MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) Vermont has joined other states in imposing a "stay at home" order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Governor Phil Scott and administration officials provided more information about the order at a press conference Wednesday morning. It comes as Vermont health officials say Wednesday's total death toll is up to eight, with 123 positive cases.
Vt. Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine says he's very concerned about the slope of the curve in new infections which is trending dramatically upward. To halt exponential growth of the virus as seen in other states like New York, Levine says everybody must be "all-in" to discourage its spread
"I need you to stay at home," Scott said." Doing so will save lives. It's just that simple."
The order starting Wednesday at 5 p.m. directs all Vermonters to stay at home, leaving only for essential reasons critical to health and safety. It includes the closure of all in-person non-essential businesses.
Some exemptions include health care operations, grocery stores, gas stations, critical manufacturing, restaurants with curbside and delivery, and the news media.
Scott said outdoor activity like walking the dog or going for a cross-country ski are fine, but that it is critical that people keep social distancing of six-feet. Officials say that while they are stepping up visibility of law enforcement, the new order will operate primarily on a model of "encouragement and education."
Scott said Vermont is also suspending Amtrak service.
He said the order, and others that may still come, may seem drastic, but that they are necessary. "We will all know someone personally and it will start to feel very real," Scott said.
CNN reports by Wednesday, when the over 17 current state orders take effect, more than 50% of the U.S. population will be officially urged to stay home.
The Vermont order will be in effect until April 15, but could be extended longer.