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State Officials Report 69 New COVID Cases

A man in a mask cutting hair
Elodie Reed
The Shop owner Algenis Garcia trims the hair of Burlington resident Ali Al Jarah on Tuesday, Dec. 22. Garcia said the pandemic has brought more, not less business to his barber shop, which is located on St. Paul Street in Burlington.

Vermont reporters provide a roundup of top news takeaways about the coronavirus and more for Wednesday, Dec. 30.

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The latest coronavirus data:


1. State officials report 69 new COVID cases

The Health Department reported 69 new cases Wednesday. Of those, 18 are in Chittenden County, and 11 are in Franklin County.

Some 2.3% of the tests conducted in the last week came back positive.

State officials have said that case growth in Vermont has slowed, but December has been termed the “deadliest month” of the pandemic, with more than 50 COVID-19 related deaths.

Since March, 134 Vermonters have died in the pandemic. Most of those deaths are associated with long-term care facilities.

As of Wednesday, 24 people were hospitalized with COVID-19, six of whom were in intensive care.

- Anna Van Dine

Bennington police department report six COVID infections

The Bennington town manager tells the Bennington Banner that an outbreak of COVID-19 is impacting six people at the town's police department, including the police chief.

The Banner reports that town manager Stuart Hurd says that five sworn officers and one civilian are impacted. The department has 26 sworn officers.

Police Chief Paul Doucette, who is recovering at home, says he thinks some of those testing positive could begin returning to work by the end of this week.

- Sam Gale Rosen

2. Stamford Select Board to sue state over COVID restrictions

The Stamford Select Board wants to challenge Gov. Scott’s COVID-19 health and safety guidelines in court.

At a meeting Tuesday night, Stamford Select Board member Mike Denault said the town will bring a lawsuit against the state's advisory that limits travel and public gathering.

“And I just think that if we don’t do something, if we don’t send a message, this can be used in the future for so many other things to violate our Constitution,” Denault said.

Before the board voted to pursue a lawsuit, a number of Stamford residents spoke out against the board’s decision, saying the coronavirus posed a very real threat to the public’s health.

Read/hear the full story.

- Howard Weiss-Tisman

3. Sanders says McConnell's resistance to $2,000 checks affects Georgia Senate race

Sen. Bernie Sanders says his plan to send most Americans a $2,000 stimulus check could play a key role in two U.S. Senate special elections in Georgia next week.

Both Republican incumbent senators are up for re-election in runoff contests next Tuesday. Sanders says Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's opposition to the $2,000 direct payment puts these two senators in a very awkward political position.

"Oh believe me it does, yes,” Sanders said. “And if McConnell yields on this issue, one of the reasons will be his two Senate candidates out there — the incumbent senators — are being beaten up appropriately for their lack of support for working people's needs. So yeah, it is an issue."

The outcome of the Georgia races will decide control of the Senate for the next two years.

- Bob Kinzel

4. State settles with Chittenden Solid Waste District over glass dumping

The Vermont Attorney General's office has reached an agreement with the Chittenden Solid Waste District over the dumping of 18,000 tons of glass in Williston between 2013 and 2018.

Under the agreement, CSWD admits that it received the glass for recycling and processed it, using some to cap a landfill and to level a compost area. More than 15,000 tons of the glass was dumped over an embankment.

The state alleged that the district dumped the glass for years instead of recycling it as it claimed.

Under the settlement, the district will pay just over $400,000. Of that, $178,000 will go to the state, and the rest will be used for local environmental projects.

But an activist whose investigation prompted a state probe of the Chittenden Solid Waste District says the settlement lets the district off the hook.

John Brabant is a former state regulator who now works for Vermonters for a Clean Environment. Two years ago, he called attention to the district's practice of dumping crushed glass at various sites in Williston instead of recycling the material as it claimed.

Brabant says it’s disappointing the district didn’t admit any wrongdoing.

“That is hugely problematic,” he said. “That is the biggest, most important component that is lacking in this settlement agreement. And the public will continue to be misled by CSWD as a result of the settlement agreement.”

In a statement, the district said officials believed its glass disposal practices complied with state regulations.

- Brittany Patterson and John Dillon

More from VPR: Solid Waste District Accused Of Dumping Glass Prompts Worry About Public Trust In Recycling

5. N.H. Gov. cancels outdoor inauguration over safety concerns with armed protestors

New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu has canceled an outdoor inaugural ceremony due to safety concerns.

Sununu says he’s concerned about increasingly aggressive armed protesters who have targeted his family and trespassed on his property. He says the public ceremony "simply brings too much risk."

The protests are over COVID-related restrictions in the Granite State.

Sununu says he consulted legislative leaders and the New Hampshire attorney general before making the decision.

The ceremony was to take place on Jan. 7. Instead, there will be a small swearing-in event followed by the governor’s inaugural address later that day.

- Steve Zind

6. State college system trustees approve 5-year plan

The Vermont State Colleges Board of Trustees' executive committee has unanimously approved a 5-year plan for the state colleges system recommended by the chancellor.

The Caledonian Recordreports that the committee recommends that the Community College of Vermont be left as a standalone accredited institution under the system umbrella, and that Castleton University, Northern Vermont University and the Vermont Technical College be consolidated into one single accreditation system.

The coronavirus pandemic thrust the system into crisis when $5.1 million in room and board had to be refunded.

The state approved a more than $30 million bridge funding measure to keep the system afloat this year.

- Associated Press

7. $3 million in marijuana seized near border in Highgate

U.S. Customs and Border Protection says agents at the U.S.-Canadian border crossing in Highgate Springs seized more than 1,400 pounds of marijuana hidden inside kitchen cabinets.

The marijuana was discovered Monday after border officers selected the truck carrying the cabinets for closer examination when it tried to enter the United States from Canada. The marijuana had an estimated street value of more than $3 million. It was the largest marijuana seizure in New England in recent years.

- Associated Press

8. Rutland Mayor David Allaire to run for re-election

The mayor of Rutland has announced that he's running for a third term.

The Rutland Heraldreports that Mayor David Allaire issued a statement on Monday laying out the issues in his re-election campaign. Allaire said a priority in the next two years would be to focus on vacant downtown storefronts, and work on new development strategies for Rutland and the region.

City alderman Chris Ettori is expected to challenge Allaire and has said he hopes to bring vision and mediation skills to City Hall, and to provide better leadership on economic development.

- Associated Press

9. Former state trooper charged with repeated sexual assault of minor

A former Vermont state trooper has been charged with repeatedly sexually assaulting a minor he knew during 2003 and 2004.

Todd Chisholm,56, of North Brookfield, Massachusetts, pleaded not guilty to the charges on Monday in Vermont Superior Court in Brattleboro, the Associated Press reports.

Police say he served as a Vermont State Police trooper from February 1988 to September 2001. They said the assaults allegedly happened in Vernon, Vermont. A message was left with his lawyer seeking comment.

- Brittany Patterson

Correction 5:15 p.m. 12/31/2020: This post has been updated to reflect the correct number of new COVID-19 cases reported by the state on Wednesday.

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