On April 22, 2020

Phased restart of economy outlined

Scott administration data shows Vermont past its peak, announces cautious protocols for reopening

On Friday, April 17, Governor Phil Scott outlined an approach for the phased restart of Vermont’s economy, emphasizing the state’s modeling indicates initial steps can be taken while the “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order remains in effect.

To begin to execute this strategy, Governor Scott on Friday signed an addendum, which institutes new health and safety requirements and encourages the public to wear cloth face coverings.

It also directs the Agency of Commerce and Community Development (ACCD) to issue guidance authorizing outdoor businesses and construction operations with crews of two or less and some single-person low contact professional services, such as appraisers, attorneys, realtors and others, to operate if specified safety requirements can be met. These openings are effective April 20.

The state’s latest modeling, presented Friday, shows the growth rate in new Covid-19 cases has averaged below 4% for the last 12 days, the rate at which cases double has slowed dramatically, and the number of people requiring hospitalizations remains stable.

“We’re seeing some promising results and continue to trend below even the best-case scenarios predicted in recent forecasting,” said Governor Scott. “This is all a result of the hard work and sacrifice of Vermonters across the state, and I can’t thank you enough.”

“These forecasts show we can continue to slow the number of new Covid-19 cases if we continue to stay vigilant, meaning staying home, avoiding large gatherings, staying 6 feet away from others, using a cloth face covering when in public and washing our hands,” added the governor. “But what these trends also show is that with the right precautions, we can take small steps to get more Vermonters back to work and avoid a spike in cases that would put lives at risk.”

Governor Scott outlined a measured, phased approach to reopen the economy — balancing the need to improve overall social and economic wellbeing with the need to prevent a resurgence of Covid-19 outbreaks.

The order, and a corresponding guidance memo from ACCD (below), detail specific measures for those businesses authorized to reopen to ensure continued social distancing. Applying these measures, it also clarifies guidance to allow more retail operations to operate through phone-in or online ordering, and curbside pickup or delivery.

The governor also outlined five principles, developed in collaboration with the Vermont Department of Health, the State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC), ACCD and others, which will guide the state’s Restart Vermont planning and decision-making process. They are:

Keep our eyes on the data: The administration will continue to be guided by data and modeling, and track any changes to case trends, infection and death rates.

Maintain health care readiness: The administration will continue monitoring and maintaining the state stockpile and distribution of personal protective equipment (PPE) and testing materials to ensure it continues meeting the needs of the healthcare system and workers. Additionally, the state will continue to monitor available beds and ventilators, and make purchases as necessary, to ensure capacity to treat Covid-19 patients.

Increase testing and tracing: The state currently has a robust testing approach but will continue to work to make testing more widely available and strengthen the epidemiology and contact tracing rapid response teams.

Work Smarter & Work Safer: ACCD’s RestartVT Team will work with the Health Department and the SEOC to help businesses develop “Covid-19 Operations Plans,” which will include sector strategies for phased opening, including worker and customer protections, and training and monitoring procedures.

Play Smarter, Play Safer: The RestartVT Team will also evaluate how to reopen outdoor recreation, retail, restaurants and bars, travel and other activities, focusing on the conditions needed to prevent Covid-19 outbreaks.

“Preventing outbreaks and limiting the spread of Covid-19 is the only way to avoid future business and social disruption,” said Commerce Secretary Lindsay Kurrle in her memo to Vermont businesses. “The success of this phased restart will depend in large part on the ability of employers and employees to adhere to the public health, safety and social distancing measures essential to limiting the spread of illness.”

The administration will continue to update the public on the RestartVT planning process as details and next steps are determined.

ACCD provides clarification on Phase 1 of business reopenings

“In the days and weeks to come we will work to restart Vermont’s economy in the wake of Covid-19. As we move forward, businesses and employees must understand that how they work is essential to resuming and maintaining business operations. Preventing outbreaks and limiting the spread of Covid-19 is the only way to avoid future business and social disruption,” wrote Lindsay Kurrle, Secretary Vermont Agency of Commerce & Community Development (ACCD), April 17 in the organizations guidance memo. “The success of this phased restart will depend in large part on the ability of employers and employees to adhere to the public health, safety, and social distancing measures essential to limiting the spread of illness.”

Business operations deemed “essential” may continue to operate under pre-existing guidance with the addition of the mandatory health and safety requirements for all business operations listed below.

Phase 1 goes into effect on April 20 for industries and businesses that can comply with the following:

1.1 Outdoor businesses & construction operations

Those who exclusively or largely work outdoors (such as civil engineering, site work, exterior construction, skilled trades, public works, energy and utility work, mining, forestry, environmental monitoring, landscaping, painting, tree work, parks maintenance, delivery work, etc.) may resume operations with a maximum of two total workers per location/job.

Interior construction may occur in unoccupied structures, adhering to social distancing standards, with no more than two workers maintaining social distance between them whenever possible.

Supporting services that were not previously deemed essential may resume operations with the minimum number of employees necessary to support curbside pick-up and delivery services; adherence to the mandatory health and safety requirements and compliance with 1.2 below required.

1.2 Retail operations (clarifying existing guidance)

Retailers, including those that operate in an outdoor setting, may conduct limited operations such as curbside pick-up, delivery services, and warehouse or distribution operations in support of curbside, or delivery.

All orders must occur over the phone or online; no in-store transactions are allowed at this time.

Only the minimum number of employees necessary to support curbside pick-up and delivery services are allowed at any one store, site, or location.

1.3 Low or no contact professional services

Services operating with a single worker (such as appraisers, realtors, municipal clerks, attorneys, property managers, pet care operators, and others) may operate if they can comply with the mandatory health and safety requirements listed above, with no more than two persons (service provider and client) present at one time.

Mandatory health and safety requirements

All businesses must follow Vermont Department of Health and CDC guidelines:

Employees shall not report to, or be allowed to remain at, work or job site if sick or symptomatic (with fever, cough, and/or shortness of breath).

All employees must observe strict social distancing of 6 feet while on the job.

Employees must wear non-medical cloth face coverings (bandanna, scarf, or non-medical mask, etc.) over their nose and mouth when in the presence of others. In the case of retail cashiers, a translucent shield or “sneeze guard” is acceptable in lieu of a mask.

Employees must have easy and frequent access to soap and water or hand sanitizer during duration of work, and handwashing or hand sanitization should be required before entering, and leaving, job sites. All common spaces and equipment, including bathrooms, frequently touched surfaces and doors, tools and equipment, and vehicles must be cleaned and disinfected at the beginning, middle and end of each shift and prior to transfer from one person to another.

No more than two people shall occupy one vehicle when conducting work.

General public mask use

Customers, and the public in general, is encouraged to wear cloth face coverings any time they are interacting with others from outside their household.

If your business or circumstance does not meet these criteria, additional guidance will be forthcoming. For additional clarification, please visit the ACCD Sector Guidance Page.

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