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Gov. Scott: More Measures To Restrict Movement Coming In 'Next Couple Days'

A sign on an empty shelf telling customers they can't buy more than a four-pack of toilet paper.
Elodie Reed
At a press conference Monday, the Vermont Retail and Grocers Association asked Vermonters to go back to shopping for two weeks' worth of supplies. Gov. Phil Scott also said he was preparing to implement "more difficult" measures restricting movement.

Gov. Phil Scott said Monday that more drastic measures to curtail Vermonters' movement are imminent in the ongoing fight to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Just two days after banning non-essential gatherings of more than 10 people, Scott said he has ordered businesses and nonprofits to have as many employees work from home as possible. The governor also said he plans to issue more significant, longterm restrictions on the general public "in the next couple of days."

"I want Vermonters to start preparing for even more difficult measures," Scott said during a press conference in Montpelier. "Vermonters should also expect steps, very, very soon, that will further reduce contact and direct more to stay at home in order to slow the spread. It's not a question anymore of 'if.' It’s a question of 'when.'"

Scott alluded to the measures other states like New York, Illinois and California have taken, but resisted using the term "shelter-in-place."

"We want people to stay at home when they can," Scott said. He added the steps could last "months." Scott originally declared a state of emergency in Vermont on March 13.

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The news came as the state announced three new COVID-19 related deaths, all of them residents at Burlington Health & Rehab. One of Vermont's two initial fatalities was also at the facility, where health officials have said there is an "outbreak" of the coronavirus. 

As of Monday afternoon, the Vermont Health Department recorded 75 people in Vermont who have tested positive for COVID-19, five of whom who have died.

The governor said the Vermont National Guard is standing up the first of three medical surge sites in case hospitals become inundated with coronavirus patients. He did not provide additional details.

As he has done during most of his public remarks, Scott implored Vermonters to make their own contributions to slowing the spread of the virus. He touted volunteer efforts, businesses that have donated masks, and even the Williston police and fire departments, which are filming Facebook videos of their facilities to entertain children stuck at home.

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Scott even urged people who are ordering delivery from restaurants to tip well.

"Government doesn’t have all the solutions," the Republican governor said. "The point is, this is the time to tap into your creative spirit, which is in the DNA of every Vermonter. This is an opportuniy for each of us to step up and join together even as we must be physically separated. We cannot allow the physical separation to pull us apart. We need to use this moment in time to come together in other ways. Just like government needs to do more, we need each of you to do more as well."

In response to a reporter's question, Scott said he has not been tested for COVID-19 and has not experienced any symptoms. He added he is washing his hands "dozens and dozens and dozens" of times a day.

Scott was joined by Vermont's Democratic U.S. Rep. Peter Welch, who said the federal government needs to pass a massive stimulus package to help small businesses, hospitals, and people who lost their jobs. Talks on a $2 trillion relief package broke down in the U.S. Senate as Welch was speaking.

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“This is an unprecedented challenge," Welch said. "We have a pandemic, and the recommended way of protecting our health is to compromise our economy.”

Erin Sigrist, president of the Vermont Retail and Grocers Association, asked people to avoid hoarding and buy only two weeks worth of supplies.

"If we continue to buy more food and toilet paper and supplies than necessary, it limits the ability of our neighbors to remain safe as well," Sigrist said. "It's imperative that we revert back to how we used to shop."

Sigrist said it was "inevitable" that grocery store employees will eventually contract the coronavirus.

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