Gov. Extends State Of Emergency, Stay-At-Home Order, Until May 15
Gov. Phil Scott has extended the state of emergency in Vermont through at least May 15, which means businesses ordered to close last month to prevent the spread of COVID-19 will have to remain so for another five weeks.
The emergency order had been set to expire April 15, but the governor said Friday that “we cannot let our foot off the gas just yet.”
“These are incredibly difficult times, and I know this extension is disappointing news for many. But the fact is, Vermonters are literally saving hundreds of lives by staying home,” Scott said. “We will continue to watch the trends, and as soon as the data shows a downward trend, we can open the spigot, a quarter turn at a time, to get folks back to work in a way that’s responsible and safe.”
Scott said a newly revised computer model projects a more optimistic forecast for COVID-19 infections in Vermont than previous estimates showed.
While executive orders designed to enforce social distancing and self-isolation have slowed the spread of the new coronavirus, he said, the modeling suggests that Vermont is still several weeks away from its peak number of COVID-19 cases.
The governor added that means executive orders issued in recent weeks, including the closure of restaurants, bars, childcare centers and all “non-essential” retail and manufacturing activities, will now last until May 15.
The “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order, which directs Vermonters to leave their homes only for reasons “essential to health and safety,” will also stay in place until May 15.
More optimistic models
Commissioner of Financial Regulation Michael Pieciak, who’s overseeing COVID-19 modeling for the administration, said the latest projections suggest that anywhere between 1,000 and 5,000 Vermonters will contract COVID-19 between now and the end of May.
“It’s still safe to assume that the worst is ahead of us,” Pieciak said at an administration briefing Friday. “The current forecast gives us greater confidence, however, that our hospital resources will be available to Vermonters when those worst days arrive.”
Peieciak said the model now shows that peak demand for staffed hospital beds will be somewhere between 90 and 233 beds, below the current capacity of 420 beds.
Pieciak said projected peak demand for intensive care unit beds and ventilators is also below hospitals’ current capacity.
Scott said it’s possible he’ll lift the closure orders for some businesses before May 15, depending on how the modeling progresses.
New unemployment claims protocol
The social-distancing orders issued by Scott continue to ripple across the Vermont economy.
Commissioner of Labor Michael Harrington said his department has received more than 73,000 initial unemployment claims since mid-March. He added that as of Wednesday, the labor department had issued 38,000 benefit payments totaling over $23 million.
Harrington said the Department of Labor has also instituted a new alphabetical claims-filing protocol for handling the unprecedented volume of unemployment requests.
Newly unemployed Vermonters who want to use the online claims portal or claimant assistance hotline, Harrington said, should time their use based on the first letter of their last name:
Harrington said anyone is welcome to use the online portal or hotline the other days of the week.