MONTPELIER — Vermonters working in the state’s hospitality industry can expect further revival in business in the coming weeks as administrators expand the number of out-of-staters allowed to visit Vermont.
Governor Phil Scott announced June 26 that beginning July 1, more people living in counties with fewer than 400 active COVID-19 cases per million and within driving distance to Vermont can visit without needing to quarantine.
Previously, only individuals residing in low case counties in New England could enter the state without quarantine.
This new travel expansion includes 260 counties in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Ohio and the District of Columbia.
Commissioner Michael Pieciak of the department of financial regulation said 19 million people would now be allowed to enter the state without quarantining for 14 days.
Scott cited the need to help the state’s struggling hospitality sector as one of the main reasons for allowing more unrestricted travel.
“This isn’t just about the businesses and the tax revenue they generate; it’s about their employees’ livelihood,” Scott said. “There are still at least 10,000 hospitality workers in the state who are currently without work,” Scott said.
The governor noted that many inns, bed and breakfasts, hotels and other lodging establishments are on the edge of collapse, and need more customers to stay afloat.
“By welcoming people from low risk counties, we can help support our hospitality sector, and the thousands of jobs it provides Vermonters,” Scott said.
Scott feels this expansion in travel allowance is a natural next step for Vermont, as the state continues to experience low case numbers and very few hospitalizations and deaths.
In the last week, 56 new cases of COVID-19 were reported in Vermont. The test positivity rate this week averaged at 1.28%.
Regionally, the northeast has seen an 18% reduction in new cases over the last week.
Dr. Mark Levine, commissioner of the department of health, said the total of new cases in Vermont exceeded predictions, but that it was not unexpected.
He reported the state is continuing to monitor outbreaks and clusters in Winooski, Fair Haven and Windham County through testing and contact tracing.
Of the 12 positive cases that were reported earlier this week at a work site in Fair Haven, only two are Vermont residents, Levine said.
Additionally, Levine said his department is aware people have been slow to receive confirmation of their negative COVID-19 results, and that he and others are working on a solution to the problem.
“There are so many negative results that come in on a given day, that we might need an entire bank of people that can call people in a more rapid fashion,” he said.
The health department is working constructively on hiring employees for a call center that will notify individuals more immediately of their test results.
“We send letters because you need documentation of your result, but that can often prove to be too many days gone by for the comfort of a person,” he said.
Secretary Suzanne Young of the agency of administration, said she will soon be able to announce a plan for reopening Vermont rest areas, so that commuters and travelers can access clean hand washing stations and bathrooms.
Levine said he did not foresee the acceptable travel map expanding much further this summer, as those who travel to the state by plane or by bus will still need to quarantine for the foreseeable future.