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Vermont announces ‘gradual reopening’ of retail will begin on May 18

Published: 5/11/2020 8:59:30 PM
Modified: 5/11/2020 8:59:27 PM

MONTPELIER — Gov. Phil Scott announced Monday that his administration will begin a “gradual reopening” of the retail sector starting on May 18.

Scott said that all employees at retail outlets will need to wear face covering and maintain a distance of 6 feet. Stores will also be required to stay under 25% of their maximum legal capacity, and to conduct health and safety training on following state guidelines if they have more than 10 employees.

The governor said that customers would be encouraged to wear masks, but it will not be required.

“While I know many are eager to shop for clothing and other supplies,” Scott said, “waiting a week gives these businesses time to develop a safety plan, do their training, modify their store chores and work with ease, understand all the steps needed to reopen and operate safely.”

The retail reopening is Scott’s latest turn of the spigot in reopening Vermont’s economy. Last week he announced steps to reopen nonessential manufacturing, as well as outdoor economic activity like golfing, and said that play dates, meetings between trusted households, and summer day camps were OK — with proper public health compliance.

The governor’s “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order expires on May 15. Scott said Vermonters could expect a “relaxing” of that order moving forward.

“Again, I think you should expect and we want people to limit their travels for interaction … making sure that we’re socially safe and we’re not getting into aggregate settings, so that we can prevent the spread from happening,” Scott said of the next iteration of his executive order. “So you’ll see a variance of what we have in place, but I would say that there’s going to be relaxing of that order.”

Scott says his administration would follow up with businesses who do not seem to be following appropriate protocols and practices — laid out in sector- and business-specific reopening plans that must be submitted to the state.

“So if we see that there is a situation where they’re not abiding by the plan, we’ll ask for the plan, and then take action from there giving more guidance and, hopefully, they will do the right thing, because it’s really important,” he said.

The governor has said that he is confident that increased testing and tracing will allow Vermont to prevent these reopening steps from leading to new coronavirus outbreaks. He noted that Vermont had zero new confirmed cases and zero deaths from COVID-19 on Sunday.

“By taking a cautious approach will be stronger and healthier, when we get to the finish line,” Scott said on Monday. “Instead of taking two steps forward and one step back, to take one and a half steps forward without having to retreat.”

Vermont is one of the only states in the U.S. that is not allowing big box stores to sell nonessential items. Scott did not immediately address whether these rules would also change next week.

The Scott administration also recently began allowing hospitals to schedule elective procedures and nonessential appointments.

Human Services Secretary Mike Smith warned Monday that dental offices should not assume that this will extend to their practices — noting that some dental offices have indicated to patients that they will start scheduling nonessential appointments starting May 18.

“It would be premature to conclude that this ban will be lifted” on dentist offices, Smith said. 

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