Coronavirus updates

Gathering capacity increases

Starting June 26, venues can fill to 50% capacity or 75 indoor, 150 outdoor

By Polly Mikula

As state data and expanded testing and tracing capacity continue to support reopening, Governor Phil Scott on Friday, June 19, announced the state will raise occupancy limits for event venues, arts, culture and entertainment venues, as well as restaurants.

Beginning June 26, these venues can expand capacity for events and dining to the lesser of 50% of approved occupancy ( approx. one person per 100 square feet) or up to 75 people indoors and 150 outdoors.

“We know the virus is still among us, which is why we must keep some restrictions in place to avoid significant spread of Covid-19, but I also know how devastating these restrictions have been on all businesses and especially for the hospitality sector,” said Governor Scott. “We continue to work with our public health experts as well as representatives of the hospitality sector to find ways to further open dining, events and travel without reversing the positive gains we’ve made to slow spread of this virus.”

This next step follows recent steps to ease quarantine restrictions for travelers and for Vermonters who may be returning from another state.

“We are committed to working collaboratively with these critical sectors and will continue to provide support to Vermont’s tourism and hospitality economy in its recovery,” said Agency of Commerce and Community Development Secretary Lindsay Kurrle. “The summer season is essential to their viability long term. We are encouraged by these reopening steps and hope to continue to find creative solutions that can increase capacity limits while keeping public health at the forefront of Vermont’s reopening.”

As with every reopen step, this move includes health and safety precautions, developed by the Agency of Commerce and Community Development (ACCD). Guidelines for all sectors can be found at accd.vermont.gov.

ACCD has also updated its Drive-in Operation guidance (Section 5.2) to make clear firework displays for the Fourth of July celebrations can move forward with drive-in viewing.

In his Friday address, Scott credited the towns of Killington and Fairfax for their creativity in adapting some Fourth of July festivities and said other towns could follow suit in modified ways that follow guidance for gatherings and dining.

While Vermont continues to relax mitigation measures put in place to slow the spread of Covid-19, both Scott and Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine urged Vermonters to stay vigilant at the news conference, Monday, June 22.

Northeastern states are fairing better than most, Levine said. “As this week began, there were 90 or so countries and half of our states that were reporting increased cases and spikes. In fact the world’s increase in one day, reported by the WHO, was 183,000 cases, which was the largest ever. And 12 states reported new records for numbers of cases in a single day,” he said referring to the World Health Organization’s report Sunday. Of those new cases, exactly a fifth (36,600) were in the United States.

Increased case numbers are not just a phenomenon of increased testing as numbers of hospitalizations and deaths are also increasing drastically, said Dr. Michael Ryan, executive director of the World Health Organization’s Health Emergencies, at a press conference, Monday, June 22.

“Interestingly, the demographics with the largest case growth is ages 18-44,” Levine said. The reason for this is “widely acclaimed to be a breakdown in the willingness of the public to ahere to the simple precepts of avoiding mass gatherings, physically distancing, and wearing facial coverings,” Levine said, noting that Memorial Day and other mass gatherings were thought to attribute to the spikes, but protests around the country had not yet been linked to an outbreak. “In general, protesters have been very willing to follow the guidance of public health,” he said.

The new normal will require the public to adhere to “four simple rules of thumb no matter how sick of these we get: stay home if ill, wash your hands like crazy, physically distance and wear facial coverings.”

“Our lives are getting better everyday as we reopen Vermont,” Levine continued, “but we can’t lose track of the fact that the virus hasn’t gone anywhere and we need to remain vigilant and cautious to protect the most vulnerable in our society and in our families. With no current hospitalizations and no new deaths we are showing what our state is truly capable of but we can’t let up.”

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