MONTPELIER — There's good news for folks who've had to learn to cut their own hair in the past two months. On Friday, the state allowed hair salons and barber shops to reopen, though they could only offer hair care services.
On Monday, more "close contact" businesses can follow suit, including fitness centers, nail salons and cleaning services. Indoor arts, culture and entertainment organizations such as libraries, museums and theaters are also getting the green light. But occupancy limits and safety requirements will remain.
The allowable size of social gatherings will also be expanded Monday to 25 people from the current 10, Gov. Phil Scott announced Friday.
"Looking at our latest data, and with the recommendations of the Department of Health, we feel it's safe to turn the spigot a bit more today," Scott said during his regular press conference on the coronavirus pandemic. "We're able to take these steps because Vermont has been smart and safe, and we continue to see very low case numbers."
In the past week, the state has seen only 24 new cases of the COVID-19 coronavirus disease, said Commissioner Michael Pieciak of the Department of Financial Regulation. State officials earlier said that Vermont's COVID-19 growth rate is one of the lowest in the nation.
On Friday, the Vermont health department reported one additional COVID-19 case, bringing the total to 975. The number of deaths is holding steady at 55.
Reopening of close contact businesses
Hair salons and barber shops must limit occupancy to 25 percent of their approved capacity, or 10 customers and staff combined — whichever is greater, according to a memo issued Friday by the Agency of Commerce and Community Development.
Businesses that reopen on Monday are similarly limited to 25 percent of their capacity — and no more than 25 people in any indoor space.
Customers must remain 6 feet apart, they should come by appointment, and establishments can serve only Vermonters or out-of-state visitors that have self-quarantined for 14 days after arriving in Vermont.
Product testing and demonstrations are not allowed. Officials encourage cashless or "touchless" payment methods.
Arts, culture and entertainment organizations must also stay within 25 percent of their capacity, or 10 people, whichever is greater.
Organizations should schedule customer visits, including asking people to wait outside for their turn, as a way to limit person-to-person contact.
Bennington Museum and Battle Monument
Bennington Museum, which has been closed since March 17, plans to reopen July 3 on a reduced schedule.
The museum intends to use the coming month to study how best to keep its visitors safe, the museum's executive director, Joshua Torrance, said Friday. "We're taking every precaution to make sure that people are safe," Torrance said, adding that Bennington Museum is also in communication with other museums.
In the meantime, visitors can enjoy the museum's grounds, including the George Aiken Wildflower trail, or take virtual tours of the place through its Facebook page, benningtonmuseum.
The Bennington Battle Monument is also expected to reopen July 3, though with limitations.
Site administrator Marylou Chicote said it is doubtful that the elevator will be in use, because it is too small to allow a passenger and the operator to stand 6 feet apart. Visitors will be able to view the exhibits on the ground floor, with a limited number of people — one "family unit" — allowed in at a time.
Visitors and employees will be required to wear face masks, and hand sanitizer will be provided at the entrance.
Tentative plans call for the hours to be restricted to 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday-Monday. No admission will be charged but donations will be appreciated, Chicote said.
Summer camps, residential college programs
On June 7, the state is allowing the reopening of overnight children's summer camps, as well as summer college programs where participants live on campus for no longer than eight weeks.
The camps can operate at 75 percent of their bed capacity, whereas the college programs should have no more than 50 participants.
Only one family member can travel with a camper, campers will be dropped off curbside and camp programs should organize carpools or bus services to reduce cross-state travel.
Program participants and staff who come from other states are required to self-quarantine, with several options. They can quarantine at home for 14 days before coming to Vermont, quarantine for 14 days at the camp, quarantine at home for seven days and test negative for COVID-19 or quarantine at the camp for seven days and test negative for COVID-19.
Gov. Scott described this as a "pilot project," which would provide policymakers with information on how to open the door wider to out-of-state visitors.
"This continues to be a challenge," he said. "Taking this step within this very controlled environment would give us some insight as to how we might manage out-of-state tourists as we move toward easing travel restrictions."
The Agency of Commerce told the Banner it is hoping camps abide by the state's order, since it is up to them to do so. "We hope education will lead to compliance," said agency spokesman Nate Formalarie.
He said complaints about non-compliance can be reported to the Department of Public Safety through the Executive Order reporting tool online.
COVID-19 cluster in Winooski
Health Commissioner Mark Levine said Friday that officials were monitoring what he described as a small cluster of COVID-19 cases in Winooski.
Citing privacy concerns, he wouldn't provide details about how many cases had been found, or who was infected.
Levine said the department's staff was working with community organizations and employers to provide education, followup, support and testing as needed.
Staff writer Dave LaChance contributed to this report, and information from the Associated Press was also used.
Contact Tiffany Tan at email@example.com or @tiffgtan on Facebook and Twitter.