Vermont loosens COVID restrictions, wants young people to ‘step up’ for vaccinations

Vermont News

MONTPELIER, Vt. (WFFF) — On Saturday, Vermont entered the second step of Gov. Phil Scott’s Vermont Forward Plan, and new guidelines on outdoor masking went into effect.

Capacity was boosted for indoor and outdoor gatherings, and most businesses shifted from sector-specific guidance to a universal guidance that prioritizes mask wearing, social distancing, and other basic precautions. Vermonters will no longer be required to wear a mask outdoors so long as they practice social distancing.

“Indoors, gatherings and events may include one unvaccinated person per 100 square feet up to 150 people, plus any number of vaccinated persons,” said Public Safety Commissioner Michael Schirling. “Outdoors, gatherings and events may include up to 300 unvaccinated people, plus any number of vaccinated persons as well.”

Those capacity limits are scheduled to double on June 1 when Vermont transitions to step three of the Vermont Forward Plan, but at least 70% of Vermonters over 16 will need to have one dose of the vaccine by then. As of Thursday, 61.4% had done so.

The first three steps of the Vermont Forward Plan. The final step, scheduled for July 4, would lift all capacity restrictions and the state’s mask mandate.

Governor Scott expressed concern with the 18 to 29 age group in particular. According to the most recent vaccine data from the Vermont Department of Health, only 44% of Vermonters in that age group have made an appointment.

“Step up to help everyone else, I don’t think it’s too much to ask,” Scott said.

Vermont’s vaccination progress by age band (4/29/21)

In recent weeks, state officials have pondered how to further improve vaccination rates, particularly for that younger population which hasn’t turned out as strong as their predecessors.

“We want to meet them where they are, we’re going to use education, we want to make it easy for people to get vaccinated, but at the end of the day, it’s about doing the right thing,” Scott said.

Vermont Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine said that as the state begins to shed COVID-19 restrictions, it means Vermonters will have to make more of their own decisions when it comes to keeping themselves and others safe.

He introduced what he called a ‘rule of three’ for people to keep in mind when they’re making those health-related judgement calls.

“Outside, masked, distanced,” Dr. Levine said. “You need two of these three elements. For example, if you’re outside and distanced, you do not need to wear a mask. If you’re outside and not distanced, wear a mask. If you’re not outside, you should wear a mask and keep a distance.”

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