Gov. Phil Scott said on Friday that he will lift all remaining COVID-19 restrictions and limits as soon as 80 percent of eligible Vermonters — age 12 and older — have received at least one dose of vaccine.
The governor initially set the Fourth of July as the date to lift all restrictions. But he said during one of his twice-weekly COVID-19 news briefings that he hopes to be able to lift restrictions sooner than that. Bars and restaurants, for instance, remain limited in the hours they can operate.
“Vaccines work, and we’re vaccinating faster than I think anyone imagined,” Scott said.
As of Friday, 88 percent of all Vermonters were eligible to be vaccinated. Of that population, 74.9 percent had received at least one dose, according to data from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That means an additional 27,954 people need to be vaccinated to reach the 80 percent threshold, according to Scott.
The highest proportion of people who had received one dose was 77 percent, in Chittenden County, according to the state Health Department’s COVID-19 dashboard. The lowest was Essex County, with 54 percent.
Since Vermont started its vaccination program in December, it has repeatedly led the nation, or been listed among the leaders, in the number of vaccinations administered per capita. Scott said the state is in the lead now. State officials have lobbied hard for Vermonters to get the vaccine, and are now aiming their marketing at those in the youngest eligible groups.
“Because Vermonters have answered the call, I’m announcing an opportunity to eliminate all restrictions sooner than originally planned,” Scott said. “Here’s my challenge to you: If we hit 80 percent, I’ll lift any remaining restrictions and mandates that day.” Even if the state doesn’t reach that 80 percent goal, Scott said all restrictions will be lifted by July 4.
The governor has been steadily lifting restrictions through the spring, and there aren’t many left. The state still has some capacity limits for indoor public spaces: Only one unvaccinated person is allowed per 50 square feet.
Up to 900 unvaccinated people are allowed at outdoor events, with no limits on the number of vaccinated people. Since the first pandemic-related declaration of emergency on March 13 last year, the governor has continued to renew it , which makes Vermont eligible for some federal funding.
He said he wasn’t sure when he’d be lifting the state of emergency, but he expects it to happen within a couple of weeks of restrictions ending.
“We’ll be starting to work on that over the next week or two to make sure there is nothing left in there that we have to address in a different way,” he said.
“There may be something within the emergency order we need a little longer to unwind," Scott said. "We just want to be better safe than sorry.”