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Retail shops coming back to life

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Vermont continued its gradual reopening from the coronavirus pandemic Monday as customers were allowed into retail stores for the first time since the lockdown began in March with restrictions on capacity and the need to keep people apart.

At Shaw's General Store in Stowe, Manager Alex Stevens said Monday afternoon business at the establishment that describes itself "as the store with most anything," was steady, but not overwhelming.

"We are thrilled to have people in the store," Stevens said, noting the customers complied with their requirement for facial coverings. "People have been very thankful that we are open."

They didn't have any trouble keeping occupancy to the maximum of no more than 25 percent of capacity, but even in normal years it's not yet the busy time, he said.

"If this was June 15 we'd probably would have to have someone standing there counting," Stevens said.

The current requirements for retail stores also include face coverings and staying at least 6 feet from customers and other staff members.


During his regular news briefing, Gov. Phil Scott and other officials said continued low numbers of new people testing positive for the virus that causes COVID-19 will make it possible to continue the reopenings.

Scott said that while the virus appears to be under control at the moment in Vermont, surrounding states are continuing to report hundreds and thousands of new cases every week.

"We know we can't only look at Vermont numbers, which is why I feel it is necessary to go a little more cautiously than just our numbers would suggest," Scott said. "And I know this is causing frustration for some, but remember, this virus knows no borders."

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Vermont Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine said that despite the positive numbers, people in the state are going to have to keep using precautions for some time to come.

Levine pointed across Lake Champlain to Clinton County, New York, where its health department on Saturday reported nine people tested positive for the virus and 27 more close contacts of those positive cases are now in quarantine after several parties in Plattsburgh.

"We know how that can happen so easily," Levine said.

For most people, the virus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness. The vast majority of people recover.


Scott said that if the statistics continue to do well, he expects to be able to continue to announce later this week the reopening of close contact business such as hair salons, barbershops, pools and health clubs. He also expects to have news about the reopening of restaurants with outdoor seating and the resumption of more health care services.

Scott said that he planned to announce Wednesday what he described as a "major economic package, which will provide relief, hope and initiatives to get us moving toward recovery."


On Monday the Health Department reported 940 cases of the coronavirus statewide, unchanged from Sunday. The number of deaths remains at 54.

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