By MIKE DONOGHUE
Islander Staff Reporter
MONTPELIER -- Gov. Phil Scott said Friday that he expects to extend his Executive Orders on COVID-19, including “Stay Home, Stay Safe” instead of allowing them to expire on the initial dates later this month.
He told reporters at his daily news conference that the extensions of the orders would be the necessary to try to keep the deadly virus from spreading throughout the state.
“This will be long term,” Scott told reporters. “We are going to have to monitor for a long time.”
Scott made the statement when asked by The Islander to identity 3-4 other steps he has in his future game plan to use for those not complying. Scott did not identify any new demands that would be made on Vermonters. He said the state is still trying to seek voluntary compliance with the current orders. The state is trying to educate the public that are not following the orders.
Vermont State Police, sheriff’s departments and municipal police have been asked to use criminal arrests as a last resort when businesses and others do not comply with the Executive Orders. Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan said his office is willing to try to ensure everybody comes into compliance.
Scott’s disclosure that he plans to extend his Executive Orders is likely to impact countless seasonal companies throughout Vermont, especially scores of businesses in Grand Isle County.
Among them is The Apple Island RV Resort on U.S. 2 in South Hero, which sent a note this week to campers that it plans to open May 1. The golf course hopes to open May 5 and the marina and general store on May 15, the note said.
All those dates appear to be in serious jeopardy after the comments by Gov. Scott on Friday.
“We are waiting to hear additional information,” said Becky Soukup, the new guest service manager at Apple Island. “We may have to delay it.”
She said Apple Island has several seasonal employees that are coming from out-of-state to work on the resort on Lake Champlain.
Zac Mattey, regional vice president for Apple Island, said about 150 of the 300 spots at the resort are actually the seasonal homes for Vermonters who spend six months out-of-state.
He said those Vermont home owners have no other place to go and he does not expect a problem with them.
Gov. Scott did say earlier this week that Vermonters returning from out-of-state will be expected to go to their homes directly without stopping and to undergo a 14-day self-quarantine.
Mattey said that information is being shared with the Vermonters that own permanent homes in the campground.
The other 150 slots at Apple Island are designed for towed trailers and for large motor campers.
No reservations are being taken for those spots at this time in order to comply with the Governor’s order, he said. Like hotels and lodges, Apple Island is prohibited from doing business except in a few rare exceptions under the orders.
“We have no financial motivation in this situation,” Mattey said. He said the real issue is about the health of the people and not the resort.
Mattey said he does have fears for other Grand Isle County businesses that depend on the summer tourist business for their success.
The notice from Apple Island to campers and customers was posted on Facebook and drew the wrath of some people. They questioned why the park would open up when people are being told to stay in place.
Mattey said he hopes in his next order that Gov. Scott will better address the issue of seasonal homes not just for Apple Island, but for other Vermont businesses.
He said anybody planning to head to Apple Island has been urged to call ahead to get the latest news about state orders.
Scott’s Executive Order, among other things, requires golf courses, marinas, ski resorts, mountain biking establishments and other similar businesses and retails operations to support them not to be operating. The order also says, “Recreational Vehicle Parks and Campgrounds should only operate in accordance with guidance issued for lodging establishments,” which have been virtually shut down except for a few exceptions.
Grand Isle and Essex Counties continue to be the only areas in Vermont without a confirmed COVID-19 case.
The Vermont Health Department reported Friday 389 COVID-19 cases are confirmed in Vermont – an increase of 51.
Vermont has seen 17 deaths to people that tested positive for the virus, the health department said.
There have been 5,228 tests as of Friday, compared to 4,711 on Thursday.
The Champlain Islands Health Center in South Hero reported two more tests were administered on Friday at its new site. That means 13 over the three afternoons the test center was open this week in South Hero.
The site is only for people that have been pre-approved through their primary care provider and the Health Department, Kate Reed, interim chief executive officer for the health center has stressed.
People that drive up to the 10-foot-by-20-foot tent without clearance are turned away.