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Scott Allows Gyms, Spas To Reopen, And Announces 'Pilot Project' For Tourism Industry

Phil Scott at a podium
ORCA Media
Gov. Phil Scott said during his press briefing Friday that fitness centers, spas and other close-contact businesses wil be allowed to resume operations starting June 1. He said businesses, however, will have to limit operations to 25% of total capacity.

Gov. Phil Scott Friday resisted mounting calls from Vermont’s tourism industry to ease restrictions on out-of-state visitors, but said a “pilot program” for overnight camps this summer may provide a blueprint for more expansive travel allowances.

Though Scott has taken steps in recent weeks to reopen many sectors of the Vermont economy, the lodging industry remains at standstill due to travel restrictions that could decimate the key summer tourism season.

Scott said during a press briefing Friday that he’s well aware of the strain his executive orders have placed on hotels and inns in the state.

“I mean we know this is somewhat the lifeblood of Vermont, and we want to do this as quick as we possibly can,” Scott said. “But we have to do it safely. We can’t lose ground on all the ground we’ve gained.”

Out-of-state concerns remain

Until coronavirus trends in neighboring states improve, according to Scott, he can’t lift the 14-day quarantine order on visitors entering the state without risking a resurgence of COVID-19 in Vermont.

And while growth rates of the disease have begun to slow in places like New York, Massachusetts and New Hampshire, Commissioner of Financial Regulation Michael Pieciak said the threat remains.

“Approximately 41% of all confirmed COVID-19 cases in the United States are within a five-hour drive of our borders here in Vermont,” Pieciak said Friday.

A 'pilot project'

Scott, however, said overnight summer camps in Vermont may serve as a “pilot project” for more expansive lodging activity later this summer.

Scott announced revised quarantine protocols for out-of-state children attending overnight summer camps in Vermont. Overnight camps will be permitted to operate at up to 75% capacity, so long as they campers follow new quarantine guidelines.  

“Taking this step within this very controlled environment will give us some insight as to how we might manage out-of-state tourists as we move toward easing travel restrictions,” Scott said.

More from VPR: What Will Tourism Look Like In Vermont This Summer?

Gyms, spas can reopen

Scott announced other economic reopenings Friday as well, including gyms, indoor fitness centers, massage therapists, nail salons and spas. Scott said those businesses will have to abide by the same 25% capacity limitations governing other retail and close-contact businesses in the state.

The governor also cleared businesses that require work in the home, such as cleaning services, to resume operations.

Gatherings up to 25 allowed

Scott, as expected, increased the limit on public gatherings Friday, from no more than 10 people to no more than 25. But he said the new cap cannot be used to expand capacity at businesses.

“To be clear, this pertains to social gatherings like cookouts or outdoor get-togethers,” Scott said. “It does not change the 25% capacity limit set for things like retail or lodging.”

The Vermont Statehouse is often called the people’s house. I am your eyes and ears there. I keep a close eye on how legislation could affect your life; I also regularly speak to the people who write that legislation.
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