Gov. Phil Scott at the Statehouse earlier this year
Vermont retail stores that follow certain health guidelines can reopen on May 18, Gov. Phil Scott said Monday.
Businesses must limit the number of patrons allowed inside to 25 percent of legal capacity. Employees are required to wear masks and maintain a six-foot distance from coworkers and customers, and they must complete a COVID-19 safety training course, the governor said.
"By taking a cautious approach, we'll be stronger and healthier when we get to the finish line," Scott said. "Instead of taking two steps forward and one step back, we've chosen to take one-and-a-half steps forward."
The state will not require customers to wear masks. Scott said he prefers to educate Vermonters about facial coverings rather than mandating their use, but he noted that he'd consider "more steps" if members of the public don't wear them voluntarily.
"From what I've seen across the country, [mask mandates are] having mixed results, and I think it creates a lot of controversy," Scott said. "It puts people at odds, and I believe it's counterproductive to what we're trying to do today. I think the more people that wear masks, the more socially acceptable it is."
Retail is the latest sector of the economy to reopen under Scott's coronavirus recovery plan. Last Friday, the administration announced that childcare centers may reopen on June 1, and summer camps can operate this year.
The latest spigot-turn comes as Vermont reported no new cases Monday and 823 new test results — the second-highest number of test results the state has reported in one day since the pandemic began in March. The state is aiming to test 1,000 people a day, Scott said.
Testing is now open to children with mild symptoms, Health Commissioner Mark Levine said. Inmates, corrections workers and staff and residents of long-term care facilities "where even one person ... has tested positive" can also be tested, he added.
The state has also opened pop-up testing centers to screen asymptomatic frontline workers. Snowbirds, second-home owners and college students returning from out of state can be referred for testingif they show no symptoms on day seven of the required 14-day quarantine. If they test negative, they can end their quarantine early, Levine said.
Vermont's stay-at-home order expires on Friday. Scott said he'll issue guidelines later this week that will relax some of those rules — but not all.
"We don't want to throw the switch on and let everything go back to normal. We're very much still watching this virus," he said, noting that the new order will still limit social interactions and require social distancing. "We want to make sure we stay on top of this."