Vermont childcare centers can reopen in the coming weeks, and summer camps can operate this summer, Gov. Phil Scott announced on Friday.
But with a ban on large gatherings still in place, officials said that traditional school graduation ceremonies would not take place this spring. Education Secretary Dan French instead urged Vermonters to think creatively when planning end-of-school-year celebrations for students.
The childcare and summer camp guidelines are part of Scott's phased plan for reopening the state's economy and were based on the latest COVID-19 modeling data, which "tell a favorable story for Vermont," said Michael Pieciak, commissioner of the Vermont Department of Financial Regulation. The data show that Vermont's 919 confirmed coronavirus cases are well below the count that was expected at this point in the pandemic.
Despite the positive indicators, Scott explained that childcare and summer camps won't function the same way as before. Childcare centers can reopen on June 1 with 10 people or fewer, in keeping with the governor's executive order, though those requirements could change.
"We'll work through that as the data dictates. I can't give you any specifics right now other than to say: Stay tuned," said Human Services Secretary Mike Smith, who noted that the state will release further guidance next week.
"I realize how difficult it may be for many to reopen, the apprehension knowing the virus is still with us," the governor said, "but I think it's important to make this transition for the good of our providers, for their families and kids, and as well as we prepare for what can be normal for a while."
Ted Brady, deputy secretary of the Agency of Commerce and Community Development, said summer day camps provide childcare, meals and enrichment for thousands of Vermont kids every year. Overnight camps, however, tend to attract out-of-staters, who have been ordered to self-isolate for 14 days when they arrive in Vermont.
The administration will address the issue of overnight camps in the coming weeks, Brady said.
"That's the big question right now. We think there's a way to do this, because ... summer camps generally are a quarantined group of people," he said. "However, we need to work that out. We need to identify how you can do that."
While schools have been closed through the end of this academic year, French, the education secretary, said he expects in-person instruction can resume in the fall "if the data on the virus continues to support it."
The governor's "Stay Home, Stay Safe" order is set to expire May 15. Scott has not yet indicated whether he'll extend the directive — which has already been modified more than a dozen times since late March — beyond that date.