Gov. Scott Says More Reopenings, Economic Recovery Package To Come Soon
As retailers across the state began to slowly reopen on Monday morning, Gov. Phil Scott said he plans to unveil an economic recovery package on Wednesday.
The announcement came at his thrice-weekly press conference.
Scott said that, if things go well this week, he expects to announce additional openings soon for hair salons and barber shops, limited outdoor seating at restaurants and more services in the healthcare field.
“In some ways the restart process is even more challenging than the closing one,” Scott said. “On Wednesday we will also announce a major economic package which will provide relief, hope and initiatives to get us moving towards recovery.” He did not offer further details about the package Monday.
Gov. Scott said he is keeping a “daily log” of COVID-19 case rates in neighboring states, but that Vermont’s case growth is minimal. Last week, the state confirmed just 15 new cases of COVID-19, even while daily testing increased.
However, over the same period, Scott said New Hampshire detected 400 new cases. Last week Massachusetts detected 6,678 new cases and New York State detected about 14,500.
“We know we can’t just look at Vermont numbers,” Scott said. “Which is why we will continue to move a little more cautiously than our numbers would suggest.”
Scott said his team will present detailed regional data and modeling regarding the coronavirus on Friday.
Testing rates increase
Health Commissioner Mark Levine said that on Sunday, the state conducted about 700 tests, of which none came back positive.
“This is the flattening of the curve. I think we should probably take the word ‘starting’ out now, as we continue with minor oscillations at a very low level of new cases on a daily basis,” Levine said.
He said Vermont’s percent positivity rate – how many of the tests performed come back positive – remains less than 5%, and sometimes dips to as low as 1% or 3%.
We are the envy of the nation... I have governors texting me, saying, 'You give us hope.'" - Gov. Phil Scott
Levine reiterated that anyone who experiences influenza-like symptoms should consider testing for COVID-19. “There are virtually no cases of influenza being reported right now,” he said.
A warning from state health officials
Levine warned people not to let their guards down just because Vermont’s case rates are lower than those in neighboring states. Levine said social distancing, wearing masks, staying home when you are sick and frequent handwashing remain important.
He added that those who are directed to self-isolate or quarantine should refrain from shopping for groceries, leaving their homes for exercise or going to work.
“Let me tell you about Clinton County, N.Y.,” Levine said. “They had 46 people they were following either with COVID-19 or through contact tracing…They almost doubled that number in a single day over the weekend,” Levine said. “There were nine new cases of COVID reported and an additional 27 individuals identified as close contacts, all related to parties that occurred within the city of Plattsburgh.”
Levine said social distancing and other measures need to continue, “no matter how good the data looks.”
Vermont State Parks prepare for campers
Julie Moore, Secretary of the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources, said the state is working to have as many of Vermont’s 55 state parks as possible “fully operational as soon as possible.”
Moore asked that Vermonters refrain visiting parks if they are ill or have been in contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19, maintain at least six feet of distance between those they didn’t travel to the park with, wear a cloth mask “any time you are not swimming, exercising or at your campsite,” and bring their own hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes.
She said boat and bicycle rentals, cabin and cottage rentals, concessions and the swimming pool at Button Bay State Park will not be available this season.
Moore said she anticipates that overnight camping will be available by June 26. Out-of-state campers will only be allowed if they have self-quarantined for 14 days between when they enter the state and the start of their camping reservation.
Scott praises the work of Vermonters
Scott thanked Vermonters for their diligence in following state guidelines and closures.
“We are the envy of the nation,” he said “I have governors texting me, saying, ‘You give us hope.’”
However, the governor said he’s looking forward to salons opening up again because, like most people, his hair has gotten a little shaggy during the pandemic.
“I have to, like everyone else, trim it myself when necessary," Scott said. "And use a little product on it to keep it in place.”