Scott says he’s not considering shelter in place order at this time

Phil Scott and Mark Levine
Gov. Phil Scott and Health Commissioner Mark Levine at a press conference on Friday, March 20. Photo by Mike Dougherty/VTDigger

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Gov. Phil Scott on Friday said that he is not at this time considering a shelter-in-place order to respond to the growing COVID-19 outbreak in Vermont. 

He said that such an order, which would require most people to stay in their homes as much as possible, is not something his administration “is considering in the short term.” 

But Scott told reporters Friday that “everything is on the table” when it comes to his administration’s efforts to slow the spread of the virus. 

“We’ll consider everything we can based on the science and data that we have available and then we’ll make the proper moves and take the proper steps at the point in time, but not at this point,” he said of a stay-in-place order.

California is the only state that has formally issued such an order, requiring all residents, except for essential service providers, to stay home beginning this evening. But New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo essentially did the same thing Friday, ordering all non-essential workers to stay indoors

Some counties and municipalities across the country have also put such orders in place. 

As of last night, California had 675 confirmed COVID-19 cases; New York had over 7,000 cases by Friday. Vermont Health Department officials said late Friday morning that there now a total of 28 cases in the Green Mountain State. 

Economic relief

During a press conference, Scott also highlighted the actions he’s taking to provide economic relief to Vermont workers and businesses in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak. 

He spoke of many steps he had already taken to provide financial relief, including his efforts to expand the unemployment insurance program to people affected by the virus, and triple the staff at the unemployment insurance’s call center. 

Lawmakers will also be returning to Montpelier next week to vote on legislation that will expand the eligibility for those who can receive state unemployment benefits, as well as parts of a COVID-19 emergency response package

The governor said he has worked to prevent utilities from shutting off services to Vermonters who can’t pay for them in the coming weeks, directed the Department of Motor Vehicles to extend deadlines for license and registration renewals by 90 days, and requested an emergency declaration for the Small Business Administration to make emergency loans to small businesses. 

Health Commissioner Mark Levine announced during Friday’s press conference that 28 people have now tested positive for the coronavirus in Vermont. Photo by Mike Dougherty/VTDigger

On Thursday, Scott eased regulations so that bars and restaurants can deliver — and provide take-out alcoholic beverages, which he said was an important form of economic relief in the wake of his order this week that shut down bars and restaurants until at least April 6. 

He also announced that he would be working with the Legislature to develop a loan program for businesses hit hard by the economic downturn through the Vermont Economic Development Authority (VEDA) — similar to a program that was established in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene. 

“We know this is not nearly enough and there will be much much more in the future to help our small businesses — the backbone of our economy,” Scott said. 

“But working to provide some economic relief, we’re also working to ease the regulatory burden and simplify government services in ways that will help us better respond to this crisis.” 

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Xander Landen

About Xander

Xander Landen is VTDigger's political reporter. He previously worked at the Keene Sentinel covering crime, courts and local government. Xander got his start in public radio, writing and producing stories for NPR affiliates including WBUR in Boston and WNYC in New York. While at WNYC, he contributed to an award-winning investigation of how police departments shield misconduct records from the public. He is a graduate of Tufts University and his work has also appeared in PBS NewsHour and The Christian Science Monitor.

Email: [email protected]

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