MONTPELIER — If Vermont’s COVID-19 cases remain flat, hair salons and barber shops may be allowed to open before June 1, Gov. Phil Scott said Monday.
His administration is also considering allowing restaurants to open for outdoor seating.
“Our data shows we can continue to move forward methodically,” Scott said. That data included just 15 new positive tests for COVID-19 last week.
However, New Hampshire added 400 cases, Massachusetts 6,678 and New York 14,500, according to the governor. “We can’t only look at Vermont numbers, which is why I feel we should go more cautiously than our numbers suggest,” Scott said.
In addition to more businesses opening, Scott said he would be announcing an economic package to help Vermont businesses. He indicated there will be support for the tourism industry in that package. Other members of the administration have said that aid to farmers is also in the works, though it isn’t yet known if that will be part of Wednesday’s package.
Vermont Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine continued to emphasize the value of maintaining physical distancing, staying home if you’re sick, handwashing and wearing a mask in public.
Levine also cited the example of Clinton County, N.Y., which has been part of a relaxation of the lockdown in rural parts of New York State. The county saw an uptick in cases with nine new cases and contacts for 27 more people being traced by public health officials as a result of a party in Plattsburgh over the weekend. “They essentially doubled the number of people they’re following with just that one instance,” he said.
Behavioral changes, he said, “need to continue, no matter how good the data continues to look.”
Levine called physical distancing “the foundation that everything stands upon.” Masking, he said, is to be used when physical distance isn’t possible.
“COVID hasn’t disappeared, and we have not wiped it off the planet,” Levine said.
Levine also addressed an instance in which sailors on an aircraft carrier contracted COVID-19, tested positive for the illness, then recovered and tested negative for an active infection, only to become ill again and test positive.
The question, Levine explained, is determining if the sailors suffered a relapse, which is when an ongoing infection peaks again, or a reinfection in which they got sick, recovered completely and then were reinfected.
There have been other similar instances. Currently, not enough is known to be certain if having the virus will make a person immune to it in the future or reduce the severity of future illnesses, Levine said.
In an initial trial, a vaccine did trigger an immune system response. “This is an important early finding that at least the vaccine was able to trigger an immune response in the people who got it,” Levine said, emphasizing it was “an important early step.”
Asked about parents concerned about the safety of sending children to childcare facilities, Levine said no one would want practices not in the interests of child or adult health. In developing its guidelines for childcare facilities, the state worked closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Vermont’s pediatric community and Building Bright Futures, he said.
It is possible, he said, to allow kids back together while keeping the risk low.
The state is making $6 million available in grants to childcare centers and providers for the purchasing of cleaning equipment and other necessities for reopening safely.
On a lighter note, the governor indicated he, too, is looking forward to getting a trim when barbershops and hair salons reopen. Since the virus shutdown began Scott said he has been trimming his hair himself when necessary and using “a little product on it to keep it in place.”