Vermont gyms, nail salons and in-home services got the green light from Gov. Phil Scott to reopen Friday with capacity limits.
“I’m very pleased to see our trends moving in the right direction and we feel comfortable taking additional steps today," Scott said. "This has affected each and every one of us and we’re showing that together, we can win this battle."
The Agency of Commerce and Community Development will release guidelines on their website for close-contact operations and interior maintenance businesses, which include indoor fitness centers, massage therapists, salons and spas as well as in-home work, like routing maintenance and in-home cleaning services.
Scott is also increasing the maximum number of people allowed to congregate from 10 to 25 but emphasized people should maintain social distancing guidelines. He is allowing limited overnight camp operations with process for out-of-state campers as well.
“It’s important to remember we’re able to take these steps because Vermont has been safe," Scott said. "Vermonters have been using common sense and making good choices - this must continue if we want to open things further.”
When asked about his Thursday announcement to seek re-election at the Friday press conference, Scott said he had hoped to leave the office better than he found it, but at this point that "isn't possible."
"We want to finish this. It's going to be a tough couple of years ahead as we work through this pandemic," Scott said, "but we're up to the challenge and I want to see it through."
Vermont's coronavirus data and forecasts continues to trend favorably, with 24 new COVID cases over the past week. The viral growth rate remains below .5% and they continue to maintain a 30% minimum availability of hospital and critical care beds.
Health Commissioner Mark Levine said they anticipate reaching what the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has termed phase 3 criteria for reopening, which will allow dentists to fully reopen.
Earlier this week, Scott said he hoped to announce plans to allow indoor dining at restaurants "in the not-too-distant future."
Vermont is now studying how and when it can open to tourism from neighboring states as coronavirus rates fall in places like Massachusetts and New York.
"Admittedly, this continues to be a challenge," Scott said Friday.
Under Scott's current order, those traveling to Vermont from out of state for anything other than an essential purposes are required to quarantine for 14 days.
Scott said Wednesday that he hoped to open to tourism "a little at a time" to prevent an influx of travelers, cautioning that he didn't want to create an "us-versus-them" dynamic with other states.
Health officials have reported 974 cases of COVID-19 in Vermont, including 55 fatalities. That's much lower than neighboring states such as Massachusetts, which had reported 94,895 cases and 6,640 deaths as of Thursday.
In a press conference last week, the Republican governor announced that certain close-contact services would be allowed to resume but that fairs and festivals are canceled for the summer.
Churches and places of worship resumed at 25% capacity Saturday.
Scott's goal is to have the entire state reopen at about 25% capacity by June 1.