Gov. Scott teases more openings, including indoor restaurant, cleaning services, gyms, museums
By Polly Mikula and Anne Wallace Allen/VTDigger
Gov. Phil Scott dropped some tantalizing news for restaurant owners Wednesday, May 27, at his regular press conference, hinting that he may soon allow indoor dining.
Covid-19 suppression is going so well in Vermont, he said and he hoped to be able to provide a timeframe for cleaning services, fitness facilities and museums among others at his news conference on Friday, May 29. He said he hopes to announce an increase of the size limit on public gatherings from 10 to 25 on Friday as well.
As previously announced, “child care centers and day camps can open June 1 with health and safety measures in place,” Scott said, “and we’ll finalize guidance for overnight camps in coming days as well. If we continue to see good results, we’ll be able to resume indoor dining in the not too distant future.”
Many day and overnight summer camps have already announced they will not be opening this summer, including Farm and Wilderness in Plymouth Keywaydin and Songadeewin camps on Lake Dunmore in Salisbury, but others are still waiting to make the call once final guidelines are known.
The restaurant news affects a sector that contributes more than $500 million to Vermont’s GDP, according to the state Agency for Commerce and Community Development. About 4,500 restaurants are licensed with the Vermont Department of Health, and, of these, 2,300 have seating licenses.
The governor ordered all of the state’s bars and restaurants closed to all but takeout service on March 17 as Covid-19 was spreading in the state. Earlier this month, the governor authorized outdoor dining for restaurants, with many other restrictions, effective May 22.
Scott and Health Commissioner Mark Levine said that Vermont continues to compare favorably with its neighbors, including New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New York, and Quebec, in its Covid-19 suppression.
Scott said New Hampshire – which has a population a little over twice that of Vermont – has had 240 new cases since Sunday, and 43 deaths. Massachusetts, with 7 million residents – more than 10 times Vermont’s population – has had 2,000 positive cases and 675 deaths since Sunday.
In that time, Vermont has had 13 new cases and no new deaths, Scott said. In fact the total deaths in the state has held steady at 54 for about two weeks.
“Our careful, cautious approach must continue,” he said. But Scott said his administration is working to develop benchmarks to know when it can allow out-of-staters back into Vermont without the 14 day self quarantine restriction. Out-of-state visitors are crucial for the state’s tourism and hospitality businesses.
The Vermont wedding industry has been hit particularly hard and Scott said affected businesses should apply for part of the $400 million relief package he hopes will make it through the Legislature soon.
In addition to the foreshadowed announcements coming at this Friday’s press conference, Governor Scott himself will announce whether he will be seeking re-election tomorrow.