On Friday, March 12, Governor Phil Scott announced updates to Covid-19 guidance for small multi-household gatherings and table seating at restaurants. Effective immediately, the changes allow two unvaccinated households to gather at a time, and permitting restaurants to seat multiple households together, but no more than six people can be seated at the same table. Masking, distancing, capacity limits, and other mitigation guidelines remain in place.
“I know these changes are not as big as many other states have announced,” said Gov. Scott. “But we feel they’re positive and safe steps forward, and you can expect another spigot turn next week. As I’ve said, we’ll keep taking incremental steps as more Vermonters are vaccinated.”
The state previously lifted gathering restrictions for those who have been fully vaccinated. For individuals and households who are not fully vaccinated, social gatherings indoors and outdoors in private spaces are limited to two unvaccinated households or individuals at one time, plus any fully vaccinated households. Unvaccinated households or individuals may gather with more than one other unvaccinated household or individual, as long as there are just two unvaccinated households or individuals at any one gathering.
“Vermont has taken one of, if not the, most cautious approaches in the country in order to slow the spread of the virus and reduce deaths,” said Gov. Scott. “I know this has caused a lot of frustration. I hear from people every day who think we should be moving faster to reopen like some other states have. But I want to remind Vermonters, there is a reason we have the lowest number of deaths in the country and the lowest death rate in the continental United States. But as we vaccinate more people, you can expect the spigot turns to be more frequent. I believe we’re going to be in a very good place by summer.”
Health Commissioner Mark Levine, MD, reiterated that anyone who gathers with others who are not vaccinated still needs to follow guidance to prevent the spread of the virus — wearing masks and keeping at least a 6-foot distance.
“Remember how well we did with this last summer and early fall, before that first surge in cases? As Vermonters, we were able to live our lives while still taking those necessary steps to protect one another,” Dr. Levine said. “I know we can do that again, especially with our progress in vaccination. But this virus has not gone away. We are still seeing cases of Covid-19, and we know we are now dealing with a more transmissible variant.
Following the governor’s press briefing on Tuesday, March 9, Dr. Levine received his first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine at the University of Vermont Medical Center vaccination clinic at the Essex County Fairgrounds.
Dr. Levine framed the moment in a way so many folks have been thinking as vaccine becomes more widely available, now, a year into the pandemic.
“We’ve been working so hard on getting the vaccine to Vermonters that I’ve hardly had a moment to reflect on what it means to me,” said Dr. Levine. “But, like many of you, I look forward to spending time with family and friends, to seeing my out-of-state son and his wife, and my daughter and her husband, and hugging my granddaughter. And yes, hugging will be in order, and will be the doctor’s order for all of you who follow in my footsteps. Like many of you, while I feel grateful for Zoom, it has not come even close to making up for missing seeing her grow from a 5-month-old baby to a 1-½-year-old toddler.”
Acknowledging that after months of “talking the talk” he now gets to “walk the walk,” Levine added: “I’ve said it before, but today I’ll get to show it — these vaccines are safe and effective,” he said. “It feels great to do my part in protecting our community and stopping this pandemic. I encourage all Vermonters to do the same as soon as they are eligible.”