Scott makes plea to Vermonters to stay home, save lives

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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) Governor Phil Scott is pleading with Vermonters to follow his "stay at home" order in a continuing effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus. The order to close all non-essential businesses at 5 p.m. Wednesday comes as health officials say the state is seeing a concerning upward trajectory in positive cases.

Courtesy: Neil Brogan

"Now is a moment of service for all of us. It's our turn to face a once-in-a-century challenge. But I know Vermonters are up for it, because we're Vermont Strong. We'll get through this and we'll do it together," Scott said at a media briefing Wednesday. "I need you to stay home. Doing so will save lives, its just that simple."

Scott's executive order mandates businesses that can not operate without in person interactions have to shut down. It's not a complete lockdown. People are allowed to leave the house for fresh air and exercise. They can also still go to the grocery store, get their car fixed or do laundry. The new order is based on the honor system in the hope that Vermonters will keep their social distance. As of right now there's no penalties for being out and about.

"The law enforcement officer would have to have reasonable grounds to believe that person committed a crime. Being out and about does not create a direct nexus to a violation of the executive order," said Vt. Public Safety Commissioner Michael Schirling. But he says there could be penalties for businesses that violate the order. "If a restaurant opened there are health department implications and other licensing implications that could be putting people at risk."

Some exemptions in the order include health care operations, grocery stores, gas stations, critical manufacturing, restaurants with curbside and delivery, and the news media.

Those businesses with questions about acceptable continuation of operations are urged to fill out an online form

Out of 19 states which have implemented similar orders, Scott says Vermont has one of the most aggressive in the country to curb COVID-19, but he says these may not be the last steps. "If we see that there's no change or its getting worse, then we'll have to take more extreme measures," he said.