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Vermont restaurant & bar curfew to be lifted Saturday; Schools back to ‘normal’ by fall

Updated: May. 28, 2021 at 9:20 AM EDT
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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - Vermont Governor Phil Scott Friday said the state’s continuing progress with vaccinations means he will lift the 10 p.m. curfew on restaurants and bars on Saturday. Education officials also said that Vermont children, parents, and teachers can expect to return to a relatively normal school year in the fall.

“Starting tomorrow, I am lifting the 10 p.m. curfew on bars restaurants and clubs,” Scott said. The governor says the move to lift the curfew is justified, with more than 50% of young people under 30 now having had at least one dose of the vaccine. The governor says vaccination numbers are less than three points away from hitting his 80% goal to lift all restrictions. Though the curfew is lifted for these establishments, the universal guidance is still in place for now, and municipalities can enforce stricter rules,

Vermont’s nightlife has been clobbered by the pandemic. They were the first to close and they are one of the last sectors to reopen full time. “This is a welcome change and it gets us one step closer to that 80%,” said Amy Spear with the Vermont Chamber of Commerce. She says the spigot turn helps restaurants even if they aren’t open past 10, because they can seat tables later.

But just because the taps are open doesn’t mean that drinks will flow. Many businesses we spoke with say they don’t have the staff to stay open to pre-pandemic hours. Spear says the state’s foodservice workforce has the second slowest employment recovery in the country, right behind Washington D.C. “If there’s not someone to pour the drink, you can’t serve the drink, and that’s something real that the industry is facing right now,” she said.

VACCINATION DRIVES RAMP UP OVER HOLIDAY WEEKEND

As the state lifts restrictions, they’re continuing the vaccination push with a growing number of clinics.

“It is transitioning to bringing vaccine sites to where people live play and work. and do more and more walk-ups,” said AHS Secretary Mike Smith.

On Saturday, you can get the single dose Johnson & Johnson shot at the Burlington Farmers Market from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thunder Road race track in Barre is holding a walk-up clinic on Sunday in the main parking lot. Anyone ages 18 and older can get a single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

SCHOOL GUIDELINES CALL FOR RETURN TO NORMAL BY FALL

Vermont’s state of emergency will most likely not be in place by this fall, which means children can expect to return to a relatively normal school year.

There are about three weeks left in this school year and eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccine for kids 12 to 15 opened only two weeks ago, so masks and social distancing will continue for the rest of the school year, even if the state of emergency comes to an end.

“The majority of our students in the K to12 system will not be fully vaccinated before the end of the school year, so we believe our current mitigation measures are needed to ensure their safety,” said Vt. Education Secretary Dan French Friday. He says that means physical distancing and contact tracing will also still take place. But fall 2021 will be different.

“We’re back to normal next year -- that’s what we hear. It feels great,” said Rutland City Public Schools Superintendent Bill Olsen.

The most obvious change will be all students back to the classroom for full in-person instruction, five days a week. “The high school has been every other day, and that’s more challenging because you don’t have everybody there, feeling like you’re a community. That cultural part that really makes what your high school experience is -- that will be back next year, so we’re excited about that,” Olsen said.

What’s still unclear is if students will still need to wear masks. Secretary French said most likely not, but that it remains undecided. Officials say the proof of a vaccine will not be required. And snow days will no longer be made up remotely. Districts can determine if they want to create individual remote learning plans for some students. “We will consider whether we can do that based on the needs of certain kids, that maybe it really makes sense for them,” Olsen said.

“I feel more indifferent than anything else. I think it is very important for the social and emotional aspect of our children. However, obviously, community safety is most important,” said Margaret Young, the parent of a child at Rutland Intermediate School.

“They’ve been really resilient and great with it, they have stuck through it, but they deserve to get back to normal,” said Sierra Maxwell, another Rutland parent.

Vermont Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine says the state will continue to watch the data to see if students are bringing the virus into schools. And at this time, the CDC still recommends people who are unvaccinated wear masks, including kids.

Education officials say 100 grants worth $3.8 million will go out to 13 counties as part of the state’s Summer Matters programs. They say the vast majority of programs will be low or no cost.

HEALTH UPDATE

Vt. Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine says one case of the B1351 variant -- first identified in South Africa -- has been detected in Vermont. He says it responds to the vaccine differently depending on the person. He said it’s another good reason to make sure as many Vermonters are vaccinated as possible.

Levine also said new studies show that people may have immunity against COVID for a year or longer if they were previously infected or got the covid shot and that a booster shot may not be needed. He says the body -- through bone marrow -- is learning to stop the virus.

As of Friday, Vermont health officials reported 8 new coronavirus cases for a total of 24,190. There have been a total of 255 deaths. The state’s percent positive seven-day average is 1.1%. A total of 393,523 people have been tested, and 22,860 have recovered.

PANDEMIC BRIEFINGS REDUCED TO TUESDAYS ONLY

Governor Scott says after 142 pandemic briefings since the start of the pandemic, next week they will transition to once-a-week briefings on Tuesdays only.

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