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Vermont's Three Electors Cast Votes Monday For Biden-Harris

Electors stand masked and socially distant in the Statehouse, cast their votes
ORCA Media
Wearing masks, Vermont electors state Senator-elect Kesha Ram, Linda Gravell and Terje Anderson cast their Electoral College votes Monday morning at the Statehouse. All three voted for President elect Joe Biden.

Vermont reporters provide a roundup of top news takeaways about the coronavirus, the Electoral College, housing and more for Monday, Dec. 14.Want VPR's daily news in podcast form? Get up to speed in under 15 minutes with The Frequency every weekday morning. How about an email newsletter? Add our daily email briefing to your morning routine.

The latest coronavirus data:


1. Vermont Department of Health reports 104 new COVID-19 cases

The Vermont Department of Health reported just over 100 new cases of COVID-19 today.

Of the 104 new cases reported Monday, 52 were in Chittenden County. Chittenden County has seen more than 550 new cases in the last two weeks. New COVID cases were identified Monday in all but one of Vermont's 14 counties.

There are 26 people hospitalized with the disease in Vermont, including four being treated in ICUs.

One more Vermonter has died, bringing the statewide death toll to 96.

- Abagael Giles

Brattleboro school to go remote due to COVID-19 concerns

Officials at Green Street School in Brattleboro say the school will shift to remote learning next month due to COVID-19 concerns.

The Brattleboro Reformer reports the elementary school decided to go remote last Friday, after learning that  person in the school community tested positive for the virus.

After a second positive result was reported on Sunday, school officials decided to take learning fully remote until Jan. 11.

- Brittany Patterson

Winooski schools to go remote through end of 2020

Ongoing spread of COVID-19 in Winooski is shifting the city's school to remote learning through the end of the year.

Last week, the district pivoted to online instruction, after three confirmed COVID-19 cases.

District Superintendent Sean McMannon alerted families Sunday there are now 15 cases in the school community.

Health officials say the new cases are due to community transmission of the virus, and not spread within the school.

Winooski schools plan to return to in-person learning in January, after the holiday break.

- Matthew Smith

U.S.-Canada border will remain closed through end of 2020

The U.S.-Canada border will remain closed through next month, due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The two countries have limited border crossings to only essential travel since March, extending the closure each month.

Canada's Border Services Agency announced Friday the border will remain closed until at least Jan. 21.

Cargo shipments and essential workers will continue to cross the border. Vacations, day trips and other discretionary travel remains prohibited.

- Matthew Smith

New Hampshire receives first shipment of COVID vaccine

New Hampshire will get its first shipment of the Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine Monday.

State health officials said they expect more than 12,000 doses of the vaccine in the initial shipment and could start inoculations by Wednesday.

The state's current vaccine distribution plan puts healthcare workers at high risk for direct exposure at the front of the line for a vaccine.

Health officials said it could be six months to a year until there is widespread access to the vaccine.

- Matthew Smith

First vaccine doses arrive in Quebec

Canada's first doses of the Pfizer BioNTech coronavirus vaccine arrived Sunday night in Quebec.

The military commander leading the vaccine distribution effort for the Public Health Agency of Canada said some 30,000 initial doses are now being transported to 14 distribution sites across the country.

The Montreal Gazette reports more doses are set to cross the border by plane and truck Monday.

Front-line health care workers and long-term care residents will be among the first to be inoculated.

Quebec has been the hardest-hit province when it comes to virus. It was just shy of 2,000 new COVID-19 cases Sunday and 33 deaths.

More than 7,500 people in Quebec have died from COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic.

- Matthew Smith

2. Vermont's three electors cast votes for Biden-Harris ticket

The three Vermont members of the Electoral College met in Montpelier Monday morning and officially cast their votes for President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.

That Biden-Harris ticket carried the state by a 2:1 margin in November.

The vote took place in a sparsely attended ceremony in the House Chamber.

The three electors were newly elected state Senator Kesha Ram, Former party chairman Terje Anderson and Washington County chairwoman Linda Gravell.

Secretary of State Jim Condos said his office worked hard to guarantee a safe voting environment, "to ensure that Vermonters had access to their right to vote in a safe, secure and accurate and accessible location."

Condos asked the group to sign their names to a special document certifying the Biden-Harris victory.

"I can report that we have three votes for President-elect Joseph Biden and three votes for Vice President-elect Kamala Harris," Condos said. "Having completed the duties set forth, I now adjourn this Constitutionally required meeting of the 2020 Electoral College."

Congress is scheduled to certify the votes of the Electoral College on Jan. 6.

More from VPR: Ask Bob: Who Are Vt.'s Electors? And Other Questions About The 2021 Legislative Session

- Bob Kinzel

3. More than 250 people experiencing homelessness could soon be housed

More than 250 people experiencing homelessness in Vermont could soon be housed, thanks to more than two dozen projects supported by federal coronavirus relief funds.

The Vermont Housing Conservation Board was tasked this summer with foling out more than $30 million to rehab homeless shelters and develop more affordable housing.

But there was a catch: all the month needed to be spent by the end of this month.

Jen Hollar, director of policy and special projects at VHCB, said housing non-profits have quickly found projects.

"There have been all kinds of unique opportunities identified, from buying motels, to using tiny homes, to the complete rehabilitation of a former John Deere dealership," Hollar said.

Work is underway or finished at 26 sites around the state, including projects in Bennington, Essex Junction and St. Johnsbury.

Hollar said the board was able to spend all but $1 million of the funds.

"It typically takes two-to-three years for a housing development to come to fruition, so this has really been happening at lightning speed," Hollar said.

- Liam Elder-Connors

4. Vt. agricultural communities offer mixed responses to Biden's pick for Secretary of Agriculture

President-elect Joe Biden's choice of Tom Vilsack to once again lead the federal agriculture agency is drawing mixed reviews in Vermont's farm circles.

Visack is a former Iowa governor who served as President Obama's agriculture secretary.

He's spent the last four years as head of the Dairy Export Council. Sheldon dairy farmer Bill Rowell said that background gives him valuable insight into Vermont's dairy economy.

"He not only has an understanding of it, he understands the importance of doing something to make the rural community viable again," Rowell said.

But Maddie Kempner, policy director for the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont, said she was looking for a nominee who would boost smaller-scale and organic agriculture.

"I would really love to see somebody who would lift up the experiences and the needs of farm workers, who I really don't think get the necessary support from USDA," Kempner said.

Kempner said Vilsack could also do more to help the agriculture sector tackle climate change and address food insecurity.

- John Dillon

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