MONTPELIER – On Tuesday, Gov. Phil Scott rolled out his timeline for reopening Vermont, with hopes for a return to normalcy by the Fourth of July.
The ‘Vermont Forward Plan’ provides a roadmap for reopening the economy, interstate travel, and large gatherings using a three-step process guided partially by the state’s vaccination rates.
“We’re in the last laps of this very long and difficult race, and this plan shows how we’ll finish strong,” Gov. Scott said. “But I want to be very clear – the key to getting there is vaccinations.”
As shown above, Step 1 is scheduled to go into effect on Friday, with hopes that 45 to 55 percent of Vermonters over the age of 16 will have received their first dose by then. As of Tuesday, 42.2 percent had gotten their first shot.
“When your age band opens up or you have an opportunity to get your vaccination, please sign up because this is all predicated on people doing the right thing,” Gov. Scott said.
On Monday, registration opened for the 40+ age group. By April 19, everyone 16 and older will be eligible to register.
Once Vermont enters Step 1 of the plan, quarantine requirements will be lifted for interstate travelers if they test negative for COVID-19 within three days of their arrival or return.
Step 2 and Step 3, which are scheduled to arrive at the beginning of May and June, will ease the state’s restrictions on indoor and outdoor gatherings. There will still be a cap on the maximum number of unvaccinated people allowed to gather indoors and outdoors, protocols like masking and social distancing will still be in place.
“We hope these gathering size increases will allow for some form of high school and college graduations to take place, and provide more confidence for event planners to book events that comply with gathering sizes and universal guidance,” said Agency of Commerce and Community Development Secretary Lindsay Kurrle.
Throughout the process, businesses will be transitioned away from industry-specific guidance to universal health and safety protocols. State officials believe the transition will make it easier for organizations and Vermonters to understand, implement and follow preventive and protective measures.
Some sectors, like health care and education, will retain individual guidance.
By the Fourth of July, Governor Scott said Vermont could be celebrating a return to normalcy.
“After the Fourth, our guidance will become exactly that – guidance,” Gov. Scott said. “Not mandates. Recommendations rather than requirements.”
State Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine said the Vermont Forward Plan is a responsible strategy because it takes vaccination rates into account before each step is made. He added that it’s up to all Vermonters to live up to the state’s vaccination targets.
“Let the state with the lowest amount of immunity from having had a COVID infection show the rest of the country how we can be the state with the largest amount of vaccine-produced immunity,” Dr. Levine said. “It’s not time to celebrate yet, but I hope that knowing how close we are means this can happen together.”
Dr. Levine also announced that a new variant has emerged in Vermont. The P.1 variant, first detected in Brazil, showed up in a recent lab test. The Vermont Department of Health doesn’t know what county the variant is present in yet, but that information should be available by Friday’s briefing.
Governor Scott noted that Vermont’s roadmap is subject to change based on real-time circumstances.
Universal guidance has five main principals: Stay home if you’re sick, wear a mask, ensure six-foot spaces and uncrowded places, practice good hygiene, and know the travel restrictions.
For the purposes of transitioning to universal guidance, sectors have been placed into two groups:
- Group A: Low contact, short duration, outdoor and controlled environment
- Group B: Long duration or close contact environments
The Agency of Commerce and Community Development will detail full guidance as each step is taken, and all updates will be available here.