald Trump.

But among people who said they would vote for Biden, nearly twice as many said their vote is more in opposition to Trump than it is in support of Biden: 63% of Biden supporters said their opposition to Trump is the reason for their decision to vote for the Democratic nominee.

- Liam Elder-Connors

Poll: In theoretical match-up, Scott neck-in-neck with Leahy in Senate race

Gov. Phil Scott hasn’t expressed any interest in trying to unseat longtime Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy in 2022, but a new VPR-Vermont PBS pollsuggests the race would be close if he did.

Republican Phil Scott and Democrat Patrick Leahy serve as their party’s standard bearers in Vermont.

And a hypothetical matchup for U.S. Senate between the two men in 2022 is a statistical dead heat, according to a poll of 604 Vermonters conducted earlier this month.

The poll found that Scott would be the runaway pick among Republicans. And he also carried a strong majority of Independent voters.

Leahy meanwhile showed strong support among Democrats.

Leahy is the longest serving member of the U.S. Senate, and hasn’t announced yet whether he’ll seek a ninth term in 2022. 

- Peter Hirschfeld

More from VPR: Sept. 2020 VPR-Vermont PBS Poll: Gov. Scott Very Popular, Lt. Gov Race, Vaccine Eagerness Toss-ups

Bellows Falls responds to mask-less parade earlier this month

Bellows Falls is reviewing its requirements for parade permits after members of the town fire department did not wear masks while holding a parade to commemorate the 9/11 attacks.

Acting Bellows Falls Municipal Manager Charles Wise says he “foolishly” assumed people would be wearing masks when he issued the permit so the Westminster Fire Department could walk 3.43 miles through the community to commemorate the 343 New York firefighters killed in the 2001 attacks.

Wise said when he got to Bellows Falls the morning of Sept. 12 to watch the walk, none of the firefighters were wearing masks.

- Associated Press

In new poll, about half of Vermonters plan to vote by mail

Vermonters appear to be divided about whether to vote absentee or in-person, and on whether to cast their ballots early or on Election Day, Nov. 3. Nearly half said they plan to vote by mail.

A new VPR-Vermont PBS pollfound that 45% of respondents plan to vote by mail, while 49% plan to vote in person. Outside of Chittenden County, more people said they plan to cast their ballot at the polls.

Sept. 21 was the first day Vermonters could cast their votes in the general election – either by mail or in-person.

Nearly half of respondents overall said they plan to vote before election day, and of that group, nearly two-thirds are Democrats.

The poll has a 4% margin of error.

Turnout data from the 2020 Vermont Primaryhighlighted a strong interest among Vermonters in voting by mail.

- Abagael Giles

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