Vermont Officials Update Status Of COVID-19 Pandemic Initiatives
Vermont Governor Phil Scott is planning a further easing of pandemic lockdown rules to begin next week. Retailers will be able to open but must follow strict guidelines.
Republican Phil Scott has gradually been reopening Vermont as the number of COVID-19 cases stabilizes across the state. He has cautioned that each step is based on science and data and can be reversed if necessary should cases rise again.
On Monday, Scott said he will revise his emergency order on Friday to include a plan for the gradual reopening of retail stores. “They will need to meet or exceed the same health and safety requirements all other businesses and non-profits have had to meet thus far. So all employees will be required to wear a facial covering and everyone must maintain a minimum distance of six feet between themselves. And for this first phase of reopening there will also be an occupancy limit meaning no more than 25-percent of their maximum legal capacity.”
On May 4th, state officials announced that limited elective medical procedures could resume on a clinic or out-patient basis if Department of Health guidelines are followed. Secretary of Human Services Mike Smith says since then the Office of Professional Regulation has inquired about the resumption of services such as acupuncture, optometry and physical therapy. “Many of the health care services under the auspices of the Office of Professional Regulation remain closed until sector specific guidance can be established and approved by the Commissioner of Health ensuring that they can safely open while COVID-19 remains a health threat to Vermonters.”
Smith emphasized that the allowance of limited elective medical procedures includes only emergency and urgent dental care. “I have seen some dental practices and notices to their patients that they intend to resume non-urgent dental procedures on May 18th. That decision to open dental offices to non-urgent procedures has not yet been made and I would caution practices from making premature announcements.”
In the state’s largest city, Burlington, one of the topics discussed during Mayor Miro Weinberger’s Monday update was the impact on the upcoming construction season. Department of Public Works Director Chapin Spencer says 2020 plans have been significantly modified due to the pandemic. “We have obviously brought new levels of training in and new PPE and equipment to make sure that we can proceed with our work safely. Given the financial challenges, we have added additional levels of financial oversight. Lastly while we’ve been able to progress and advance with some capital projects other projects really demand a robust public engagement that we are not able to begin at this time. So there are certain projects that are on hold.”
Burlington officials have also been working to ensure that the homeless are properly cared for during the pandemic. An early initiative relocated them from a crowded downtown shelter to individual campers at the North Beach Campground. But ANEW Place director Kevin Pounds says that lease is expiring. “Quite a few of them are not going to be able to stay in hotels and so we’re trying to find just some I guess the best way to say it is some alternative survival techniques for them to make it through for the next few weeks until we open up a tenting site on June 1st.”
Governor Scott said he will announce details of the state’s retail reopening plan on Friday.