Vt. order to curb nonessential sales raises questions for shoppers

Published: Apr. 2, 2020 at 5:16 PM EDT
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Vermont officials this week announced an effort to crack down on the in-person sale of nonessential items at big box stores to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. At the same time, some are questioning what is essential and whether some businesses are defying the governor's order.

At the Walmart in Berlin, aisles are roped off from the public bearing signs outlining the executive order.

"A lot of the clothes and other things people could find essential for themselves, you can't get," said shopper Kirstin Waterman.

"What's the difference? If I use a credit card online or a credit card in person, I still have to deal with the person that handles it to me, and I say thank you. The transaction still occurs," said Nate Corson of North Montpelier.

Though the big box stores are following the rules and cordoning off products, there are other businesses that fall into a grey area that can still operate even though they're not considered an essential business. take car washes for example -- they can by-and-large have most of their business without person to person interactions.

Vermont Commerce Secretary Lindsay Kurrle acknowledges that there are many businesses where the line is blurred. She says they're calling on business owners to make a determination for the good of their community. "Looking at the executive order and asking themselves, 'Is the service I provide or the product I provide critical to the COVID-19 response or to ensure health and safety to our citizens at this time?'" she said.

Meanwhile, business at local shops such as the Moretown General Store is still slow. Manager Tammy Tattersall says she's selling mostly wine and candy. "People need something to do at home -- game boards, toys for the kids to play because they're home from school now," she said.

It all boils down to the question -- what's considered essential? "What we're asking folks to consider is it something that really can't wait right now and they can work with the retailer and pick it up curbside," Kurrle said.

If you think there's a businesses that's open that shouldn't be, state officials say you should contact local police.