Health Care

'Stay home,' Scott orders in response to COVID-19 outbreak in Vermont

Phil Scott at coronavirus press conference
Gov. Phil Scott ordered Vermonters to stay at home on Tuesday. He warned during a press conference on Monday that more restrictive measures were coming in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Photo by Mike Dougherty/VTDigger

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Gov. Phil Scott ordered Vermonters Tuesday to “stay home" and "stay safe” to slow the outbreak of the coronavirus in Vermont. 

"The Governor’s order directs Vermonters to stay at home, leaving only for essential reasons, critical to health and safety," the Scott administration said a statement Tuesday.

The order offers a general outline of what movement will be allowed: "Vermonters are directed to stay at home or in their place of residence, leaving only for essential reasons such as: personal safety; groceries or medicine; curbside pick-up of goods, meals or beverages; medical care; exercise; care of others; and work, as set forth further below." 

The statement says "all businesses and not-for-profit entities not expressly exempted in the order must suspend all in-person business operations. Operations that can be conducted online or by phone, or sales that can be facilitated with curbside pickup or delivery only, can continue."

Scott forewarned his executive order Monday: “I would not describe it as a shelter in place, that terminology means something different to many people especially in the emergency world,” he said at a press conference. 

“What we're going to advocate is just what we've done thus far, it'll probably take another step,” Scott continued. “But we want people to stay at home, when they can. Right now you have a responsibility: if you can, stay at home. Stay at home.”

Vermont reported 95 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and seven deaths from the disease on Tuesday. 

Four of those deaths were elderly residents at the Burlington Health and Rehab facility, operated by Genesis, and the other was an elderly man who died at the VA’s medical center in White River Junction. 

The health department reported that 1,535 people had been tested in Vermont as of Tuesday, an increase of more than 350 tests since Monday, placing Vermont in the middle of the pack in total tests, and higher on a per capita basis, according to state-by-state data from Politico

Scott and his health commissioner, Dr. Mark Levine, have insisted that the state’s testing capacity is appropriate for the current threat, however Vermonters have told VTDigger in recent days of long delays and a lack of access to testing. 

Health experts confirm that community spread is already happening in Vermont, meaning that many cases are yet to be confirmed, and that the days ahead will only get worse in terms of new patients, and increased pressure on the state’s hospitals

Leading Democrats in the state said Monday that Scott should have acted faster in handing down a “stay at home” order. 

“The bottom line is we don’t have enough testing capacity to identify where this virus is and react, so in the absence of that we have to be aggressively social distancing,” said Rebecca Holcombe, Scott’s former education secretary. “It’s early aggressive action that matters.”

Nurses at drive-up COVID-19 testing area
Nurses collect a sample from a patient at Central Vermont Medical Center's drive-up COVID-19 testing area in Berlin. Photo by Mike Dougherty/VTDigger

Scott announced new “mitigation measures” on Monday, directing businesses and nonprofits "to the maximum extent possible - to put into place telecommuting or work-from-home procedures."

The governor has also expanded his executive order over the weekend to ban non-essential mass gatherings of more than 10 people, and close all “close-contact” businesses.

Scott said those businesses unable to shift to a remote workforce must “implement – and publicly post – CDC and the Vermont Department of Health guidance related to COVID-19, including:”

  • Maintaining a distance of 6 feet between people;
  • Ensuring employees practice appropriate hygiene measures, including regular, thorough handwashing;
  • Ensuring that employees who are sick remain home; and
  • Regularly cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched objects and surfaces.
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Colin Meyn

About Colin

Colin Meyn is VTDigger's managing editor. He spent most of his career in Cambodia, where he was a reporter and editor at English-language newspapers The Cambodia Daily and The Phnom Penh Post, and most recently at Southeast Asia Globe, a regional current affairs magazine. He is a native of Maine and studied journalism at Northwestern University.

Email: cmeyn@vtdigger.org

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