Scott Eases Travel Restrictions In Effort To Boost Summer Tourism
Nearly 20 million residents from 14 states will soon be eligible to travel to Vermont without a quarantine requirement as Gov. Phil Scott looks to provide a boost to a hospitality industry that continues to reel from the effects of COVID-19.
Scott announced during a media briefing Friday that beginning July 1, residents of certain regions in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, West Virginia, Ohio and Washington, D.C. will be able to enter Vermont without having to self-quarantine for 14 days when they arrive.
The quarantine exemption only applies to residents of counties in which the active COVID-19 case count is fewer than 400 people per million. Scott instituted a similar exemption for residents of all six New England states and New York earlier this month.
“By welcoming people from low-risk counties, we can help support our hospitality sector and the thousands of jobs it provides Vermonters,” Scott said.
Scott said Friday that restaurants, hotels and other tourism-reliant businesses desperately need that help. According to the latest data from the Department of Labor, more than 10,000 hospitality-sector workers are unemployed. Scott said they account for 25 percent of total unemployment in the state.
“These businesses still aren’t bringing in enough customers to make ends meet,” Scott said.
Scott said restaurants and hotels are still bound by an order that limits their operations to 50% of total allowable capacity. But he said he hopes to increase that limit as coronavirus numbers allow later this summer.
Update on case clusters
The Department of Health has reported 56 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 over the past week, and Commissioner of Financial Regulation Michael Pieciak said Friday that 35 of those cases are associated with outbreaks or clusters in Chittenden County, Windham County and Fair Haven.
“We should expect to continue to see these sorts of situations as we continue to reopen the economy, and it only reinforces how important testing, contact tracing, and isolation policies are to staying ahead of these situations,” Pieciak said.
Pieciak, however, said the forecasted growth rate of COVID-19 in Vermont remains in line with best-case projections. The percentage of people reporting COVID-like symptoms to health care providers, the daily growth rate in cases, and the percentage of COVID-19 tests coming back positive, according to Pieciak, are all well below thresholds that would trigger concern about a resurgence of the virus in Vermont.
“The most recent Vermont forecast shows that we can continue to expect low-level case growth over the next two weeks,” Pieciak said.
Commissioner of Health Mark Levine said a cluster of cases in Windham County, first identified last week, is “essentially” confined to a single family.
"The most recent Vermont forecast shows that we can continue to expect low-level case growth over the next two weeks," - Michael Pieciak, commissioner of Financial Regulation
He said a second cluster in Fair Haven has led to 12 confirmed cases so far, all connected to a single worksite that Levine would not identify. Levine said 10 of those 12 cases involve New York residents who work in Vermont.
“I know people are interested in the workplace itself, and I have to say again that I cannot convey the name of the worksite as that would be identifying to the individuals that work there,” Levine said.
New CDC advisories
Levine also discussed new advisories from the Centers for Disease Control related to additional populations that may be at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19. Levine said new data suggests that people who are obese, have chronic kidney disease or sickle cell disease may be at greater risk of serious illness or death from COVID-19.
He said the data also show a potentially increased risk for women who are pregnant, “and possible more risk of complication like premature birth.”
“It doesn’t mean a mass message: ‘Don’t get pregnant. Be fearful if you are pregnant,’” Levine said. “It’s just … you may want to make your (coronavirus) exposure budget err on the side of much less exposure because of that.”