State officials are aiming to relax visitation rules for residents of long-term care facilities just in time for Father's Day weekend.
Residents will be able to have two visitors per day, as long as they socialize outside, wear facial coverings and keep a safe physical distance, Human Services Secretary Mike Smith said at a press conference on Wednesday. Visitors will be screened for COVID-19 symptoms when they arrive.
"We are going to try to expedite that in order to have this ready in time for this weekend," Smith said, setting Friday, June 19, as the target date.
The new rules, he said, "will help alleviate some of the loneliness and isolation for long-term care residents" who have been cooped up since March.
Hospitals, too, can begin allowing visitors. One person can visit someone in an in-patient facility or the emergency department; pediatric patients can have two supportive adults. All visitors will be screened and must wear a mask, according to the guidelines, which are effective immediately.
The state on Wednesday also reported no new cases of coronavirus. Health Commissioner Mark Levine said there have been no new cases related to a Winooski-based outbreak in the last four days.
A Vermont prison, however, is reporting one new case. An inmate transferred from Florida to the Marble Valley Regional Correctional Facility in Rutland tested positive for the coronavirus on Tuesday, Smith said. The inmate is now being treated in a negative-pressure isolation room.
The news comes a week after the state completed mass testing at all six correctional facilities. The Vermont Department of Health tested Marble Valley's 117 inmates and 87 staffers and reported no new cases on May 28.
"This will probably be an ongoing issue that we have to deal with," Smith said. "The greatest danger right now at the correctional facility is from the outside, not from the inside. That is why the quarantine protocols are in place."
Gov. Phil Scott also hinted that he may increase limits on crowd size and retail capacity in the coming weeks. Currently, gatherings are limited to 25 people and stores to 25 percent capacity.
Before changing that policy, Scott said he will ask the Vermont Retail & Grocers Association to poll its members on whether shoppers should be required to wear a facial covering. Scott has resisted calls to issue a mask mandate given Vermont's relative success in containing the virus.