MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) Vermont officials Friday said they continue to see a favorable trend in new COVID-19 cases well below earlier forecasts and giving more confidence in reopening the economy, including child care and summer camps.
"Vermont can continue to strategically plan to reopen. And if done so appropriately, and with care, we can do it without the fear of widespread health crisis," said Vermont DFR Commissioner Michael Pieciak.
That optimism is based on long term forecast models of what would happen if the state reopened in different ways. One model charts what would happen if the state reopens with no precautions. It shows by mid-summer that hospital capacity would be overwhelmed. Another shows what would happen if the state sent half of the nonessential workers back to businesses with no safety requirements and had the rest continue remote work. While not as drastic, it still shows the hospitalization trend would still be up. Yet another model that officials are relying on assumes half of workers head back to their businesses with safety precautions. In this scenario, the hospitalization trend would still go down. And the most conservative model assumes continuing the stay-at-home order through the summer -- something the governor has indicated is highly unlikely.
The modelling also contains warning flags the state is looking for as they reopen the economy. They include, if there's a 4% uptick in people seeking treatment for COVID symptoms for multiple days in a row, if case numbers look like they will exceed 70% of ICU or hospital capacity, and if 8% of new tests are confirmed positive.
"What we're trying to do is protect Vermonters," Scott said.
But with the latest models showing New Hampshire's cases now doubling every two weeks, Scott reiterated his concern for the region as a whole. "That has an effect on us. When we're seeing these huge outbreaks in Massachusetts, that affects us and the people coming into the state," he said.
When asked about when the two-week quarantine on travelers would end, Scott said he hopes expanding testing will allow them to shorten that time, but that we aren't there yet.
CHILD CARE CENTER, SUMMER CAMPS GET GREENLIGHT
There was a big sigh of relief for parents across Vermont as Governor Scott gave the thumbs up for summer camps and child care centers
to open this summer.
Thousands of kids can return to day care, summer camps, and community programs next month.
"All child care programs will be allowed to open by June 1st. To be clear, we are not requiring them to be open, but if they want to and they can meet strict health and safety requirements, they can," Scott said Friday.
Hand washing, social-distancing and fewer than 10 kids in a group at once will be the rules for now. Child care workers will also be included in the state's expanded testing and tracing program.
Many camps in Vermont applauded the news and say they're already planning.
"Groups would stay together in small groups of eight kids and two councilors," said Carol Lolatte, the director of Brattleboro Parks & Recreation.
She says the town is offering many of its usual programs for local kids and that abiding by the new guidelines to keep campers safe means fewer kids will get to experience the programs. "We would have to downsize our camp numbers to meet those ratios and there would be limited space for the residents of Brattleboro," Lolatte said.
Not all child care centers and camps will be able to abide by the new rules and state officials says it's still unclear how many won't be able to open this summer.
There's also unanswered questions about kids from out-of-state attending overnight camps. Officials say they hope to provide further guidance in the coming weeks.
For child care programs that have been shut down for two months, the state is offering help - $6 million in grants to get back on their feet.
Officials say some of the programs are in flux and that how COVID cases trend will ultimately determine if camps and programs can accept more kids. "The moment we can increase those numbers we will increase those numbers. I would plan to open on June 1st and see if the number remains at 10 or if it's going to be greater than 10," said Agency of Human Services Secretary Mike Smith.
VERMONT'S COVID-19 TIMELINE
As of 5/8
March 2 -- first Upper Valley NH case confirmed
March 7 -- first Vermont case confirmed in Bennington county
March 11 -- VT activates emergency operations center, first Chittenden County case confirmed
March 13 -- state of emergency declared, began restricting size of gatherings, restricted visitors to long-term care facilities
March 15 -- schools closed
March 16 -- reduced gathering sizes more, closed bars and restaurants
March 17 -- child care closures
March 18 -- in-person DMV restricted, first nursing home case
March 19 -- first VT deaths from coronavirus
March 20 -- elective surgeries suspended
March 22 -- closure of close-contact biz, limited gatherings to 10 or fewer people
March 23 -- telecommuting ordered
March 24 -- stay home stay safe order issued, closure directed of in-person operations for non-essential biz the next day (March 25)
March 26 -- schools closed for rest of school year. NH orders residents to stay home & non-essential biz to close
March 30 -- all coming in from out-of-state have to quarantine at home for two weeks
April 10 -- extended stay at home order through May 15
April 17 -- announced phased restart with five areas of focus
April 20 -- first biz reopen (outdoor work, small groups of 2 or fewer)
April 24 -- expands work crews to 5 or fewer, adds manufacturing reopening, greenhouse sales allowed with 10 person limit, mandates masks and safety training for biz
May 4 -- Crews of 10 or fewer in manufacturing/construction/distribution, outpatient elective procedures can resume
May 6 -- limited social gatherings (10 or fewer, preferably outdoors) may resume, "trusted households" -- high-risk & seniors have to stay home still
May 7 -- some outdoor recreation may resume (golf, guided hikes, skate parks, etc.)
May 8 -- Ed agency announces traditional in-person large graduations are not allowed
May 11 -- Full/normal operations for manufacturing/construction/distribution
May 13 -- antibody testing group update (expected)
May 15 -- state of emergency expires but will likely be extended (per Gov's comments as recently as 5/8), stay at home order will likely be relaxed as part of that
May 18 -- child cares can start bringing staff back
June 1 -- child cares reopen as able & with changes based on health dept. guidance
June 15 -- lodging reservations start again
Week of May 11:
Expecting more guidance on child care, summer camp reopening procedures
Rest of Spring:
Testing ramps up
Economic package proposal coming from Gov's team
Camps are allowed to reopen (day and overnight), with significant changes to operations
Half of Vermonters return to on-site work with safety procedures remaining in place (based on state's modeling Scenario Three)
Some fairs already canceling
Schools reopen, likely in person
Two-week travel quarantine -- no word on when it ends, may depend on testing capacity (updated as of 5/8)
Larger personal gatherings (ie weddings/funerals) -- no word yet
Large social gatherings (ie fairs/concerts) -- no word yet
Restaurants -- outdoor seating likely to open first, but no word on when