Business & Economy

State opens yard sales, beaches, pools; new guidance includes lodging details

Swimmers at the Westmore town beach on Lake Willoughby in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom last summer. Photo by Jim Welch/VTDigger

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Yard sales received the go-ahead from state officials May 19, as long as groups stay under 10 and practice social distancing. Low-contact workers such as attorneys, accountants, and realtors are able to start working again immediately, the Agency of Commerce and Community Development declared.

The wide-ranging order released May 19 also opens swimming pools and beaches, although operators will be required to limit gatherings to 10 people or less and maintain strict sanitary practices.

And it clarifies a question that has come up frequently in discussions about lodging properties, which the governor announced last week will be allowed to open on a limited basis May 22. People who visit lodging properties from out of state must quarantine in Vermont before using a lodging property, campground or short-term rental – a directive that effectively limits stays at those properties to Vermonters or those who have been staying with family or at a second home.

Lodging properties are required to cancel reservations for other guests through June 15, “and may need to be cancelled beyond June 15,” according to a May 19 letter from the state’s tourism marketing department to lodging property owners.

Those that open must stay at 25% of capacity or below, and cannot offer dine-in service.

The lodging rules apply to hotels, motels, bed and breakfasts, inns, and short-term rentals like Airbnb. They also cover all public and private camping facilities and RV parks. Operators of lodging facilities must require guests to fill out a health questionnaire and keep a 30-day record of the forms with contact information so that state officials can carry out contact tracing in the event of a Covid-19 outbreak.

Lindsay Kurrle
Lindsay Kurrle, Vermont’s secretary of the Agency of Commerce and Community Development, speaks at Gov. Phil Scott’s weekly press conference on Feb. 27, 2020. Photo by Mike Dougherty/VTDigger

“Preventing outbreaks and limiting the spread of COVID-19 is the only way to avoid future business and social disruption,” said ACCD Commissioner Lindsay Kurrle. “The success of this phased restart will depend in large part on the ability of employers and employees to adhere to the public health, safety, and social distancing measures essential to limiting the spread of illness.”   

The ACCD developed its guidance with the state Department of Health and the Department of Public Safety, and it’s effective immediately, the ACCD said.

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State Department of Health guidelines require employees to wear face coverings over their nose and mouth when in the presence of others unless a translucent shield is present in a retail establishment. Businesses and nonprofit and government entities are permitted to require customers or clients to wear masks.    

The change in guidance May 19 is a big change for lawyers, accountants, and others who were previously limited to working only one-on-one. The guidance also includes nonprofit workers and municipal workers. All of these workers should continue to work remotely whenever possible, the guidance said.

“This includes allowing necessary in-person operations in offices and in the field, such as real estate showings and small meetings, provided that participants follow the mandatory health and safety guidelines including physical distancing and cloth face mask recommendations,” the ACCD said.

The yard sale guidance recommends that hosts and visitors wear face coverings, but includes no other information about masks. While Burlington and South Burlington have passed ordinances that require people to wear masks in shops, Gov. Phil Scott said May 13 that he is waiting for survey results from the Vermont Association of Retailers before deciding whether to require mask-wearing in public statewide. Scott said he expected that information to be available this week. 

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Anne Wallace Allen

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