Scott Hopes To Ease Restrictions On Lodging Industry
Gov. Phil Scott said Friday that low COVID-19 cases counts on college campuses and in public schools could enable a more robust reopening of the lodging sector in advance of the fall foliage season.
An executive order issued by Scott earlier this summer limited operating capacity at hotels, inns and other lodging businesses to no more than 50% of total rooms.
Scott said he’s been waiting to lift that cap until state health officials are able to gauge the effect of school reopenings on COVID-19 infection rates.
With fewer than 40 college students testing positive for the disease so far, and no reports of cases in public schools, Scott said more permissive allowances for the hospitality sector could be coming as soon as next week.
“If our numbers remain good once we get through school opening and college return, we’ll continue to open that spigot a bit more,” Scott said.
Over the past week, the state conducted 15,000 tests of students attending college or university in Vermont.
Former Norwich University President Richard Schneider, who’s overseeing Vermont’s college reopening task force, said those tests yielded five positive results.
That brings the total number of college students who have tested positive for the disease to 38, well below the threshold, Schneider said, that would trigger concerns about community spread.
“We are the safest place to go to school in America, and also the safest place for our communities that are hosting colleges, in America,” Schneider said.
Schneider said all students that tested positive for COVID-19 have recovered, are out of quarantine and are no longer contagious.
He credited the state’s success with the college reopening process to high-volume testing, rigorous quarantining protocols and students’ compliance with guidelines that prohibit large social gatherings.
"We are the safest place to go to school in America, and also the safest place for our communities that are hosting colleges, in America." — Richard Schneider, Vermont college reopening task force
All students attending colleges and universities in Vermont were required to sign a contract pledging compliance with public health guidelines.
Schneider said nine students have been expelled from campuses so far for violating that pledge.
“I’m not prepared and I’m not going to speak about individual cases,” he said.
Update on a COVID-19 vaccine
Commissioner of Health Mark Levine sought to reassure Vermonters Friday that his department won’t distribute a COVID-19 vaccine in the state unless it’s proven to be safe and effective.
New polling indicates that Americans are losing faith in the federal Centers for Disease Control. Those findings came after the CDC sent a letter to states last month indicating a COVID-19 vaccine could be ready for distribution as soon as October.
“We clearly hear the fears that are expressed by many that political pressure is being applied to rush approval of a vaccine before it’s tested,” Levine said during a media briefing Friday. “I want to make it quite clear that the Vermont Health Department is keeping a close watch on the vaccine development process to be sure that we can trust that politics do not trump science.”
Earlier this summer, Levine launched a COVID-19 vaccine planning group, which he said is “monitoring not only safety of vaccines, but devising a process for distribution once [one is] available.”
Levine said his department won’t allow for the distribution of a vaccine until the Advisory Center on Immunization Practices endorses its safety and efficacy.
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