Scott turns the spigot on reopening Vermont a bit more

Published: May. 1, 2020 at 10:42 AM EDT
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Starting Monday, thousands of Vermonters are allowed to return to work under strict guidelines. It's the latest step in rebooting Vermont's economy after COVID-19 shuttered businesses and put tens of thousands out of work.

Construction, distribution and transportation companies with fewer than 10 people are allowed to clock back in on Monday. But this time, the governor is looking to employers to enforce the latest rules.

Thousands of Vermonters can head back to work next week as the state makes progress fighting COVID-19.

"That's good news, it's good news for everybody," said Andy Bechard, who owns Northeast Contracting.

Bechard is back at work. We introduced you to him weeks ago when he struggling to reach the Labor Department. He still hasn't received his benefits.

Bechard ended up breaking the governor's executive order so he and his five-person crew could put food on the table.

"We've got a lot of work lined up. People are anxiously waiting to get their home repairs done. I've got a house to build and we're anxiously waiting for that," he said.

Bechard and his crew are just several out of around 10,000 people who can now officially return to work on Monday.

Construction, manufacturing and other low-contact jobs can resume if they can follow strict guidelines.

And on May 11, these companies will be able to return to full operations.

"This is not and will not be a flip of the switch," Vt. Commerce Secretary Lindsay Kurrle said.

Businesses will have to come up with and enforce a reopening plan. Companies like Bechard's will have to keep the plan on file so employees and the state can access it.

Additionally, companies back to work will now have to wear face masks and make their best effort to conduct temperature checks before employees clock in.

State leaders say it will be a big shift in how we work.

"The fastest way that we're going to get back to business as usual is to acknowledge that business operations will be anything but usual in the coming days, weeks and months," Kurrle said.

Like with his previous orders, the state is leaning on voluntary compliance. But the governor is encouraging companies to take the lead in enforcing.

"We've had a lot of commitment of businesses throughout Vermont of businesses who do the right thing for the health and safety of their employees, and we're counting on them here to do the right thing, as well," said Gov. Phil Scott, R-Vermont.

Scott says if we develop good social distancing habits as we open our economy, we can better prepare for a potential second wave of the coronavirus in the fall.

"If we do this, if we build this foundation correctly and provide the training necessary, we may eliminate what a lot of other states are going to face in three, four months," Scott said.

And for people back on the job such as Bechard who are adjusting to working in new social norms, he says he's just happy to be back at work.

"Just trying to be cautious of being too close to each other and getting into each other's personal space," he said.

As the weather gets warmer, the governor says he'll make an announcement regarding outdoor recreation like golf courses, next week.