Restaurants can reopen immediately in Vermont with outdoor seating if they're ready, Gov. Phil Scott announced Friday.
"I understand it won’t be possible for all restaurants to start today," Scott said, "but this lets them open up after a very long two months of sacrifice and with bills still coming in and with no income."
The order to reopen restaurants came a week early, but it comes with strict guidelines, including tables spaced a minimum of 10 feet apart with members of only two households and a total of no more than 10 people seated at a time.
Churches and places of worship can resume at 25% capacity starting Saturday, Scott said, and salons and barber shops will be able to reopen on May 29 with health and safety guidelines.
Scott said he knows that owners of close contact businesses like gyms and spas are itching to reopen, but, "we're not quite there yet."
The state's epidemiology team wants to track the data a little bit longer, Scott said, but he expects to announce a time frame for reopening those businesses a week from today.
The state also isn't ready for traditional fairs and festivals, Scott determined, so the order he issued Friday cancels them for the season.
Scott's goal is to have the entire state reopen at about 25% capacity by June 1.
"Even with the steps we’ve taken, the reality is, we're still far from being back to normal," Scott said.
Health Commissioner Mark Levine outlined the next phase of restarting the medical sector with additional health services resuming over the next few weeks.
The three areas that will be able to resume operations are medical office spaces, an expansion of outpatient services and dental offices.
Both Scott and Levine continue to urge residents to practice physical separation, limit group sizes, maintain proper hygiene, wearing face coverings, keep track of close contacts and stay home if people aren't feeling well.
"I want to caution Vermonters to not drop their guard," Levine said.
"We can't declare victory yet," Scott said.
As of Friday, there have been 952 total COVID-19 cases reported in Vermont, including 54 deaths. More than 25,000 people have been tested, and 834 have recovered.
Vermont's coronavirus data and forecasts continues to trend favorably, with less than 20 COVID positive tests this week than the previous week.
The doubling rate continues to slow in the state as well, with officials now estimating they won't see the number of coronavrius cases to double for over 46 weeks, an improvement from 40 weeks they reported last Friday. The doubling rate in Vermont is the second slowest in the nation, behind Hawaii, officials said.
The 3 and 7-day viral growth rates remain below 5% and they continue to maintain a 30% minimum availability of hospital and critical care beds.
The state has begun tracking the progress of the entire region and plan to incorporate the trends of their neighbors in weekly briefings moving forward in an effort to determine when they can relax the restrictions they have placed on out-of-staters.
Anyone coming into Vermont is currently being asked to isolate for two weeks, or get tested after one week if they do not show any coronavirus symptoms.