Scott Shutters Bars, Restaurants for at Least Several Weeks | Off Message

Scott Shutters Bars, Restaurants for at Least Several Weeks

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Health Commissioner Mark Levine (left) and Gov. Phil Scott - COLIN FLANDERS
  • Colin Flanders
  • Health Commissioner Mark Levine (left) and Gov. Phil Scott
Updated 6:23 p.m.

Gov. Phil Scott has ordered Vermont bars and restaurants to close for at least the next three weeks in the latest move to restrict public life amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Vermont Secretary of Commerce Lindsay Kurrle told lawmakers about the decision during a conference call Monday afternoon. The governor later confirmed it about an hour later in a press release that said establishments can continue to offer takeout and delivery service.

The order is effective 2 p.m. on Tuesday and runs through April 6, "though this could be extended," the press release said.

"These changes reflect the growing trend of confirmed coronavirus cases in Vermont, new recommendations from the CDC, social distancing and mitigation efforts recommended by the Vermont Department of Health, and ongoing discussions with neighboring states," the press release said.

The announcement arrives hours after Vermont officials said that they believe the coronavirus has started to spread through the community, with four new cases in the last 24 hours.

"I want Vermonters to know we're continuously evaluating other mitigation steps and will continue to communicate as they are put into place," Scott said at a press conference Monday morning. "It's important to remember in times of crisis, we all need to make sacrifices."

Scott has been forced to make monumental decisions at a frenetic pace in recent days, caught between a public that seems split over whether he's moving too quickly or too slowly.

On Friday, the governor declared a state of emergency and banned nonessential gatherings of more than 250 people. On Sunday, he ordered Vermont schools closed by Wednesday. On Monday, he tightened the density restrictions to 50 people, citing new federal recommendations. 

"Every action that we've taken thus far has been based on science, data and the guidance of experts," Scott said Monday, noting that the goal is to encourage people to distance themselves from others to slow the spread of the virus.

That was the same message offered Monday by a national coronavirus task force, which joined President Donald Trump at a press conference to announce new guidelines for the public. Two of Scott's measures — school closures and bar and restaurant restrictions — addressed points from those guidelines, though the task force also recommended that people avoid gathering in groups of more than 10.

Shortly before Scott's announcement, Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger said at a press conference that he was ordering city bars and restaurants to close, except for takeout and food delivery.  The ban begins at 6 a.m. on Tuesday, March 17, Weinberger said.

The mayor's press conference was held at the Burlington Police Department headquarters and live-streamed on Facebook.

"I believe it is my job to do everything within my authority and responsibility to keep these numbers as low as possible," Weinberger said. The mayor recognized that curtailing restaurant service to takeout and delivery will have economic consequences, particularly for low-wage workers, but said the actions will save lives.

Weinberger said he's impressed by the number of Queen City eateries that have already made the switch.

"My sense is there's strong support for clarity, clear action from the city," he said. "I'm sure there will be some who disagree with this action, but I am also confident that many will be supportive of it."

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