By Polly Mikula
On Friday, June 5, Gov. Phil Scott outlined a series of orders that open the door to indoor restaurant dining, out-of-state travel, and expanded lodging.
All gatherings, indoor and outdoor, continue to be limited to 25 people.
Scott said he felt confident that expanding the use of restaurants and lodging and allowing more travel wouldn’t push Vermont’s infection rate above the levels set as acceptable.
Starting Monday, June 8, indoor dining at restaurants is permitted but limited to 25% of regular fire safety occupancy, or 10 customers and staff, whichever is greater. Additionally, restaurant seating must allow 6 feet distance between parties.
Bars are still not permitted to offer indoor drinking or dining.
Outdoor dining was also expanded. Starting Monday restaurants are allowed to seat their maximum licensed capacity, up to 50 people. Only disposable or online menus are allowed.
Scott closed bars and restaurants March 17. He allowed them to reopen for outdoor dining on May 22. Takeout has always been permitted.
Scott said communities are allowed to take more restrictive steps on dining if they don’t feel it is safe, suggesting that Winooski might consider doing that given the current outbreak there.
“It should be determined by the communities themselves, as we did with masks,” he said.
Inns, hotels and other lodging can now book 50% of their rooms for guests or have 25 guests and staff on the property, whichever is larger, according to the new guidance from the Agency of Commerce and Community Development. The limit has previously been 25% of capacity. Long-term guests, such as essential workers, may exceed that occupancy threshold, the ACCD said, and the limits don’t apply to stand-alone cabins, cottages and short-term rentals.
Among many other restrictions, guests who appear to have symptoms of Covid-19 are not allowed to check in.
The state also lifted its 14-day quarantine limit for out-of-staters who travel to Vermont, saying those who are coming from a county in the Northeast with less than 400 cases per million population do not have to quarantine — that’s currently about 55 counties throughout New England and upstate New York, representing approximately 11% of the regions population or about 3.6 million people, according to Michael Pieciak, commissioner of the dept. of financial regulation. The state is calling this group “step one counties” and provided a map indicating which counties in the northeast currently meet the standard.
People from high-risk areas still must complete the 14-day quarantine when traveling to Vermont, but effective June 15, travelers can do a 7-day quarantine if they test negative for Covid-19, the guidance says.
As of Friday, 34 Winooski residents have tested positive for Covid-19, according to Health Commissioner Mark Levine. The outbreak marks the highest single-day increase in Vermont since April 9. The state has launched a pop-up testing site in the parking lot of O’Brien Community Center; thus far, Vermont has tested 436 people in the area and testing will continue through next week, Levine said.
“This is exactly what we have been preparing for over the last several weeks,” Scott said of the outbreak. “This has allowed us to build up our testing and tracing capacity so if we have new and better tools to deal with this virus we can use them. Having them means we don’t have to take the same extreme measures we did in March and April.”
The Winooski outbreak has been identified and “boxed in,” Scott said, and it didn’t affect plans to increase business activity. However, the governor and Dr. Levine stopped short of saying the outbreak has been contained.