Gov. Phil Scott at his regular Friday press conference said Vermont will remain under tight restrictions regarding masks, distancing, and business and travel activities even while other states are trending towards opening up completely.
“In the very near future we will be outlining what we see over the next few weeks and in terms of what we need to do to reopen the economy in a much more expediting way,” Scott said. “I would say we are on the other end of this and the future is bright, and I am very optimistic.
“I believe we’ll be able to share that with Vermonters once we get to a point where I feel comfortable enough in sharing in what we’re seeing on the ground all the supply of vaccines that we can firmly say is in the queue and that we feel confident we’ll be receiving.”
Vermont will remain under strong regulations including a statewide mask mandate, six-feet social distancing, strict building capacity limits, plastic shields between bartenders and patrons, and more. The governor said the supply of vaccines combined with improving case numbers would be signs the state can loosen coronavirus-related regulations.
“[We’ll] be able to describe what our plan is as we work our way out of this pandemic and open up our businesses,” Scott said. “So we’ll be able to share that strategy with you in the very near future, but it’s not today.
“And just a reminder: because the other states have done this doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do. You know we’re a country of experiments in the individual states, we all have the ability to make decisions based on what we think is right, and we’ve been doing that since day one — it’s served us well.”
For now, Scott says he’s confident in the COVID-19 policies that he’s put into place despite severe impacts on the economy. However, in recent weeks states such as Texas, Mississippi, Connecticut, and Florida have been reducing or eliminating mask and distancing requirements, restaurant and gym capacity limits, and other restrictions.
“I don’t think any of us knows what the very right thing is to do until this is over, and then we’ll be able to reflect on that,” Scott said. “But in terms of our strategy, I feel very confident in what we’ve done and I think the numbers back up what we continue to do.”
Last week Texas fully returned to pre-COVID-19 status. Its restaurant industry can now attempt to reverse the state’s trend of losing about 1,000 restaurants per month.
In Florida, the elimination of the masks mandate was celebrated at BeckyJack’s Food Shack in Spring Hill with a sign that read “Face Diapers Not Required!”
In Mississippi, after its mask mandate among other restrictions were lifted, Republican Gov. Tate Reeves said, “the governor’s office is getting out of the business of telling people what they can and can’t do.”
To Vermont’s south, Connecticut Gov, Ned Lamont Lamont announced that on March 19 all capacity limits will be eliminated for restaurants, retail stores, libraries, indoor recreation, gyms/fitness centers, museums, aquariums, zoos, offices, and houses of worship. The governor’s approval rating is now at a record high.
On multiple occasions during the Friday press conference, Scott alluded to the fact that the end of coronavirus restrictions may be coming soon.
“We’re in the last stretch of this race, this war, whatever you want to call it,” he said.
Speaking about masks, Vermont Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine said Vermonters can expect to be wearing them in public spaces at least into summer.
“In this future world over these months, at least for the rest of this school year before we get to the summer and fall, people will be masking,” he said.
On a related subject — regulations for schools — Levine said “kids are not transmitting the virus to each other. … I do think our Vermont experience has really born that out.”
Vermont’s governor also said coronavirus vaccine shots may not be forced on Americans legally because they were rapidly developed as an emergency measure.