Vermont retailers can reopen May 18

Published: May. 11, 2020 at 10:12 AM EDT
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Vermont Governor Phil Scott says Vermont retailers will be able to reopen next Monday, May 18, as long as they follow strict new guidelines.

Scott on Monday said Vermont has the third-lowest rate of COVID case growth in the country, but he says it is critical that residents remain cautious as they return to a new form of shopping.

Craig McDermott is the owner of Gold and Silver Thrift in Barre. Over the past month he's been flooded with calls from people low on cash, but he says running a curbside pawn shop is nearly impossible.

"The economy is down, people are hurting, they need money. Where do you go when you need money? You go to a bank or you go to a pawn shop," McDermott said.

Next Monday, McDermott and thousands of other retail businesses will be allowed to open for in-person business.

"Instead of taking two steps forward and one step back, we've chosen to take one and-a-half steps forward without having to retreat," Scott said.

In the newest order to to reopen the economy, businesses will have to make their own safety plans with social distancing and new protections.

No more than a quarter of the store's legal occupancy will be allowed inside at any time and all employees will have to wear masks. But masks for customers will not be required. The governor is still leaning on education instead of mandates.

"Across the country this is having mixed results. It creates a lot of controversy. It puts people at odds and I think it's counterproductive to what we're trying to do today," Scott said.

McDermott says he plans on wearing a mask and will require all of his customers to wear one as well. "I will be wearing one just for the safety of my family and friends, but I also think it's the most responsible decision you can make at this point," he said.

Scott's order also means that people will again be able to buy nonessential items at big box stores.

Vermont's stay-at-home order expires this Friday, but Scott says it will be extended with softer restrictions.