Moves Follow Updated CDC Guidance and as Vermont Continues to Lead the Nation in Vaccinations
by Timothy McQuiston, Vermont Business Magazine Governor Phil Scott today announced that because Vermont has already hit its necessary vaccination threshold with over 60 percent of the population receiving at least one dose, it will move into Step 3 of the Vermont Forward Plan more than two weeks ahead of schedule.
Additionally, following updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Governor signed an executive order lifting the state’s masking and physical distancing requirements for fully vaccinated individuals in Vermont. You are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after the final dose of your COVID-19 vaccine. Those not vaccinated must continue to wear masks in public spaces and adhere to gathering and social distancing requirements, as described in the governor's order.
Both steps are effective today.
“Today marks a major step forward in our efforts to end this pandemic and get back to doing more of the things we’ve missed over the past 14 months,” said Governor Scott. “Vermont has led the nation in many ways throughout the pandemic, including our vaccination efforts. This puts us in the best position in the nation to safely take these steps based on the CDC guidance.”
“We have been eagerly awaiting this, and know that it is based on current science, research and data,” said Health Commissioner Mark Levine, MD. “This guidance makes sense for Vermont, because as thousands more Vermonters become fully vaccinated each day, life can, and should, begin to look normal again.”
Governor Scott preparers to remove his mask in order to answer a question during today's press briefing. Following new CDC guidance, he and administration officials will discontinue wearing them at these press briefings starting next Tuesday. ORCA Media screen grab.
Scott emphasized that Vermonters’ commitment to getting vaccinated is critical to the state meeting its goal for lifting all remaining requirements on, or before, the 4th of July.
The governor also said that the vaccination thresholds necessary for lifting those last requirements on or before July 4 will be spelled out in the next couple of weeks.
“Your shot is safe, easy and effective,” said Dr Levine. “So, whether you prefer to make an appointment, go to a walk-in or mobile clinic, a partner pharmacy or any of the special vaccination events happening around the state, go to healthvermont.gov/MyVaccine or call 855-722-7878 to find a vaccination opportunity near you.”
Scott said that he, like most people, was surprised that the CDC suddenly lifted the mask guidance for all states for those who are fully vaccinated. While Vermont has the highest uptake for vaccinations, other states are still well behind, especially in the South. Vermont is over 60 percent for at least one dose and most of the South is still under 40 percent.
He added that he and administration officials will no longer wear masks to the twice-weekly press briefing beginning next Tuesday.
Masks will still be required for public travel on buses, planes and trains and in health care settings and hospitals.
As for private businesses, Scott said they will continue to have flexibility in what they require of customers and staff, and how they enforce it. As with previous orders, the state is taking a passive enforcement role. Businesses, he said, can have mask requirements much as they have "no shirt, no shoes. no service" requirements.
However, students, staff and children at public schools must continue to wear masks and follow social distancing requirements while in the school building.
The school districts themselves will continue to decide on whether they will conduct classes in-person, remotely or through a hybrid system.
This guidance will last through the rest of this semester. New guidance is expected this summer for the beginning of the fall semester.
UPDATED MASKING ORDER
Following CDC guidance, masking and physical distancing for fully vaccinated Vermonters – except in limited circumstances like in schools, on public transportation, healthcare settings, long term care facilities, prisons etc. – is no longer required. The mandate remains in place for those who are unvaccinated or partially vaccinated, including children who are not yet eligible for a vaccine.
Consistent with previous steps forward, businesses and municipalities can implement stricter guidance, if they choose.
VERMONT FORWARD STEP 3
Step 3 of the Vermont Forward plan removes the testing requirement for travel and increases event and gathering capacity restrictions.
The new gathering sizes will allow for one unvaccinated person per 50 square feet, up to 300, plus any number of vaccinated people for indoor events; and 900 people, plus any number of vaccinated people, outdoors.
State websites are currently being updated to reflect the updated guidance and acceleration of Step 3.
To view the full Vermont Forward Plan, visit vermont.gov/vermont-forward.
To view the updated executive order, click here.
Source: Montpelier, Vt. - Governor 5.14.2021