Gov. Phil Scott took another small step toward reopening Vermont’s economy Friday by announcing that construction, landscaping and other companies that work outside can now deploy crews of five with proper safety measures in place.
The new order also allows some manufacturing and distribution businesses to open with no more than five employees, who must adhere to social distancing guidelines and work six feet apart.
And, Scott said, outdoor retailers, such as garden centers and greenhouses, can now open to customers in person as long as the total number of employees and customers does not exceed ten people at a time.
Scott said the new measures, which expand on initial back-to-work guidelines he set out a week ago, are aimed at lessening the impact of the state’s economy in the long run. He based the decision, he said, on modeling that continues to show new cases of COVID-19 in Vermont appear to be plateauing.
The governor described his approach to reopening the state as “measured, modest” and “guided by data and science.” He delivered the news Friday with a note of caution.
“Now is not the time to declare victory,” he said, “because I think we all know it’s going to take us all doing more of what we have all been doing to get us through this plateau and into a downward trend.”
The latest data on the pandemic, presented at Friday’s briefing by Department of Financial Regulation Commissioner Michael Pieciak, shows daily case growth has dropped to less than one percent, compared to 2 percent last week and 9 percent two weeks ago. Another chart showed that, compared to New Hampshire and Maine, Vermonters have been more compliant with stay-at-home orders and other efforts aimed at curtailing the spread of the virus.
The models now suggests it would take 37 days for the number of cases to double from the current number of 827, Pieciak said. At last count, 44 people in Vermont have died — half of them at long-term care facilities, according to health officials.