With reported cases of COVID-19 in Vermont still lower than predicted, state officials announced Friday that child care centers and some summer youth programs can reopen in June.
All child care programs will be allowed to reopen June 1, though it’s not required, according to Gov. Phil Scott. Staff members will be able to reconvene starting May 18 for training and planning.
“I think it’s important to make this transition for our providers, for their families and kids ... as we prepare for what could be normal for a while,” Scott said at a news conference Friday.
To help keep staff and students safe, child care workers will be part of the state’s expanded testing program, announced last week.
Scott also announced on Friday that the state is creating “restart” grants, totaling about $6 million, to help these programs offset the additional costs associated with the new safety measures required for staff and children.
Human Services Secretary Mike Smith said the state is working to make this funding available by June.
The state’s health department will be issuing details on the grants, as well as on the new health protocols, in the coming week.
Summer day programs can choose to open, as well, as long as they abide by strict health protocols. Overnight camps should also be able to open this summer, with further guidance on both types of camps to be released in the coming weeks, according to Ted Brady, deputy secretary of the Agency of Commerce and Community Development.
Brady noted some of these camps have already canceled their sessions for this summer because they don’t have the ability to abide by social distancing and other COVID-19-related guidelines.
“While we’re pleased today that day camps and overnight camps have a path forward for this summer, they are going to look different under the [Agency of Human Services’] guidance,” Brady said.
The announcement to reopen these businesses follows an easing of restrictions in recent weeks in Vermont, including for construction crews, manufacturers, health care providers and some professional services.
Groups of 10 or fewer are also now permitted to gather outdoors for recreation and fitness, as long as the activities involve little to no direct physical contact, Scott announced Wednesday. Entities that support or offer these activities, such as state parks and golf courses, have been allowed to reopen, provided they follow a list of safety precautions.
As of Friday morning, Vermont health officials had reported 919 cases of COVID-19, and 53 deaths among patients with the disease.
And though there is progress in the state’s data, Vermont Education Secretary Dan French said Friday that traditional high school graduation ceremonies will not be allowed this year due to the crowd sizes.
Any public gatherings must be limited to 10 people or fewer to continue to slow the spread of COVID-19.
French said any alternatives to end-of-year celebrations should be designed to include all students. He noted that the state is aiming to have in-person instruction start again in the fall, if it is safe.
Next week, Scott said he plans to announce more changes, such as allowing hair salons and nail salons to reopen, as long as the data supports it.