Gov. Phil Scott said Monday he has ordered state agencies to develop guidance to allow Vermont retail businesses to begin opening their doors to walk-in customers beginning May 18.
The governor said the Agency of Commerce and the Department of Health will work together to come up with guidelines for businesses and their workers to be released later this week.
“While I know many are eager to shop for clothing and other supplies, waiting a week gives these businesses time to develop their safety plans, do their training. modify their stores and work with the agencies to understand all the steps needed to reopen and operate safely,” Scott said.
The announcement is the latest in a series of decisions Scott has made in the last two weeks that chart a path to reopening the state after COVID-19 virtually shut it down in early March.
Scott said he plans to extend his State of Emergency on Friday. But, he said Vermonters commitment to the order, which shut down schools and non-essential businesses, has made the decisions possible. But, even as state models show the number of new cases continue to decline, he said residents should remain vigilant and continue to follw recommended health and safety guidelines.
“Even as we continue to reopen, I urge Vermonters not to let up on physical distancing, washing your hands, staying home when you’re feeling ill, limiting travel and wearing masks around others,” he said.
Scott said the guidelines for retailers will require all employees to wear facial coverings and they, as well as customers, will be required to keep a minimum 6-foot distance from others.
He also has asked that the rules include occupancy limits of no more than 25 percent of the business’ maxium legal capacity. And he said retailers must create and abide by a detailed COVID-19 health and safety training plans.
Bonnie Smith from Ecco on Church Street says she has mixed feelings about re-opening.
“We have been in such an obscure state of being for so long,” she said. “I guess three months is not that long in the grand scheme of things, but it is long enough to feel excited and also a little bit nervous about what it is all going to look like.”
“It’s going to feel a little bit intimidating, but I do want people to feel comfortable shopping, so I will do what we need to do to make people feel comfortable in their surroundings”, says Smith.
For this first phase of re-opening, no more than 25% of a stores occupancy can be inside at any time.
Smith says, “I do think that it will be easy to get quickly to capacity because I do think that there are a lot of people who are excited to get out and just want to mix up their regular routine. Just not do the same thing over and over and just get out and window shop but in person, in the store.”
This is a developing story and will be updated.