Gov. Phil Scott on Friday took further steps to reopen Vermont's economy, announcing an order that will soon allow thousands to return to work amid continued signs that the state has slowed the spread of the coronavirus.
Starting Monday, certain outdoor businesses such as construction and landscaping companies, manufacturers, and distribution operations can have 10 people working at a time. These employers can then return to full operation May 11 if they complete a training program and adopt a series of preventative measures, Scott said.
"There's no playbook on any of this," Scott said. "So we focus on sectors like manufacturing and construction that have controlled environments, open space and are accustomed to following rules dedicated to safe work sites.”
Companies that return to full operation will need to comply with a stringent set of requirements. For example, they must offer employees expanded health training, make good faith efforts to secure thermometers to perform temperature checks on employees prior to the start of each shift, and designate on-site health officers charged with ensuring that protocols are being followed, according to Friday's order.
The order also requires public transportation employees and travelers to now wear cloth masks at all times.
Vermont continues to report a low number of new coronavirus cases, averaging roughly six cases a day over the last two weeks. Officials detailed further encouraging signs on Friday, noting that the state is now likely past its peak of active occurrences — yet another important indicator of its success in curbing the spread of COVID-19.
"The important thing to know is we'll be watching this closely, either helping us to expand more, or telling us to slow down a bit," he said.
The governor added that he will likely announce more steps next week that involve both the business community and "family connection and outdoor recreation." But while each turn of his proverbial spigot brings Vermont closer to regaining some sense of normalcy, Scott said that the state cannot become complacent.
"Because we've stayed home and separated, we continue to move in the right direction," he said. "[But] I want to be sure that everyone understands, we can't declare victory, because we have to recognize that states like Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York — states right on our borders just a few hours away — are still dealing with massive outbreaks."
"It only takes one spark to reignite this fire," he continued. "We all need to stay smart, be cautious and stay disciplined."