Gov. Scott loosens restrictions on construction, manufacturing and outdoor workers
Gov. Phil Scott on Friday made another turn of the proverbial spigot re-opening Vermont’s economy, loosening restrictions on construction, manufacturing and some other outdoor employers who can now deploy crews of up to five people.
With coronavirus cases having plateaued for more than a week now, Scott said that he was comfortable easing up on restrictions he placed on nonessential businesses in March.
“Because we’ve been so dedicated, our data shows we can allow a few more people back to work,” Scott said at the start of his press conference, emphasizing that all businesses must continue to practice social distancing, hand-washing and mask-wearing.
“Building on last week’s order, we will allow small crews of five or less for outdoor work or work in unoccupied structures,” Scott said. “We’ll also allow manufacturing and distribution operations to open with a maximum of five employees,” as long as there is sufficient space for them to remain 6 feet apart.
Scott added that businesses doing curbside pickup or delivery must continue operating with as few employees as possible.
Scott said that outdoor retail facilities such as garden centers and greenhouses could also begin allowing customers into these spaces, but there can be no more than 10 people in the facility, including staff and customers.
Lindsay Kurrle, secretary of the Agency of Commerce and Community Development (ACCD), refused to discuss additional details Friday about how the latest order will impact businesses — such as those with multiple departments that might qualify for reopening.
Kurrle pointed business owners to the agency’s website for further guidance. “If they’re still not sure, there’s a way to select a tab to seek additional guidance, and we can get detailed information about how they operate and try to sort of walk them through it and get to the right place,” she said.
Scott added that the ACCD’s guidance for businesses starting to reopen asks them to appoint a health and safety officer at worksites, who can ensure that employees are trained to follow proper COVID-19 safety protocols while on the job.
Scott has consistently used the spigot analogy when describing his decisions on public activity related to the coronavirus pandemic. There are now 827 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Vermont resulting in 44 deaths.
The governor has said that he will ease up on restrictions to social distancing “a quarter-spigot at a time” in order to assess the impact of those moves on the spread of the disease.
Scott announced his first turn of the spigot on April 17, allowing two people to return to work at the offices of low-contact professional services, like realtors, appraisers, municipal clerks and attorneys, starting on April 20.
Scott also said that property management and construction firms could begin operating this week as two-person crews. In all cases, workers must continue remaining 6 feet from anyone, wash hands regularly and wear face masks in public.
The governor said on Friday that it was too soon to see how many people had returning to work after those first small steps to reopen the economy.
“It’s just too early, but as we see that trend line going forward, we’ll be able to report back,” he said.
An estimated 100,000 Vermonters have been put out of work since the governor on March 13 declared a state of emergency, and then followed up with specific business closures in the days after. Vermonters are still under an order to limit public gatherings to 10 people or less.
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