MONTPELIER, Vt. — Gov. Phil Scott is letting "low-contact outdoor businesses" reopen on Thursday, meaning Vermonters can start going to ballfields, parks and golf courses. This follows reports on Tuesday that only five new cases of COVID-19 had been identified in the state.
"Over the last few weeks, we've taken a couple of small steps to reopen our economy and put people back to work," Scott said at a press conference on Monday previewing the addendum. "Each week we've seen the situation improve because of Vermonters' sacrifices and their work to stay separated, which slowed the spread of the virus.
"As a result, we've avoided the worst possible outcomes, and saved hundreds of lives."
The addendum to the governor's March stay-home order was released on Wednesday. "Play Smart and Play Safe" allows more outdoors socializing but with the caveat that people continue to maintain a 6-foot distance and gather in groups no greater than 10. Vulnerable populations are still recommended to abide by the stay-home order.
People are asked to wear face coverings over their mouth and noses and wash or sanitize their hands frequently. They can "participate in outdoor recreation and outdoor fitness activities that require low or no direct physical contact."
The addendum allows for family gatherings with "trusted households" that are known to be following Department of Public Health guidance. Masks can be required by businesses (and must be worn by employees) and are encouraged to be used any time people are within 6 feet of each other but are not recommended for anyone doing "strenuous exercise" outdoors.
Any outdoor facilities that reopen may not allow congregation before or after activities: groups and individuals must "arrive, play and leave."
"Restarting Vermont must be a phased approach so as to make sure we're not moving too quickly and putting our family, friends and neighbors at risk," Scott said. "Our approach must also be strategic and creative because even as we put more people to work its anything but business as usual."
He pointed to opening of farmers' markets over the weekend that he felt could be an example on how to operate "in this strange new world."
On Monday, rules were eased to allow limited elective procedures at hospitals along with outpatient clinic visits and diagnostic imaging.
Vermont has seen a recent plateau since the first COVID-19 case was identified in a Readsboro man on March 7. The individual has since recovered. Some 902 cases of the novel coronavirus have been identified and at least 52 Vermonters have died from complications of the disease, but none in Bennington County.
However, Vermonters should be cautious about going out of state and consider isolating for two weeks if spending time in New York and Massachusetts, both of which have hotspots, the governor said.
"As we continue to see these positive trends, we can continue to keep turning the spigot," Scott said.
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