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Scott announces strict guidelines on bars and restaurants, social gatherings, sports leagues

Published: Nov. 13, 2020 at 7:42 AM EST
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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - With daily coronavirus case counts spiking the past three days, Vermont Governor Phil Scott Friday implemented strict new guidelines for social gatherings, bars and restaurants, and sports leagues.

Starting Friday, multi-household gatherings are prohibited -- both inside and outside. All non-school sports leagues are on pause. “We are defintely going in the wrong direction,” Scott said. “This is about making sure we don’t overwhelm our hospitals -- and save lives.”

Coronavirus cases are surging across Vermont, with over 300 cases in the last three days alone. Officials say 71% of all the current outbreaks are linked to social gatherings and parties and that it’s gotten worse since Halloween. That’s why Scott says the state has to crack down on gatherings of all kinds. “Multi-household gatherings both inside and out, whether in public or private spaces are prohibited,” he said.

That means no dinners with friends, no parties, and even taking a walk with the neighbor is out. But at the same time retail, restaurants, and gyms can stay open. Scott says it’s because public spaces have more regulations and they can be more surgical with restrictions after reviewing what caused the increase in community spread. “There are guidelines there. There isn’t much for interactions with your neighbor,” Scott said.

This newest order isn’t the same as the “stay home, stay safe” order from back in March. Vermont now has a steady supply of PPE, increased testing capabilities, and more contact tracing. “We were building the airplane as we were flying it. In this instance and in this spike, we have the infrastructure in place. We just have to fly through this turbulence in the best method we can,” said AHS Secretary Mike Smith.

Asking people not to see their friends and family is a tall task, especially with Thanksgiving around the corner and the darkest part of the year approaches. We spoke with people about whether Vermonter will be able to follow the rules. “I certainly hope so,” said one.

“I hope it brings out the best in Vermonters,” added another

“Hopefully we’ll continue to show the nation how to do this correctly,” added a third.

There’s no plans to enforce these new rules, but the governor is taking a firmer tone on spreading the message to all Vermonters. “We’re going to count on peer pressure as well. The more we get this information out, the more we articulate what the problem is, the quicker we solve it,” he said.

Officials say they hope the restrictions won’t be in place for long and that we will be able to keep schools and the rest of the economy open.

BURLINGTON BAR OWNERS, RESTAURANTS BRACE FOR RESTRICTIONS

A key element of Governor Scott’s restrictions Friday are aimed at restaurants and bars. Restaurants will be able to seat only one family per table and must close in-person service by 10:00 p.m. Bars and social clubs will be closed entirely for in-person service effective at 10:00 p.m. Saturday night. Our Ike Bendavid is looking into the impact in Vermont’s busiest bar and restaurant area -- downtown Burlington.

Bartender Amy Delorme of downtown Burlington bar JPs said she was dismayed by the new state mandate that will not only close bars like hers, but also leave workers unemployed. “It sucks being out of work again, right before Christmas too,” Delorme said.

She says the new mandate unfairly singles out bars over restaurants. “Why they can stay open and we can’t.”

At Smitty’s Pub in the New North End, owner Michelle Smith says they will close their bar seating down because of the regulations, but keep their dining room open and continue offering take out. “Scared -- we have employees, it’s our livelihood. Like everybody else, we are nervous about what the future holds,” she said.

Smith says she is trying to stay positive but is concerned about what the future may look like as outdoor seating gives way to winter. “We started going forward in light of all of this and now I think we are going to be taking steps backward,” Smith said.

“Have to completely shut down,” Delorme said.

Customers we spoke with say they are worried about businesses throughout the state. “I think it’s a good idea, but I think it’s bad for the business owners,” said Christopher Reed of Burlington.

Governor Scott says he understands the impact on bars and restaurants and that the state has $75 million available to help ease the blow. But he says the state needs five to ten times more for the hospitality industry and that the federal government must deliver another stimulus package.

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