The state of Vermont is taking deliberate steps to reopen businesses.
Governor Phil Scott likes to illustrate the way Vermont will reopen as turning a spigot: turning very slowly until there’s a full stream of water, but one that can be turned off if necessary. Scott began turning it on April 17th, allowing outdoor businesses of two employees or under or low-contact professional businesses like attorneys and appraisers to return to work if they follow guidelines.
On Monday, that was expanded to allow businesses and manufacturers with a maximum of five workers to re-open. Outdoor retail services like garden shops were allowed to open with a maximum of 10 people.
Scott says he and the administration are analyzing data and science carefully as they issue new guidelines. “We want everyone to get back to work but we don’t want them to push the envelope too far. Obviously we still have concerns about mass gatherings and so forth especially over ten. So we put these into place thinking that this would give just a little bit of comfort, a little bit of optimism, towards the future. And we hope everyone adheres to them and just doesn’t go too far. We’ll watch this and make sure that everyone’s acting appropriately.”
The Republican added he understands people are anxious to see the stay-at-home order lifted. “I have to put public safety first. As soon as we make sure that we aren’t elevating the number of cases and we’re not exceeding our health care capacity then we’ll continue to open as we see fit. And I hope to do some of that every single week. But I just want to forewarn the more businesses we open up the more cases we’re going to see. The more people we put out there it’s conceivable that we’ll have more people testing positive.”
Vermont’s Health Commissioner says divergent reopening strategies across the globe have been confusing but Vermont will use four criteria: a two-week sustained reduction in cases, health care system capacity, testing those with symptoms and active monitoring of confirmed cases. As New York and other states move toward antibody testing, Dr. Mark Levine agrees with World Health Organization findings. “First they said the presence of antibodies does not give one an immunity passport. Second they said it does not guarantee a return to work safely and that it should not be used for those purposes at this time. Academic labs concluded that accuracy is still not yet where it needs to be. There was just too much variability, lack of sensitivity.”
Governor Scott said the state is working on testing and contact tracing protocols that he plans to unveil later this week.