Vermont will resume certain outpatient services, clinic visits and diagnostic imaging, Gov. Phil Scott announced Monday.
"Restarting Vermont must be a phased approach," Scott said during an update on the state's response to the pandemic. "We feel it's safe to resume more health care services in Vermont."
Outpatient surgeries and procedures that have a "minimal impact" on Personal Protective Equipment levels at hospitals will be allowed, according to Vermont Health Commissioner Mark Levine. Scott noted that people should continue to utilize telehealth whenever possible.
Elective surgeries requiring hospital stays will not be permitted at this time, but Scott said he will look to resume those procedures with continued improvement in PPE inventory at area hospitals and the state's coronavirus infection rate.
The Vermont Health Department on Sunday reported a total of 897 cases of coronavirus and 52 deaths.
Facilities and health care professionals must demonstrate that they are adhering to social distancing and relevant CDC guidelines regarding infection control in order to maintain a safe environment for patients and staff, according to Levine.
Patients will be allowed a visitor or companion only when necessary, Scott said. Waiting rooms must adhere to certain criteria as well, including chair placement at 6 feet apart, social distancing signage and "liberal access" to hand sanitizer.
Stringent requirements for facilities include regular coronavirus symptom screenings for patients, staff and essential visitors before entering, proper PPE utilization and face coverings for visitors in public areas.
Vermont is past its peak in coronavirus cases, Scott said last week, leading him to give the green light for manufacturing, construction and distribution businesses to reopen with 10 or fewer employees and other safety requirements starting Monday.
Farmers markets reopened over the weekend in a way that maintained physical distance and focused on distribution, Scott said Monday.
"Farmers markets may be a model for the how in this strange new world," Scott said. "From what I saw and heard, they took this seriously and put public health first in a way that is a good example for others."
Also last week, Scott established a task force to “ramp up” testing and tracing capabilities with a goal of conducting 1,000 tests a day, 7,000 a week. He said Monday that this effort will be a "critical part," of this plan.
The developments are part of a five-phase process to reopen Vermont's economy. If all goes well, the second phase could begin on May 11.
The governor said he’ll keep a close eye on the data regarding infection rates and sickness spread in Vermont and use that to guide future decisions. If the positive trends continue, he expects to announce additional social and outdoor recommendations, potentially including the reopening of golf courses.