MONTPELIER: Vermont’s Governor Phil Scott took additional action yesterday, increasing the restrictions on Vermonters by issuing a stay at home order to decrease the possibility that the virus continues to spread throughout our communities.
Scott’s administration made themselves available in a press conference that began at 11 am Wednesday morning with telephonic questions being answered by media.
The State’s concerns about spreading the virus throughout the state lead Scott’s administration to have as many members of the media to attend by phone as possible. Only those who needed to be present to record the press conference were allowed to attend in person.
These restrictive measures are in place to minimize all unnecessary activities outside the home to slow the spread of this virus and protect the public. These actions were implemented in consultation with the Commissioner of the Vermont Department of Health and his evaluation of the latest data.
The measures come two weeks after the first case appeared in Vermont, now the state has 128 confirmed cases in the green mountain state, growing exponentially every day.
According to Vermont Health Commissioner Lavine, several of the 8 deaths that have been reported in Vermont thus far were those who were elderly and did not go through full medical treatment to try to fend off the virus.
“I’m not saying this to scare people,” Lavine said, “but we have to be realistic. The likelihood of those who are young remain very very low, but those who are older it increases.”
Lavine went on to say that he wished he had a crystal ball to know the future, but he doesn’t, so they are just working to make sure the State’s healthcare resources are not overcome.
Lavine said it’s important that we learn from other countries to mitigate as much danger to the public as possible, and that includes measures like the Governor’s “stay-home, stay-safe” order.
“It’s become an expectation in the scientific community that we flatten the curve… but it may have a resurgence at some point… but by that point, it will be harder to spread the virus,” said Lavine.
Scott added, “I know this is not easy time… I share the concerns in this, but public safety must come first.”
“Here’s what I need Vermonter’s to know,” Scott said, “I need you to stay home. It is going to save lives.”
“Based on the best science, each of the actions we’ve taken are absolutely necessary,” Scott said, “You can leave for essential needs… but when doing so it is important to stay about six feet from others, and cough and sneeze into your elbow.”
Scott said that it’s important that anyone who can work from home, do so immediately, and that is worked into the order.
Scott said that even though who are exempted from the order, they should work from home wherever possible.
This is one of the most severe orders in the country, but Scott addressed that issue saying that it will be sooner than later that this will affect someone you know and care about.
Scott announced that all Amtrak service in Vermont will be closed beginning Thursday, as well as all VAST snowmobile trails within the state.
“Now is a moment of service for all of us… and I know that Vermonter’s are up for it because we are Vermont strong,” Scott said.
Labor Commissioner Lindsay Kurrle said that although these are difficult measures, it will allow the business to rebound as quickly as possible once this order is lifted.
The directive for restaurants continues as is, that they are allowed to continue providing food service to customers via takeout or curbside pickup.
U.S. Congressman Representative Peter Welch joined the press conference, saying the government has a responsibility to protect citizens and protect the economy.
“We all have to be in this together,” Welch said, “We have to subscribe to the public help advise we are all getting.”
Welch said he plans to partner with the Governor in Washington to take the economic steps to get through this and get to the other side, including two bills that have already been passed, and a third one that is being considered in Washington.
“The third bill is right now being negotiated,” Welch said, “This is extraordinary. It is a $2 Trillion aid package.”
Welch said that some aspects of that bill is to change the unemployment aspect increasing the unemployment cap from $500 per week to $1,100 per month at no cost to the state or business owners.
In addition, that unemployment will now cover those who were self-employed or making money through the gig economy.
The bill will including probing up hospitals financially with $100 billion in aid to help offset the loss of elective operations.
Scott said the State is lucky to have a dedicated congressional delegation that is working hard for the State of Vermont.
“I want to be very clear about this: We need everyone to limit activities outside of the home and to practice social distancing at all times to slow the spread of this highly contagious and potentially deadly virus,” said Governor Phil Scott. “We all must do our part to slow the spread of COVID-19 to minimize infections – particularly for those who are elderly or have underlying chronic health conditions – and prevent it from overwhelming our healthcare facilities. The more Vermonters who take this seriously and stay home, the faster we can return to normal.”
The Governor’s order directs Vermonters to stay at home, leaving only for essential reasons, critical to health and safety. If leaving the home, Vermonters should adhere to social distancing policies, including remaining six feet from others (except for those with whom they share a home) and thoroughly and regularly washing hands.
Effective March 25, 2020 at 5:00 p.m., all businesses and not-for-profit entities not expressly exempted in the order must suspend all in-person business operations. Operations that can be conducted online or by phone, or sales that can be facilitated with curbside pickup or delivery only, can continue.
The Order provides exemptions for businesses and entities providing services or functions deemed critical to public health and safety, as well as economic and national security. This includes – but is not limited to – health care operations; retail serving essential human needs, like grocery stores, pharmacies and hardware stores; fuel products and supply; maintenance of critical infrastructure; news media; and transportation and critical manufacturing sectors.
All exempt entities must still strictly adhere to CDC and Vermont Department of Health guidance to ensure social distancing and proper hygiene and disinfecting is occurring. All exempt entities conducting retail operations should also facilitate curbside pick-up or delivery to the extent possible.
“I fully recognize the emotional, financial and economic impact of these decisions, but based on the best science we have available, these measures are necessary,” said Governor Scott. “I need all Vermonters to understand that the more quickly and closely we follow these stay-at-home measures, the faster and safer we can get through this and get our daily lives, and our economy, moving again. I have tremendous faith in Vermonters and our ability to follow these guidelines, to save lives and support each other throughout – even as we are physical separated.”
Governor Scott declared the State of Emergency on March 13, and has since directed a number of mitigation strategies in order to reduce close contact among individuals, including visitor restrictions for long-term care facilities and other health facilities; the closure of bars and restaurants, schools and daycare centers and close contact businesses; limiting the size of mass gatherings; postponing all non-essential medical procedures; and ordering all businesses to implement telecommuting wherever possible.
These measures come as the State of Vermont begins to establish “surge” medical treatment centers throughout the state, including one at Collins Perley Sports Complex in St. Albans.
The Stay Home, Stay Safe order will be in effect until April 15, 2020, though maybe extended or shortened as needed. For full details, please click here to read the full addendum.
This news story will be updated throughout the day as we continue to report on this subject in order to keep the public updated.