By Polly Mikula
On Friday, June 5, Gov. Phil Scott outlined a series of orders that open the door to indoor restaurant dining, out-of-state travel, and expanded lodging and dining capacity. On Monday, he gave low contact recreational sports the green light.
All gatherings, indoor and outdoor, continue to be limited to 25 people.
Scott said he felt confident that expanding the use of restaurants and lodging and allowing more travel wouldn’t push Vermont’s infection rate above the levels set as acceptable.
Starting Monday, June 8, indoor dining at restaurants is allowed but limited to 25% occupancy, or 10 customers and staff, whichever is greater. Additionally, restaurant seating must allow 6 feet distance between parties.
Bars are still not permitted to offer indoor drinking or dining. But takeout cocktails are permissible.
Outdoor dining has also been expanded. Restaurants are now allowed to seat their maximum licensed capacity, up to 50 people. Only disposable or online menus are allowed.
Scott closed bars and restaurants March 17. He allowed them to reopen for outdoor dining on May 22. Takeout food has always been permitted.
Scott said communities are allowed to take more restrictive steps on dining if they don’t feel it is safe, suggesting that Winooski might consider doing that given the current outbreak there. “It should be determined by the communities themselves, as we did with masks,” he said.
Inns, hotels and other lodging can now book 50% of their rooms for guests or have 25 guests and staff on the property, whichever is larger, according to the new guidance from the Agency of Commerce and Community Development. The limit has previously been 25% of capacity. Long-term guests, such as essential workers, may exceed that occupancy threshold, the ACCD said, and the limits don’t apply to stand-alone cabins, cottages and short-term rentals.
Among many other restrictions, guests who appear to have symptoms of Covid-19 are not allowed to check in.
The state also lifted its 14-day quarantine limit for out-of-staters who travel to Vermont, saying those who are coming from a county in the Northeast with less than 400 cases per million population do not have to quarantine — that’s currently about 55 counties throughout New England and upstate New York, representing approximately 11% of the regions population or about 3.6 million people, according to Michael Pieciak, commissioner of the department of financial regulation. The state is calling this group “step one counties” and provided a map indicating which counties in the northeast currently meet the standard.
People from high-risk areas still must complete the 14-day quarantine when traveling to Vermont, but effective June 15, travelers can do a 7-day quarantine if they test negative for Covid-19, the guidance says.
Low contact sports
A month ago Vermont reopened outdoor recreation, but that did not include organized sports. On Monday, June 8, Gov. Scott announced that low contact recreation-level sports, like soccer, could resume. This order does not extend to college or professional level sports.
Teams also must abide by the guidance on maximum gatherings, currently set at 25, which includes players, coaches and officials.
“Crowd sizes should be kept as small as possible, and can’t exceed 25, either,” Scott added. Players and fans must keep physical distance and wear facial coverings between play or when in close proximity.
On June 15, players can scrimmage within their own team and on July 1 scrimmages with other teams within league will be allowed.
“It’s going to look a little different than normal,” Scott said, Monday. “But we need to get back to something more familiar.”
On Monday, Levine said 62 cases are believe to be associated with the Covid-19 outbreak in the Winooski area. Of those testing positive, 48 were Winooski residents, 9 were from Burlington, and five were from other towns in Chittenden county. The age range was 1-64 with a median age of 21; 38 were classified as adults, 24 children. Thus far, there have been no reports of hospitalizations or deaths associated with the outbreak, in fact, only one in five reported that they felt any symptoms at all, Levine said. “Most did not know they were infected” he summarized.
The state continues to offer testing everyday in Winooski and Burlington and encourages all who think they might have been exposed (including protesters) to get tested.
Levine reported that all close contacts to those that tested positive have been contacted, but that they still expect the number of cases to rise over the next few days.
As of Monday, there were 1,075 total cases; there were 12 new cases on Sunday, June 7.
“This is exactly what we have been preparing for over the last several weeks,” Scott said. “This has allowed us to build up our testing and tracing capacity so if we have new and better tools to deal with this virus we can use them. Having them means we don’t have to take the same extreme measures we did in March and April.”
Levine reiterated at the press conference Monday that an outbreak could happen anywhere to anyone and cautioned listeners from stigmatizing people or places.
“It spreads because we share the air we breathe,” Levine said.