Vermont orders closure of ‘close contact’ businesses

Vermont Gov. Phil Scott ordered Saturday that all “close-contact” businesses, such as gyms, hair salons and tattoo parlors, close no later than 8 p.m. Monday.

He also prohibited gatherings of 10 people or more.

Scott said he made the decisions after consulting with experts.

“I don’t make these decisions lightly and my heart goes out to these workers and small business owners who are feeling the negative effects.,” he said in a statement issued by his office.

The governor’s order affects businesses that cannot maintain the 6-foot distance required for social distancing. The order also includes fitness centers, barbers, nail salons and spas.

Other businesses may remain open, but they must comply with federal and state guidance for social distancing.

Two people have died among the nearly 30 Vermonters who have tested positive for COVID-19. An elderly woman who died was a resident of a Burlington nursing home where four other residents have tested positive.

A health care provider from the Central Vermont Medical Center in Berlin is also among those who tested positive.

For most people, the coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death. The vast majority of people recover from the new virus.

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THE LEGISLATURE

The Vermont Legislature plans to return to the Statehouse in Montpelier next week to act on legislation designed to help the state recover from the economic damage caused by the outbreak, but leaders are working to determine the best way to do that safely.

Before lawmakers adjourned March 13, the House passed a bill that would expand eligibility for unemployment benefits to people who lost their jobs because of the virus, but to become law it must be passed by the Senate.

The Vermont Constitution requires that lawmakers be present to vote. Vermont Public Radio reports lawmakers are considering a number of ways to keep everyone healthy. They are also considering restricting access to the public, including the media, when the Legislature reconvenes. But alternatives would need to be provided so the public could listen in.

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VERMONT NATIONAL GUARD

The Vermont National Guard has activated seven members to help the state respond to the outbreak.

The guard says two medical planners will be working with others to help provide alternate medical locations if hospitals are overwhelmed. The five airmen will contribute to warehouse logistical operations. Two began work Friday. The rest will begin work Monday.

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