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Scott expands social gatherings to 25, opens 'interior maintenance' businesses Monday

(WCAX)
Published: May. 29, 2020 at 6:17 AM EDT
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Vermont Governor Phil Scott Friday announced an expansion of the limit on social gatherings from 10 to 25 as well as the reopening of gyms, spas, massage therapists, nail salons, cleaning services, and similar "interior maintenance" businesses starting Monday.

"We're able to take these steps because Vermonters have been smart and safe and we continue to see very low case numbers because Vermonters are using common sense an making good choices," Scott said.

In-home services such as cleaning and interior repair can reopen too, but must follow strict hygiene and occupancy rules.

Benj Spound, the co-owner of Vermont Holistic Bodywork in Montpelier, says some in the personal care industry remain leery of health risks. "Obviously Vermont has done a really good job keeping things under wraps, but a lot of people we see are coming from out-of-state," he said.

Additionally, many of the businesses in the latest turn of the spigot are owned by the self-employed. Spound expects to see a big drop off in customers and he's concerned that he and others who have been through the ringer getting benefits through the federal PUA program won't be eligible once they start working. "It's not like we have reduced hours the way someone who works in a restaraunt might have. We're open our full hours but people aren't booking as much, we're not sure how that's going to effect our unemployment," Spound said.

The newest order also opens up overnight camps for an estimated 2,000 kids, including kids from out-of-state. Those coming to Vermont will need a two-week quarantine at-home or at the camp, or they can quarantine for seven days, get a test, and if it's negative the quarantine is over. The governor described this as a pilot project to help guide what the state will do in regards to opening other lodging to out-of-staters.

"Because taking this step within this very controlled environment will give us some insight into how we manage out-of-state tourists as we move to easing restrictions such as quarantine requirements," Scott said.

Next week, if the data continues to look good, Scott says he'll pin down a date to open indoor dining.

Despite Friday's good news, Scott admitted that all of these reopening decisions are difficult and seeing the state's pre-coronavirus financial gains disappear and unemployment skyrocket over the past two months has been hard to watch. "It's frustrating. It's frustrating for me to watch the people in line waiting for food distribution. That's frustrating and concerning to me," Scott said.

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