'Close Contact' Businesses Can Reopen June 1; Gathering Size Expanded | Off Message

'Close Contact' Businesses Can Reopen June 1; Gathering Size Expanded


Gov. Phil Scott and Health Commissioner Mark Levine at a recent briefing - FILE: JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR
  • File: Jeb Wallace-Brodeur
  • Gov. Phil Scott and Health Commissioner Mark Levine at a recent briefing
Gyms, fitness studios, nail salons and other "close contact" businesses can reopen on June 1, Gov. Phil Scott said on Friday. Vermonters are also now permitted to gather in groups of up to 25 people. The previous limit was 10.

Close contact operations also include tattoo parlors, home cleaning services, massage therapy, and personal art, academic or athletic lessons. State guidelines require that these businesses limit operations to 25 percent capacity and say that customers should remain six feet apart from one another.

Walk-in appointments are not allowed, and "cashless/touch-less transactions are strongly preferred," the rules say. Operators must also keep a log of customers for 30 days in case the health department needs to conduct contact tracing.

The latest turn of the spigot comes as Vermont continues to show promise in containing COVID-19 cases. The state has taken several steps to reopen the economy in the last five weeks — allowing shops to operate at reduced capacity and restaurants to offer outdoor seating, among other measures — but without any significant case growth.

"Vermonters are using common sense and making good choices," Scott said. "This must continue if we want to open things further, and so far, you're doing just that."

Vermont has counted 24 new cases in the last week, even as residents have become more mobile and as the state has begun testing asymptomatic people. Only one new case was reported on Friday.
"Taken together, we see this as a favorable outcome and trend," said Michael Pieciak, commissioner of financial regulation.

Health Commissioner Mark Levine said state contact tracers are currently investigating "a small number of cases" in Winooski. He said the cases don't stem from a senior living or congregate housing facility.

"It's very early in the game, but I think we have a great idea of where the cluster is," Levine said. "I'd like to give you the impression that we've made a good assessment of the situation and that people should feel confidence in that."

The state also continues to monitor the coronavirus' spread in nearby states. Data show that 41 percent of confirmed cases in the U.S. are within a five-hour drive of Vermont's borders.

Commerce Secretary Lindsay Kurrle said Vermont will allow children from out of state to attend overnight summer camps as long as they follow specific guidelines. The campers must quarantine for 14 days before they arrive or do so at the camp itself if it's two weeks long.
The campers can opt to take a nasal swab test after seven days of quarantine; if they test negative, they can end the isolation early, Kurrle said.

Families bringing their children to camps are asked not to stop anywhere along the way. Officials are hoping to use the "controlled environment" of overnight camps as a test run for how the state might manage tourists and ease travel restrictions, Scott said.

Kurrle clarified that the new quarantine rule is only for out-of-state summer campers, not for visitors to Vermont campgrounds.

"Those campers are contained, and they're under the coordination of an organization," she said. "It enables us to really understand where they have been and who they have been with should there be an outbreak."

Scott said his administration is considering guidelines for reopening indoor dining. He hopes to issue an update next week.