Vermont eateries will be able to serve people indoors, lodging facilities can fill more rooms and some out-of-staters will be able to visit without a two-week quarantine, Gov. Phil Scott announced Friday.
The next step in reopening Vermont comes as the state experiences a localized outbreak in Winooski, where 34 people tested positive for coronavirus Thursday.
"I recognize this is a lot to absorb, given this Winooksi outbreak and alongside growing national turmoil," Scott said, referencing ongoing protests denouncing structural racism and police brutality in the wake of George Floyd's death. "Experts are comfortable moving forward. If they weren't, we wouldn’t be doing it."
Health Commissioner Mark Levine expressed his support for the demonstrations, but urged people to wear masks, maintain physical distance and get tested for coronavirus.
The Agency of Commerce and Community Development will issue guidance allowing restaurants to open indoor dining starting Monday at 25% capacity. Restrictions include at least a six foot distance between parties, mandatory reservations and traditional bar seating must remained closed.
"I know we still have a long way to go to help our restaurants get back on their feet and I know they can't make in on 25% capacity, but we've got to start somewhere," Scott said. "We'll be able to build on this if the numbers move in the right direction."
Lodging and campgrounds can increase capacity to 50% starting Monday, June 8, as well.
The state is relaxing out-of-state travel restrictions that require a 14-day quarantine for residents of New England counties with 400 or less coronavirus cases per million people and upstate New York. The new policy also applies to Vermont residents visiting those places.
Scott said he expects to further reduce quarantine restrictions in the coming weeks as well.
The state's epidemiology team has been deployed to Winooski, Vermont, where officials have increased testing availability and implemented contact tracing efforts to contain the outbreak, officials said Friday.
"I know this will worry some Vermonters, but the important thing to understand is this is exactly what we’ve been preparing for," Scott said. "The fact is, outbreaks are going to continue. That’s exactly why we built the capacity to box them in."
The state recorded 36 positive coronavirus tests Thursday, 34 of which were in Winooski, where 436 tests have been processed. Health officials said the numbers have "skewed" the state data but that they expect, once the outbreak is contained, that the numbers will return to their previous projections.
Vermont continues to surpass its goal of administering 1,000 tests per day, there are currently no COVID hospital admissions and their syndrome surveillance rate remains below the 4% guardrail. The three and seven day viral growth rates have jumped with yesterday's cases, as has the percentage of new positives, but the latter remains below 5%.