News Roundup: US-Canada Border To Remain Closed To Non-Essential Traffic For Another Month
Vermont reporters provide a roundup of top news takeaways about the coronavirus and more for Friday, May 21.
The latest coronavirus data:
1. State officials report 37 new coronavirus cases
Vermont health officials reported 37 new coronavirus infections on Friday, and no new additional deaths.
The state's pandemic death toll remains at 255. Nine Vermonters are currently hospitalized, with three people in the ICU.
Federal CDC data compiled on the state's vaccine dashboard shows just under 75% of all Vermont residents ages 12 and older have received at least one vaccine dose.
- Brittany Patterson
Two COVID-19 vaccination walk-in clinics held at Burlington's North Beach
Headed to the beach to cool off? Health officials hoped to make it easy for those who were interested in getting a COVID-19 vaccine alongside their swim.
Chester resident Kari Hesse and her son Kiegan Eastman didn’t have plans to go in the water, but sat in the shade at Burlington’s North Beach on Thursday.
That’s where Hesse waited after receiving the one-dose Johnson & Johnson shot at a walk-in clinic hosted by Walgreens, set up just about a hundred feet away from Lake Champlain.
“I came up here because it’s the one shot, I didn’t have to do it again,” Hesse said. “So it gave us the excuse to go to the beach and do some shopping.”
Hesse said she's looking forward to being able to go to concerts mask-less. Another walk-in vaccination clinic was held at North Beach Friday.
- Elodie Reed
Vermont first in nation for percentage of people with first dose of vaccine
A distinct geographic pattern has emerged in the U.S. drive to vanquish the coronavirus: the highest vaccination rates are concentrated in the Northeast, while the lowest ones are mostly in the South.
Experts say the gap reflects a multitude of factors, including political leanings, religious beliefs, and education and income levels.
Close to 160 million Americans — about 48% of the population — have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and 125 million are fully vaccinated against the virus.
Vermont is ranked first in the country, with nearly 66% of the population receiving at least one dose.
The Associated Press reports Mississippi is last, with just 32% of its populace getting their first vaccine dose.
- Associated Press
2. U.S.-Canada border to remain closed to non-essential traffic for at least one more month
The U.S.-Canadian border will remain closed for at least one more month.
The widely anticipated announcement was made Thursday by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
The ban on non-essential travel between the countries, which has been in place for the entire COVID-19 pandemic, will remain through June 21.
Canada continues to lag behind the United States in vaccinating its citizens. Earlier this week, Vermont Governor Phil Scott suggested the border could reopen this summer.
- Mark Davis
3. Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sports breaks ground on permanent location at Sugarbush
Officials and volunteers with Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sports broke ground Thursday on a new $2.5 million permanent home at Sugarbush Resort. It's the second of three such facilities the nonprofit plans to build in Vermont.
Executive director Erin Fernandez says the planned 4,000-square-foot space will provide more room, better accessibility and further the nonprofit's mission to help people with disabilities enjoy the outdoors.
“The best part is, is we’re attached to the lodge,” she said. “So we are part of everybody else that’s here enjoying Mt. Ellen and the skiing, and people can go get their own French fries or their cup of coffee. We’re not separate or pushed off to the side. We’re right in the middle of things.”
Fernandez says the new building is expected to open by Christmas.
- Nina Keck
4. Proposed resolution designates May 2021 as Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Heritage Month in Vermont
Senate lawmakers are hoping to shine a light on the racism and xenophobia that Asian American and Pacific Island Vermonters experience in the state.
Chittenden County Senator Kesha Ram has introduced a resolution that will designate May of 2021 as Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Heritage Month in Vermont.
“When I discussed the language with Vermonters who identify as Asian American, several of them came forward and said they experienced this kind of xenophobia and verbal hatred in Vermont,” Ram said.
The resolution, which is expected to win approval Friday, condemns anti-Asian and anti-Pacific Islander hate.
Ram says hate incidents against members of the AAPI community have increased during the coronavirus pandemic.
- Peter Hirscheld
5. Vermont Senate asks residents to mark anniversary of George Floyd's murder
Tuesday marks the one-year anniversary of George Floyd’s murder by a former Minneapolis police officer. And the Vermont Senate is asking Vermonters to mark the occasion with a day of “remembrance and action.”
Chittenden County Senator Kesha Ram helped author a resolution to be read on the Senate floor on Friday.
“This really is about doing what feels personally meaningful and takes bravery and courage from every Vermonter, and that really could take a number of forms,” she said. “It could take just as much courage to talk to a family member about feeling like they have made racist statements as it is to organize a march with 200 people in the streets.”
Ram says organizers across Vermont are planning marches and rallies on May 25. Students at many Vermont schools are planning walkouts on Tuesday to honor Floyd’s legacy.
- Peter Hirschfeld
Activist in Ralph Jean-Marie case charged with criminal contempt
An activist has been charged with criminal contempt related to the disappearance of a Black man from a Barre motel more than a year ago.
38-year-old Ralph Jean-Marie was last seen in April of 2020 near the Hollow Inn and Motel. Police say his disappearance was suspicious because he left behind his ID, wallet, glasses and medications.
The Barre Police have made little progress on the case. Activists have accused the department of doing little because Jean-Marie is poor and Black. Police deny race influenced the case.
Now theRutland Herald reports one of those activists, 36-year-old Lee Morrigan of Burlington, has been arrested, and faced a charge of contempt of court Thursday.
The charge stems from Morrigan's comments about alleged video surveillance from the inn, and Morrigan's refusal to reveal who told them about the footage. Morrigan says they believe the sources will face retaliation from police.
The Washington County State's Attorney is seeking a sentence of one to two days, and a $500 fine.
- Matthew Smith
6. Governor vetoes bill preventing police, prosecutors from revealing names of arrested juveniles
Gov. Phil Scott has issued his first veto of the 2021 legislative session.
On Thursday, Scott vetoed a bill that would have prevented police or prosecutors from revealing the names of juveniles arrested for crimes.
Windham County Senator Jeannette White says lawmakers wanted to shield young offenders from public scorn.
“If the person ends up going to family court, and everything is confidential and they don’t do anything for the rest of their lives that’s against the law, why should this be following them forever?” White asked.
In his veto message to lawmakers, Scott said Vermont currently lacks the tools to hold juvenile offenders accountable for their crimes.
Two years ago, lawmakers enacted legislation that classifies offenders age 20 and younger as juveniles.
The bill also faced opposition from trade associations representing Vermont media over transparency concerns.
- Peter Hirschfeld
7. Vermont unemployment rate holds at 2.9% for April
Vermont's April unemployment rate held steady at 2.9%, as the state continues to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Vermont's unemployment rate is less than half the national rate. But the state continues to see a decline in the overall labor force, and has fewer private sector jobs than it had at the beginning of the pandemic.
Unemployment in Vermont is highest in the Derby area, and lowest in the Burlington area and the Northfield-Waitsfield region.
- Mark Davis
8. Board of Education allows Ripton Elementary School to leave district
The State Board of Education Wednesday agreed to allow Ripton Elementary School to leave its school district, which merged under the state's school consolidation law, Act 46.
Ripton parent Molly Witters made the presentation to the State Board in favor of leaving the Addison Central School District.
“This is us really regaining our voice as a town and our ability to make decisions in the town about whether we pass a budget, what we want in a budget, and how we choose to move forward with designing it and envisioning our school for our children,” Witters said.
Ripton would have likely lost its small school if it remained in the district.
The town now has to come up with a plan to join another district to receive administrative and special education services.
- Howard Weiss-Tisman
K-6 school planned for former Green Mountain College campus
Poultney officials say they don’t know much about a new K-6 private school planned for the campus of the former Green Mountain College.
But Town Manager Paul Donaldson says many are excited to see something happening on the 155-acre property.
“I would say cautiously optimistic,” Donaldson said. “You know, it's certainly not going to encompass the whole campus, but it's a start.”
Businessman Raj Bhakta bought the campus last year for $4.5 million.
Donaldson says Bhakta's been doing a lot of deferred maintenance on the property.
In an email sent this week, Bhakta's wife, Danhee], asked town officials to spread the word that the so-called Green Mountain Community School was accepting students and would open in the fall. A website says the grade school is also hiring.
A Facebook post by the school said they are currently seeking to be a "recognized independent school" through the Vermont Department of Education.
If granted, the new private school would not receive tuition from public funds. An agency spokesperson said someone on behalf of the school has been in touch.
Neither Bhakta was available for comment.
- Nina Keck
9. Burlington set daily record temperature of 92 Thursday, one of warmest places in country
Burlington was among the warmest places in the country Thursday as temperatures topped more than 90 degrees.
The National Weather Service in Burlington tweeted yesterday the city set a daily record with a high of 92, breaking the 91-degree record for May 20 that had held since 1975.
A daily record at the BTV airport was set today, with a high of 92. Additionally, the Saint Johnsbury automated weather station recorded a daily record high of 88. See table for details. Another warm day is expected tomorrow but today will be the hottest day of this warm stretch. pic.twitter.com/VKT1rxJyz2— NWS Burlington (@NWSBurlington) May 20, 2021
That temperature means Burlington was hotter than cities like Orlando, Florida or Los Angeles.
The St. Johnsbury automated weather station also recorded a daily record high of 88.
Another warm day is expected today, but forecasters say Thursday should be the hottest of the ongoing warm stretch.
- Matthew Smith
10: Vermont Fish & Wildlife: Don't keep wild turtles as pets
The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department is reminding Vermonters that wild turtles should not be kept as pets.
The agency says that's because Vermont's native turtles are slow to develop: many don't reproduce until they're at least 10 years old.
Removing them from their habitat could not only cause harm to the turtle in question, but wild turtle populations, officials caution.
- Brittany Patterson
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