by Timothy McQuiston, Vermont Business Magazine Governor Phil Scott today at his regular press briefing extended his State of Emergency another month to December 15 and issued new restrictions, which include closing bars entirely as of Saturday night, limiting restaurant hours to 10 pm, forbidding social gatherings to single households (no multi-family gatherings) and suspending recreational sports.
These types of social gatherings, which recently included Halloween parties, are now blamed for the highest case counts in Vermont over the course of the entire pandemic. The previous record last spring was 70 cases on one day, but on Wednesday the Vermont Department of Health reported 72 cases, Thursday there were 116 and Friday there are 84.
The restrictions on social gatherings include anyone outside your household, including immediate family members not living with you and social "pods" families may have set up with each other earlier in the pandemic. (see full guidance below)
In addition, restaurants and other meeting venues must keep customer logs to provide for contact tracing if needed. Failure to do so could result in enforcement action by the attorney general.
Scott is also encouraging businesses to make employees work remotely if possible and not to hold in-person meetings
Also, recreational sports are now suspended until further notice. This does not include high school sports.
Except for the customer logs, the governor is not instituting enforcement of these guidelines yet.
He emphasized that Vermonters know how to suppress the virus and have done so until recently.
He said the US and regional cases of COVID-19 are growing rapidly and putting pressure on Vermont.
People coming to Vermont and returning college students still must quarantine for 14 days or 7 days with a negative test.
Scott and Health Commissioner Mark Levine, MD, are encouraging those who are contacted through the contact tracing process to “answer the phone” and provide truthful information. Tracers from the Health Department will leave a message if the call is not answered.
Apparently, with the Halloween party-related cases, those who were contacted were not all forthcoming. This slowed down the process.
The governor emphasized that there is no enforcement action.
Dr Levine has repeatedly noted that people should not be embarrassed by getting this virus any more than they should be by getting the common cold. And in any case, there names will not be made public.
Levine said there is more virus in the state now as the pandemic encroaches on the state, and there are more cases because of the social gatherings and because they are more indoors.
AHS Secretary Mike Smith said this lack of compliance has recently been seen with Halloween party goers.
Social gatherings have been the focus of these new outbreaks, versus say at gyms or salons, with "people letting their guard down," the governor said, thus requiring not just physical distancing but socially distancing.
The data indicates that even single household restaurant visits have not been associated with outbreaks, according to Public Safety Commissioner Michael Schirling.
Dr Levine said their three priorities is to keep people safe, keep people at work and keep children at school.
He noted that over 70 percent of these new cases have been caused by social gatherings.
Levine said the health guidelines work -- wear a mask, stay six feet apart, wash hands "like crazy," don't travel -- but individuals must comply with them.
“We’re definitely moving in the wrong direction,” Scott said of the recent case growth and relaxing of safe behavior by individuals.
“We can and must get this under control,” the governor said, or hospitals could get overwhelmed and more people will die.
“We all have to step up,” Scott said.
"Unless it's in your own household, you shouldn't interact with anyone ... including taking a walk with your neighbor," Scott said.
If you do, you would then have to quarantine.
“We’ve had tremendous success thanks to the hard work of Vermonters, but we are at a pivotal moment,” Scott said. “We have an opportunity right now to get our arms around this record growth and return to the case stability we’ve grown accustomed to, but we all have to step up and recommit to following all current health guidance and to limit our contacts as much as possible. At the same time, the State is actively expanding testing and contact tracing protocols, so we are even better positioned to hunt this virus down and stop it in its tracks.”
Since October 1, 71% of the cases associated with an outbreak are associated with an outbreak from a private party or social gathering.
The following measures are effective Saturday, November 14 at 10 p.m., unless otherwise noted. The Agency of Commerce and Community Development will provide additional guidance as needed.
Public and Private Multi-Household Social Gatherings Prohibited
Attendance at all public and private social gatherings, indoor and outdoor, including social gatherings incidental to ceremonies, holiday gatherings, parties and celebrations, shall be limited to participation with only members of a single household. Individuals who live alone may gather with members of their immediate family residing in a different household.
Restaurant Hours and Seating Limits
Restaurants must close in-person dining at 10 p.m., but may provide curbside and delivery service after 10 p.m. For in-person dining, restaurants must seat only one household per table, in accordance with existing capacity limits and the new restriction on multi-household gatherings.
Closure of Bars and Social Clubs
Bars and social clubs will be closed for in-person service until further notice. Curbside and delivery service is allowed.
Pausing Recreational Sports
Youth and adult recreational sports activities, not related to Vermont Principals Association sanctioned school sports, are suspended until further notice.
All businesses, non-profits and government entities shall reinstitute telework policies for all employees to the maximum extent possible. In person meetings are strongly discouraged and should be held by telephone or video conference whenever possible.
Contact Tracing and Testing Requirements
All restaurants and other businesses hosting non-essential activities shall maintain a 30-day log of employee and guest names and contact information in case contact tracing is required by the Health Department.
These individuals are consenting to be contacted by the Health Department Contact Tracing Team.
Further, all Vermonters are directed to comply with requests made by the Contact Tracing Team.
Finally, college students returning home in Vermont (from in-state and out-of-state schools) shall quarantine for 14 days or seven days with a negative COVID-19 test and testing is strongly encouraged.
“We rely on data to guide each and every decision we make, and that data has shown us a clear picture of a rising tide that could have serious consequences,” said Health Commissioner Levine. “Whether it’s friends or our own family members, we need to limit any social activities to our own households to protect all these people that we don’t even know we’ve put at risk - where we work, where we learn, where people live in situations that make them more vulnerable. And we need to make these sacrifices now.”
These steps add to actions taken over the last several days, including requiring quarantine for all non-essential out-of-state travel by Vermonters and for all travelers entering Vermont from another state; expanding testing opportunities for Vermonters; and increasing outreach to assess and encourage compliance with travel and gathering guidance.
Governor Scott has also directed the state’s emergency response team to prepare to execute existing surge plans, including re-deploying field hospital sites as a precautionary measure.
Amended Executive Order (in part, click HERE to read full document)
Executive Order issued June 5, 2020, and all Addenda and Directives issued thereunder, shall continue in full force and effect until midnight on December 15, 2020, at which time the Governor, in consultation with VDH and DPS shall assess the emergency and determine whether to amend or extend the State of Emergency.
2. Temporary Limitations on Business Operations and Social Gatherings; Requirement for Cooperation with VDH Contact Tracing.
Effective Saturday, November 14, 2020 at 10:00 p.m.:
a. Multiple Household Social Gatherings Suspended. Attendance at all public and private social, recreational and entertainment gatherings, indoor and outdoor, including large social gatherings incidental to ceremonies, holiday gatherings, parties and celebrations, shall be limited to participation with only members of a single household. For the sake of clarity, nothing in this Order prohibits the gathering of members living in the same residence. Individuals who live alone may gather with members of their immediate family residing in a different household.
b. Restaurant Hours and Seating Limits. All 1st class licensees (restaurants) must be closed to in-person dining at 10:00 p.m., but may provide food and beverage alcohol, including spirit-based drinks and malt and vinous product accompanying food orders through curbside pick-up, drive-through, and delivery services for off-site consumption after 10:00 p.m. in accordance with Agency of Commerce and Community Development (“ACCD”) Worksafe Guidance. Restaurants must provide seated dining service only and to no more than one household per table in accordance with Section 2(a) above as well as the occupancy limits set forth in ACCD Worksafe Guidance.
c. Closure of Bars and Social Clubs. 2nd and 4th class licensees and licensees other than 1st class licensees who serve food, or partner with entities who serve food, including bars and social clubs shall suspend operations; however, bars and social clubs may offer take-out, curbside pickup and delivery of beverage alcohol, including spirit-based drinks and malt and vinous product.
d. Contact Log. All restaurants and other public accommodations which host organized non-essential activities shall maintain an easily accessible, legible log of all employees, customers, members and guests and their contact information, including name, address, phone number and email address for 30 days in the event contact tracing is required by VDH. For the sake of clarity, this requirement applies to all employees and all guests in every party.
(For purposes of this Order, “bars and social clubs” means establishments generally held out to be a bar, club, tavern, brew pub, brewery, microbrewery, distillery pub, winery, cidery, tasting room or other place of public accommodation licensed to serve beverage alcohol, including spirit-based drinks and malt and vinous product and, if serving food, only serves snacks, pre-made food, microwaveable or other food items not required to be prepared in an on-site kitchen equipped to provide menu service.)
e. Consent to Contact. All customers, members and guests providing information in accordance with section 2(d) above, consent to be contacted by the VDH Contact Tracing Team
f. Contact Tracing Compliance. To preserve the public health and safety, to ensure the health and safety of the State, and to prevent the spread of COVID-19, Vermonters are directed to comply with requests made by the VDH Contact Tracing Team. Vermonters who have been identified as a case or a close contact are required to:
i. Promptly answer calls or otherwise respond to the VDH Contact Tracing Team;
ii. Provide full, complete and truthful information concerning places they have been, activities they have engaged in and persons with whom the individual has had close contact, including contact information when possible;
iii. Comply with all VDH recommended quarantine and isolation periods and testing.
Failure to comply with this provision may result in referral to the Office of the Attorney General for enforcement.
g. Recreational Sports. All recreational sports programs, including organized and/or informal recreational youth and adult league sports, practices, games and tournaments, are hereby suspended. This suspension shall not apply to school-sponsored sports activities which are subject to applicable Agency of Education Guidance.
h. Returning College Students. All students who are returning home from a college or university, in-state or out of state, shall quarantine at home for fourteen days, with a test for COVID-19 strongly encouraged, or quarantine for no less than seven (7) days at which time they must be tested for COVID-19.
i. Telework. All businesses, not-for-profit entities and municipal government entities in the State shall reinstitute, to the maximum extent possible, or reemphasize to the extent necessary, telecommuting or work from home procedures. In person meetings are strongly discouraged and all meetings should be held by telephone or electronically to avoid in person meetings whenever possible.
This Addendum 8 to the Amended and Restated Executive Order shall take effect upon signing and shall continue in full force and effect until midnight on December 15, 2020, at which time the Governor, in consultation with the Vermont Department of Health and the Department of Public Safety shall assess the emergency and determine whether to amend or extend the Executive Order.