Scott offers framework for restarting Vt. businesses
“These trends also show is that with the right precautions, we can take small steps to get more Vermonters back to work and avoid a spike in cases that would put lives at risk.”
— Gov. Phil Scott
MONTPELIER — The governor of Vermont on Friday gave the state’s businesses the first indications about how they may reopen after the threat posted by COVID-19 eases. He detailed this in what he characterized as the Restart Vermont planning and decision-making process.
In his Friday press briefing, Gov. Phil Scott outlined an approach for the phased restart of Vermont’s economy, emphasizing the state’s modeling indicates initial steps can be taken while the “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order remains in effect.
To begin to execute this strategy, Scott signed an addendum to Executive Order 01-20, which — in order to start getting more Vermonters back to work — institutes new health and safety requirements and encourages the public to wear cloth face coverings.
It also directs the Agency of Commerce and Community Development (ACCD) to issue guidance authorizing outdoor businesses and construction operations with crews of two or fewer and some single-person, low-contact professional services (such as appraisers, attorneys, realtors and others) to operate if specified safety requirements can be met. These openings are effective this coming Monday, April 20.
The state’s latest modeling, presented Friday, shows the growth rate in new COVID-19 cases has averaged below 4% for the last 12 days, according the governor’s office. The rate at which cases double has slowed dramatically, and the number of people requiring hospitalizations remains stable.
“We’re seeing some promising results and continue to trend below even the best-case scenarios predicted in recent forecasting,” Scott said. “This is all a result of the hard work and sacrifice of Vermonters across the state, and I can’t thank you enough.
“These forecasts show we can continue to slow the number of new COVID-19 cases if we continue to stay vigilant, meaning staying home, avoiding large gatherings, staying six feet away from others, using a cloth face covering when in public and washing our hands,” Scott added. “But what these trends also show is that with the right precautions, we can take small steps to get more Vermonters back to work and avoid a spike in cases that would put lives at risk.”
Gov. Scott outlined a measured, phased approach to reopen the economy, which he said balances the need to improve overall social and economic wellbeing with the need to prevent a resurgence of COVID-19 outbreaks.
Rob Carter, president of the Addison County Chamber of Commerce, called Scott’s announcement “a very small step,” while welcoming the move.
While two people would be allowed to return to work at the offices of low-contact professional services like appraisers and attorneys, Carter pointed out that workers must continue remaining 6 feet from anyone, wash hands regularly and wear face masks in public.
SPECIFIC DETAILS RESTART VERMONT
The order, and a corresponding guidance memo from Agency of Commerce and Community Development, detail specific measures for those businesses authorized to reopen to ensure continued social distancing. Applying these measures, it also clarifies guidance to allow more retail operations to operate through phone-in or online ordering, and curbside pickup or delivery.
The Governor also outlined five principles, developed in collaboration with the Vermont Department of Health, the State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC), ACCD and others, which will guide the state’s Restart Vermont planning and decision-making process. They are:
Keep our eyes on the data: The administration will continue to be guided by data and modeling, and track any changes to case trends, infection and death rates.
Maintain health care readiness: The administration will continue monitoring and maintaining the state stockpile and distribution of personal protective equipment (PPE) and testing materials to ensure it continues meeting the needs of the healthcare system and workers. Additionally, the state will continue to monitor available beds and ventilators, and make purchases as necessary, to ensure capacity to treat COVID-19 patients.
Increase testing and tracing: The state currently has a robust testing approach but will continue to work to make testing more widely available and strengthen the epidemiology and contact tracing rapid response teams.
Work Smarter & Work Safer: ACCD’s RestartVT Team will work with the Health Department and the SEOC to help businesses develop “COVID-19 Operations Plans,” which will include sector strategies for phased opening, including worker and customer protections, and training and monitoring procedures.
Play Smarter, Play Safer: The RestartVT Team will also evaluate how to reopen outdoor recreation, retail, restaurants and bars, travel and other activities, focusing on the conditions needed to prevent COVID-19 outbreaks.
“Preventing outbreaks and limiting the spread of COVID-19 is the only way to avoid future business and social disruption,” said Commerce Secretary Lindsay Kurrle in her memo to Vermont businesses. “The success of this phased restart will depend in large part on the ability of employers and employees to adhere to the public health, safety and social distancing measures essential to limiting the spread of illness.”
The administration will continue to update the public on the RestartVT planning process as details and next steps are determined.
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