MONTPELIER — The retail sector will be the next portion of the economy allowed to reopen, Gov. Phil Scott announced on Monday.
Retail outlets currently closed or limited to curbside and online purchases will be allowed to reopen next Monday, May 18, provided they meet a list of requirements and have an approved safety plan.
Stores will be limited to 25 percent of capacity and must maintain six feet between customers. Employees will need to wear masks. Larger employers will need to provide training for employees based on their safety plan while smaller employers can use the training created by the Dept. of Labor.
“They will need to meet or exceed the same safety requirements all other businesses have been required to meet," Scott said.
The announcement followed a day in which Vermont had no new cases and no new deaths.
“Our data continues to show we’re moving in the right direction," Scott said.
Official guidance for retail reopening will be released on Friday. Scott also said he intends to extend his emergency order on Friday, although modifications allowing for the gradual reopening of activities in the state will continue.
Scott has been, to use his phrase, slowly "turning the spigot" to allow modified business activity in the state for the past several weeks, after all nonessential business activity that could not be done remotely was shut down in late March in an effort to halt the spread of the novel coronavirus causing COVID-19.
Being able to identify people with COVID-19 and anyone they may have come into contact with in order to isolate those people and prevent the spread of the coronavirus is key to the state's reopening plan.
The state has a goal of testing 1,000 Vermonters per day, and is encouraging everyone with mild symptoms, including children, to get tested. The test the state is using is to determine if people have an active infection, not if they have antibodies from a previous infection they have since recovered from.
Vermont Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine explained that the symptoms initially associated with the disease - high fever, cough, shortness of breath - have expanded to include chills, sore throat, muscle pain, sudden loss of the senses of taste or smell.
In order to be tested, call your health care provider who can order a test. There is no cost to be tested.
In addition, the state is testing all staff at prison facilities in the state and hosting pop-up testing sites around the state for first responders, health care workers and those who provide childcare to essential workers. The pop-up sites are by appointment only.
Testing at pop-up sites will also be available to people returning to Vermont from other states who have self-quarantined for at least seven days and are symptom free. If they have a negative test, they will be allowed to leave quarantine, Levine said.
Tests at the pop-up sites may be scheduled at: humanresources.vermont.gov/popup.
There was also discussion during the press conference of those businesses which have not yet been able to reopen.
Secretary of Human Resources Mike Smith said the Dept. of Health is working with the Office of Professional Regulation on when businesses it regulates, such as physical therapists, mental health providers, acupuncturists and others, will be able to resume operations.
Guidance is still being developed to allow dentists to reopen for routine, non-emergency care. The Dept. of Health is working with Board of Dental Examiners and the Office of Professional Regulation on that guidance.
“This is very close contact with the mouth," Smith said. “We just want to make sure that there is sufficient protections for everyone.”
Just as with other health care providers, dental offices would be required to secure their own personal protective equipment (PPE), Smith said.
The reason for that is that worldwide supplies remain impaired and the state's supply is prioritized for use during treatment of COVID-19 patients and providing urgent or emergency health care, Smith explained.