Vermont’s retail stores to open as early as May 18. Here’s what to know.

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Vermont’s retail stores will be allowed to begin reopening on May 18, the latest move toward normalcy by Gov. Phil Scott during the new coronavirus pandemic. 

The stores will have to abide by certain conditions to reopen, including requiring all employees to wear masks and limiting the number of people in the store at a time. Big box stores will also be allowed to begin selling non-essential items again.

The governor’s announcement came on a day where there were no additional reported positive cases or deaths due to COVID-19, the official name of the disease related to the coronavirus that first started to affect people at the end of 2019. Scott said Vermont had the third lowest case growth rate in the U.S.

Despite continued steps toward reopening, Scott said that it’s not yet time to let off the gas on mitigation measures like social distancing, wearing facial coverings, and washing hands.

“It’s due to these precautions and the sacrifices Vermonters have made that even with what we’re seeing in other states, we can continue to slowly reopen,” Scott said. 

What will stores have to do to reopen? 

The Agency of Commerce and Community Development, the Health Department, and the Department of Public Safety are working together on producing guidance for retail shop owners prior to the May 18 reopening. 

Scott said the businesses will need to meet all the safety requirements that other businesses that have remained open have had to meet so far, plus some additional requirements. These include: 

  • Requiring employees to wear masks or facial coverings. 
  • Staying six feet away from other employees or customers.
  • Limiting the store’s occupancy (employees and customers) to no more than 25% of the maximum legal capacity.
  • Requiring employees to undergo a COVID-19 health and safety training.
  • Developing a safety plan, which must be submitted to the state and approved. 

Will members of the public need to wear masks? 

Scott said that while he highly encouraged the use of masks or face coverings by members of the general public, he was not requiring them. However, he said individual stores could put more specific mask requirements into place for customers. 

If the governor begins seeing a decline in the number of people wearing face coverings, he said he would consider other more stringent measures. However, he said, “That’s not my first preference.” 

“What I’m seeing across the country is this is having mixed results,” Scott said of mandatory face covering rules. “It creates a lot of controversy, and it puts people at odds, and I believe it’s counterproductive to what we’re trying to do today.” 

Scott said that he is hoping mask-wearing becomes more socially acceptable as more people voluntarily comply with the recommendation. 

Contact Elizabeth Murray at 802-651-4835 or emurray@freepressmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter at @LizMurrayBFP.

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