MONTPELIER – An announcement over a year in the making finally arrived at Governor Phil Scott’s COVID-19 briefing on Friday – there’s now a timeline that details when every Vermonter over 16 will be able to register for vaccination.

The next phase, age 60 and up, begins registration at 8:15 AM on March 25. Everyone in the age groups that follow are being encouraged to make an account ahead of time on the Vermont Department of Health website.

Friday also marked a somber anniversary for Vermont – one year since the state’s first two COVID-19 deaths were reported.

“As we mourn, we can also be optimistic about the road ahead. Just one year ago, we never would have thought we’d have these three highly-effective vaccines to protect ourselves today,” Governor Scott said.

He added that if vaccine supply from the federal government continues on an upward trajectory, everyone who registers could receive both of their doses by the end of June.

“A good way to think about it is that everyone in each age band will have had the opportunity to be fully vaccinated about two months after their bands open up,” Governor Scott said. “Everyone in the final age band could be finished in June, which is why I’ve used the Fourth of July as the day I believe things will feel somewhat normal again.”

On the heels of easing some restrictions for restaurants last week, Governor Scott also followed up with a big announcement for Vermont bars on Friday. Beginning March 24, they can re-open under the same guidance as restaurants. That includes operating at 50% capacity, requiring patrons be seated at tables with a maximum of six per table, six feet of distance between parties, masking and more. 

“There is a caveat, however,” Governor Scott said. “Municipalities, by action of their governing bodies, will be able to take stricter action if they so choose.”

State officials said all of this positive news shouldn’t be misconstrued as a free ticket to stop taking the virus seriously.

“There has been of late a stalling in the dramatic decreases of new cases of COVID around the country, but especially in the Northeast,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine. “The two most likely reasons for this are our relaxation in following these simple precautions, and the spread of variant strains.”

To mark one year since Vermont’s first COVID-19 deaths, bells rang 14 times at churches, schools, and town halls across the state on Friday at 7 PM. The number signifies the 217 Vermonters who died of COVID-19 across the state’s 14 counties.