Vermont Forward, the state’s road map to reopening, was unveiled by Governor Phil Scott during an April 6 press conference. It provides critical benchmarks for local businesses to understand how to hold events, weddings and other gatherings such as the Warren Fourth of July parade.
Susan Klein, the Rotarian who manages the parade and celebration, said that the new guidelines don’t change her plan to decide on the parade by mid-June.
“A lot of vaccines need to be given before we move out of Step 3. If we are still in Step 3 I will tell the select board we should cancel,’ Klein said.
The steps she referred to were outlined by Scott this week. Each step refers to 2% of people to have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. In each step, people are required to follow what is called the universal guidance which means wearing masks and physical distancing when around people not from the same household. Step 1 starts this Friday, April 9, and eliminates the need for quarantine with cross-state travel. A. negative COVID test within three days of arrival or return to the state is required. In this step, outdoor recreation, low contact professional services, farmers markets and other businesses can return to normal operations, but still must follow the universal guidance.
Step 1 calls for 35-45% of all Vermonters and 45-55% of Vermonters over 16 to have received one dose of the vaccine. At press time on April 7, 42.2% of those eligible have received at least one dose.
For Meg Schultz, of Meg’s Events, in Moretown, the new guidelines were encouraging, even though she doesn’t plan to offer any events before July when, per the state’s proposed guidelines, there are no longer any restrictions on gatherings and events.
“I’m glad we got the green light. What I’m focused on is that all the restrictions expire on July 4. I wasn’t planning on doing anything prior to that. With COVID numbers rising, I’m a little dubious, but with more people getting vaccinated I’m getting more comfortable holding large events. I don’t want to host a super-spreader event!” Schultz said.
In the run up to July 4 and no restrictions on gatherings, the state has crafted metrics (subject to change based on vaccine availability and other factors) for Step 2, slated for May 1, calling for 50-60% of all Vermonters and 60-70% of eligible Vermonters to be vaccinated. In Step 2, restaurants, hair salons, places of worship, gyms, indoor arts facilities and public bodies return to normal capacity.
In Step 3, slated for June 1, there is no quarantine or testing required for cross-state travel if 60-70% of all Vermonters and 70-85% of eligible Vermonters have received one dose of the vaccine. Steps 2 and 3 include specific guidelines for indoor and outdoor gatherings. In Step 2, there can be one unvaccinated person per 100 square feet, up to 150 such people plus any number of vaccinated people. Outside there can be 300 unvaccinated people and any number of vaccinated people. In Step 3, there can be one unvaccinated person per 50 square feet up to 300 plus any unlimited vaccinated people at indoor gatherings. Step 3 allows 900 unvaccinated people plus unlimited vaccinated people at outdoor gatherings.
For Schultz that means one of her signature outdoor events, SIPtemberfest, should be able to happen in September/October along with the outdoor Waterbury Arts Fest and a new event she’s working on, a mountain bike fest in Ascutney.
“All signs are pointing to we’re going to be okay. We’re still going to have social distancing protocols to keep people from getting too comfortable too quickly,” she said. Her nagging concern though is the availability of the infrastructure needed to host events, such as tents and port-o-lets, which will be in high demand with as many events as possible being held outside.
At Sugarbush, communications director John Bleh said the new guidelines bode well for summer events. Bleh said that Sugarbush’s annual Brew Grass Festival (canceled last year) was slated to be held on June 19.
“It’s listed on the calendar, but we haven’t hashed out the details. This new guidance certainly helps provide a clearer picture for us,” he said.
Both SIPtemberfest and the Brew Grass Festival have maximum numbers of tickets sold which will help event planners manage attendance.
Eric Friedman, executive director of the Mad River Valley Chamber of Commerce, said the new guidelines are good for Valley businesses.
“I think the feeling is, we wish it would have happened sooner. That being said, what came down was as good as we could have expected. I’ve been part of the legislative lobbying team advocating for this and the administration clearly heard our voices,” Friedman said.
A link to the Vermont Forward Roadmap to Reopening can be found at www.valleyreporter.com