Coronavirus

As Vermont contends with the COVID-19 outbreak, Gov. Phil Scott signed a new order Monday directing people who cross into the state to self-quarantine for 14 days.

“And that means heading directly to where you’re going, with no stops in between,” he said at a news conference, where he also announced clarifying language on the types of lodging operations subject to last week’s “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order. In addition to directing people in Vermont to stay home as much as possible, that order prohibits in-person operations at most businesses.

Scott’s directive on travel — listed, along with the extra language on lodging, in the latest addendum to his March 13 state-of-emergency declaration — says that people experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, or who would be coming from current “hot spots” for the disease, such as Detroit, Chicago, New York City, Florida or Louisiana, should steer clear of Vermont altogether. The order adds that people living in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut should abide by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s domestic travel advisory Saturday for those states’ residents to avoid non-essential travel for 14 days.

The CDC’s advisory doesn’t apply to those working in public health or in other critical positions, and neither does Scott’s order.

For example, a resident of Plattsburgh, N.Y., would be able to continue to report to work at UVM Medical Center, Scott said during Monday’s press briefing. Personnel important to national security — a Border Patrol agent, for example — would likewise be permitted to cross state lines for their job.

The order also doesn’t pertain to someone going into or out of Vermont to perform an essential function, like grocery shopping, Scott noted.

“My guidance is for anyone or any company going to another state to work for something that’s nonessential — that they stay there,” Scott said. “... And if you come back, isolate for 14 days once you return.”

The governor’s order closes all hotels, motels, bed and breakfasts, inns and short-term rentals such as Airbnbs, as well as public and private camping facilities and RV parks, according to a news release from the Vermont Department of Health.

“The Vermont State Police and local law enforcement will monitor lodging providers for compliance and work with the Attorney General’s Office on additional compliance measures if needed,” the release said.

Additional case confirmations

Monday’s news conference came on the same day that Vermont health officials announced that the state’s tally of positive COVID-19 tests had hit 256, out of a total of 3,930 tests conducted to date.

Twelve patients with the disease have died, with seven of those cases associated with the previously reported outbreak at Burlington Health & Rehab, according to Vermont Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine.

Two of the deaths are associated with a senior-living community in Essex Junction, he said. VT Digger.org has reported the community as Pinecrest at Essex. One of the people who died lived in the community, whereas the other was an employee’s partner, according to Levine.

An uncertain timeline

Scott’s travel order comes two days after N.H. Gov. Chris Sununu requested over social media that people visiting New Hampshire for reasons other than work and planning to stay for an extended period quarantine themselves.

In laying out Vermont’s new travel directive, Scott urged residents not to let the increased isolation inspire a spirit of division.

“... We can’t let this become an us-versus-them view of the world,” he said. “That’s not who we are as Americans and certainly not as Vermonters, and we shouldn’t let anything change that.”

This latest directive is dated to end April 15, as is the stay-at-home order, which Scott said residents can expect to be extended. For how long is very much up in the air.

“We can only hope that we peak [for COVID-19 activity] before then,” he said, “but our modeling doesn’t show that, to be honest.”