Anastasia Coen, left, and Hunter Thomson at Ken's Pizza
Vermont restaurants, entertainment venues and hospitality businesses can begin to welcome more people to their establishments beginning June 26, state officials said Friday.
The venues will be able to permit 75 people or up to 50 percent of the space's allowable capacity, whichever is less. Up to 150 people will be able to gather outside, Commerce Secretary Lindsay Kurrle said at an afternoon press conference.
"Our goal at the end of the day is to keep people safe, to keep people healthy," Kurrle said. "In the situation of a restaurant, we're asking people to plan accordingly to try to keep people properly distanced."
"We are working diligently to open things up as fast as we can. We hope Vermonters will venture out to support these businesses, as they begin to open up," Kurrle said. "Our announcement today will not make the hospitality industry whole, but we hope it's another step in the return to profitability."
The Vermont Department of Health on Friday announced nine new cases of COVID-19. The state reported one new death on Thursday, bringing the total to 56.
Vermont's positive COVID-19 test results are tracking below 1 percent, according to Finance Commissioner Michael Pieciak, who is tasked with data modeling during the pandemic. The rate is the lowest in the country, he said.
"Over the next two weeks, we anticipate having a continued, low-level case count," Pieciak said, adding: "Our reopening metrics ... have been steady and trending positive throughout the outbreak and throughout the reopening process."
The Northeast region "can expect to continue to see improvements" in case counts over the next few weeks, Pieciak said. The number of people who can travel to Vermont without quarantining continues to grow. Since last Friday, the state has counted net increase of 12 counties subject to relaxed quarantine rules.
A total of 75 counties in Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island and New York — or about 6.8 million people — are free from these restrictions, Pieciak said.