MONTPELIER — Gov. Phil Scott is ordering non-essential businesses and nonprofits to stop in-person operations, and directing residents to stay at home and only to leave for critical reasons related to health and safety.
On Tuesday, Scott issued the "stay home, stay safe" order with a news release stating that the restrictive measures are meant to minimize all unnecessary activities outside homes in order to slow the spread of the coronvirus virus and protect the public.
"I want to be very clear about this: We need everyone to limit activities outside of the home and to practice social distancing at all times to slow the spread of this highly contagious and potentially deadly virus," Scott said in the release. "We all must do our part to slow the spread of COVID-19 to minimize infections — particularly for those who are elderly or have underlying chronic health conditions — and prevent it from overwhelming our healthcare facilities. The more Vermonters who take this seriously and stay home, the faster we can return to normal."
People are urged to adhere to social distancing policies including remaining six feet from others except for those who share housing, and to thoroughly and regularly wash their hands.
On March 13, Scott declared a state of emergency then started a series of mitigation strategies to cut back on close contact among individuals. Those included visitor restrictions for long-term care facilities and other health facilities; the closure of bars and restaurants, schools and day care centers and close contact businesses; limiting the size of mass gatherings; postponing all non-essential medical procedures; and ordering all businesses to implement telecommuting wherever possible.
The latest addendum to the order goes into effect 5 p.m. Wednesday and will stand until April 15 unless there is cause to shorten or lengthen that period. Businesses operations that can be conducted online or by phone, or offer curbside pickup or delivery can continue.
Exemptions will be made for businesses and groups providing services or functions deemed critical to public health and safety, and economic and national security.
The order allows for work to continue in health care operations, law enforcement, public safety, fire services, ambulance services, emergency management, utilities, telecommunication, news media, airports and transportation infrastructure, "critical manufacturing" including food and animal feed manufacturing, processing and supply, pharmaceuticals and other manufacturing, pharmacies, hardware stores, retail establishments serving basic human and animal needs.
It also allows for work to continue in making equipment parts for the transportation and agricultural sector, trash collection and disposal, recycling, maintenance of drinking water and wastewater/drainage infrastructure, agriculture and farms, animal shelters, production and delivery of seed and chemicals and fertilizers, community supported agriculture, veterinary care, lodging to the extent it is required to support the coronavirus response, building and property services, mail and shipping services, banks and related financial institutions, providers of necessities and services to economically disadvantaged populations, and other vendors of technical, security, logistics, custodial and equipment repair and maintenance services deemed necessary at this time.
All exempt entities are expected to adhere to guidance from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Vermont Department of Health regarding social distancing, proper hygiene and disinfecting. They are to conduct curbside pickup or delivery as much as possible.
As of Tuesday, the department reported that Vermont had 95 confirmed cases of the coronavirus. There have been seven deaths, four of which involved elderly residents at the Burlington Health and Rehab facility and the other was an elderly man at the Veterans Affairs medical center in White River Junction.
In the news release, Scott acknowledged "the emotional, financial and economic impact" of the orders.
"[B]ut based on the best science we have available, these measures are necessary," he said. "I need all Vermonters to understand that the more quickly and closely we follow these stay-at-home measures, the faster and safer we can get through this and get our daily lives, and our economy, moving again. I have tremendous faith in Vermonters and our ability to follow these guidelines, to save lives and support each other throughout — even as we are physical separated."
Those with questions about continuing their business operations can contact the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development via this online form: https://bit.ly/covid-vt-business-operations.
Reach staff writer Chris Mays at email@example.com and at @CMaysBR on Twitter.