Night owls seeking a drink or some grub will soon have more options: Citing the state's vaccination progress, Gov. Phil Scott has lifted the 10 p.m. curfew for Vermont bars and restaurants, effective Saturday.
The move, which eliminates a monthslong curfew aimed at limiting transmission of the coronavirus, arrives ahead of the typically busy Memorial Day Weekend. Further, the number of Vermonters ages 18 to 29 getting vaccinated continues to climb; just over half that group has received at least one dose, representing a 20 percent jump during the last month.
"We felt there was no reason to keep the limit in place," Scott said at a press conference Friday.
Bars and restaurants must still obey all other COVID-19 mandates — at least for now. Those who aren’t vaccinated must still wear masks when not seated, for example, while establishments must provide six feet of space between tables and monitor capacity limits.
Still, Scott has committed to lift all remaining COVID-19 restrictions once 80 percent of all eligible Vermonters ages 12 and older have received at least one shot. With the tally now just shy of 78 percent, he said the state could clear the threshold as early as next week.
"We have a lot to be thankful for here in Vermont," he said. "Hitting this 80 percent threshold will be a huge deal. No one else has come close to this at this point in time."
Vermont plans to host more than 130 walk-in clinics across the state in the coming week, including one at the Burlington Farmers Market on Saturday and another at Thunder Road International Speedbowl in Barre on Sunday. Others will be held at state parks, job sites and pharmacies. The Department of Health's list of clinics is available on its website.
Health Commissioner Mark Levine stressed the importance of maintaining Vermont’s vaccination momentum in light of the discovery of yet another more contagious COVID-19 variant in the state. The health department is now reporting one case of the B1351 variant, which was first identified in South Africa. In better news, Levine said, new studies are suggesting that people who have been vaccinated or previously infected may have immunity for up to a year or more.
“This is good evidence that, not only are we protected now, but our bodies can recognize and stop this virus in the long term as well,” he said.