Scott extends COVID-19 state of emergency to September 15
MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - Vermont Gov. Phil Scott Friday said he will extend the state’s emergency order to September 15 and urged Vermonters to remain vigilant in their efforts to limit the spread of COVID-19.
It’s the fifth time Scott has extended the emergency order since he first imposed it in March, but this time he’s giving cities and towns more power to rein in the social activities of returning college students. “It looks to me like Burlington is the most susceptible to a high traffic count,” Scott said.
The state’s latest order lets towns and cities tighten their own rules for bars and clubs, such as limiting capacity or enforcing curfews. Some bars in town already stop serving at an earlier time, but others have stayed open into the early morning and don’t always follow the six-foot rule for table distancing. The city has already issued warnings to some of these bars.
“I think it’s good to err on the cautious side and hopefully things go well. Obviously, we want the businesses to be open, but if we have to cut back the hours a bit in the evening or something, I think that’s reasonable,” said Matt Wamsley of Burlington.
Scott says this order is aimed at Burlington, where thousands of college students are returning over the next week. He didn’t issue a statewide order because he says it would be unfair to other towns. “I don’t believe this is a problem in Island Pond up in the NEK or Enosburgh, or down in the southern part of the state. It really is about those saturated areas like Burlington,” he said.
Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger's office tells WCAX that they're grateful for the flexibility to enforce. They plan to announce how to use this additional authority next week.
Several bar owners on Church Street said they hope this order will help both college students and bar owners be more responsile. It’s unclear whether the governor’s order will have any impact on off-campus parties.
Vermont Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine says testing has begun at college campuses and that a few students have already tested positive and he expects more positive tests in the coming days. He says that’s proof their protocols are working.
As of Friday, Vermont health officials reported 1,501 coronavirus cases with 17 new cases spread between Chittenden, Franklin, Windham, Windsor, and Orleans Counties. Two people were hospitalized and the death toll remains at 58. A total of 107,417 tests have been conducted, 943 travelers are being monitored, 6,399 have completed monitoring and 1,321 have recovered.
The health commissioner says it’s not clear when a vaccine will be ready. He says a government-wide task force is already planning how it will be distributed and stored and how the state can get its fair share. He says health care workers and vulnerable groups will get the initial delivery before it goes to the general population.
Governor Scott says pop-up testing will continue across the state and will even be ramped up. The health commissioner says they are expanding capacity and are working to get test results faster. And the health department is looking into how effective rapid saliva tests are. Levine says it looks like the tests are almost ready for “prime-time.”
RETURN TO SCHOOL
The governor responded to criticism from the Vermont-NEA about restarting school and concerns about teacher safety. He says it’s important that students get in-person learning so they don’t slip through the cracks and he’s confident because cases are so low. He also disputed claims that the state is not giving schools enough guidance and listed the protocols provided to districts.
You can watch the full news briefing below.
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