By MIKE DONOGHUE
Islander Staff Writer
MONTPELIER – Gov. Phil Scott said he is prepared this week to outline a proposed major economic recovery package for Vermont in the wake of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.
Gov. Scott also has signed a new order — Be Smart, Stay Safe — to extend Vermont’s State of Emergency to June 15. The order reflects some of the retail re-openings and eased restrictions announced in recent weeks.
The Islander asked Scott if his proposal would offer anything special to Vermont’s four northern counties (Grand Isle, Franklin, Orleans and Essex), which have been hit the hardest due to prohibitions blocking tourists and others from entering along the northern border.
Scott declined to give any hints about his plan. The Governor said he was aware tourism across all Vermont has been seriously impacted in recent months. Scott said as a frequent visitor to Grand Isle County, he was aware of the current challenges facing local businesses to stay viable.
The Governor remained cool toward the idea of him ordering all people to wear masks in public places, but said local towns and cities were free to take that step. The city of Burlington was among those that approved a local ordinance on Tuesday evening.
He also said it would be up to local stores and businesses to change those frequently displayed signs “No shoes, no shirts, no service” to add a line for “No masks.” Scott said he would not require the masks.
Those requirements for shoes and shirts have nothing to do with the state of Vermont, according to Ben Truman, a spokesman for the Vermont Health Department.
In other talking points, the state indicated statistics show the spread of COVID-19 continues to slow and Vermont had one of the lowest 3-day and 7-day growth rates in the country.
The Governor and Health Commissioner Mark Levine continue to say Vermont must also consider neighboring states where the virus is much more prevalent and outbreaks are still occurring.
Levine noted that over the weekend in nearby Clinton County in New York officials reported nine new cases and 27 close contacts — as a result of parties in Plattsburgh, N. Y.
“Not following guidelines can fuel the virus’ spread in a single instance,” Dr. Levine said.
Natural Resources Secretary Julie Moore also is encouraging residents to stay within the state and visit little known Vermont Parks and Recreation facilities. She urged people to stay away from popular sites like Burlington’s North Beach or the Waterbury Dam and to travel on little known backroads for recreational opportunities.
Scott’s newest order allows for limited resumption of marinas and lodging facilities, including hotels, motels, bed and breakfasts, inns, short term rentals, parks for recreational vehicles and campgrounds.
Those also include those managed by the Vermont Parks and Recreation Department. These facilities can open May 22 for Vermont residents only, or for those who have met the 14-day quarantine requirement. They also will be subject to strict health and safety standards and guidance from the Agency of Commerce and Community Development.
Gov. Scott also hinted that the state’s limit on gatherings, now set at 10 people, could soon be expanded to 25.