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Gov. Phil Scott announced a three-month plan Tuesday for loosening restrictions as more Vermonters get vaccinated with a goal of being largely back to normal by July 4.

“We’re in the last laps of this very long and difficult race, and this plan will show how we finish strong,” said Scott, a Republican, in his twice-weekly virus briefing. “But I want to be really clear: The key to getting there are vaccinations, which is why we’re laser-focused on making sure as many Vermonters as possible get them. And it’s why when you’re eligible you need to sign up.”

Vermont’s travel guidance will change Friday and be focused on testing rather than quarantining. Unvaccinated Vermonters returning to the state will be required to be tested within three days, and visitors can come to Vermont without quarantining as long as they have a negative test within three days of arriving, Scott said. Vaccinated people can continue to travel without restrictions, he said.

Mostly outdoor businesses, low- or no-contact professional services, retail operations, and farmers' markets will move from sector-specific to universal guidance on April 9. That will be followed by most other sectors, such as manufacturing, restaurants, gyms and hair salons, as well as places of worship and museums moving to the guidance on May 1.

Gatherings will be allowed to increase in size both indoors and outdoors.

Masking and physical distancing will still be required. By June 1, if enough people get vaccinated, travel will be allowed without testing or quarantining requirements. By July 4, the state will be issuing guidance, not mandates, Scott said.

“I hope each of you sees this road map as a reason for optimism and also as a reason to make smart choices, to do your part, the common good, especially when it's your turn to get vaccinated,” Scott said.

Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine said he's still concerned about the rise in coronavirus cases in Vermont and the presence of virus variants. A lab informed the state on Monday that a variant first found in Brazil had been detected in a Vermont specimen, he said.

“It's not unexpected but is a concern,” Levine said. “The variants we have found in Vermont spread more quickly from person to person, faster than we can vaccinate people. This is why everyone needs to follow the guidance very strictly to prevent the spread of the virus, to each take the important personal responsibility to keep illness from spreading and to limit the odds of more variants of concern from developing here.”

Last week, Vermont reported 1,231 new cases, its highest weekly total to date, said Michael Pieciak, Vermont commissioner of financial regulation, who has been monitoring the COVID-19 statistics during the pandemic. The state is seeing more cases among young people, with the median age of 27, he said. "Deaths have remained low and continue to slowly trend down over time," he said.

As of Tuesday, 42% of Vermonters had received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, said Human Services Secretary Mike Smith. Vermont is the top state for the rate of people ages 65 and older who have started or completed vaccinations, said Pieciak.

THE NUMBERS

Vermont reported 106 new cases of the coronavirus on Tuesday, for statewide total since the pandemic began of over 20,370.

A total of 25 people were hospitalized with three in intensive care.

The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Vermont has risen over the past two weeks from 121.00 new cases per day on March 21 to 180.71 new cases per day on April 4.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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