Vermont restaurants, bars and social clubs can stay open past 10 p.m. starting on Saturday, Gov. Phil Scott announced Friday.
Scott said he's lifting the curfew because the rate of 18-to-29-year-olds getting vaccinated against COVID-19 has risen from less than 30% to over 50% in the last month. He said he expects Vermont to reach 80% of the eligible population — ages 12 and up — getting at least one dose by next week. At that time, he will drop the remaining pandemic-related restrictions. As of Thursday, 77% of eligible Vermonters had been vaccinated, he said.
But Vermont will not let up on efforts to get as many people vaccinated as possible, particularly with variants of the virus circulating, including one recent report in the state of a variant first identified in South Africa, said Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine.
Walk-in vaccine clinics were being held around Vermont on Friday and more are planned over the long weekend including on Saturday at the Rutland Holiday Inn and the Burlington Farmers Market; on Sunday at Thunder Road in Barre and the Orleans County Fair concert; and on Monday at Northwestern Medical Center and the Fair Haven Park and Ride, Scott said. A full list is available on the Health Department's website. Next week, there were be over 130 walk-in sites, including at many pharmacies, he said.
“Get vaccinated and help protect yourself and those around you,” Levine said. “Because the good news is that vaccines are showing tremendous success against the virus in general and this includes variant strains.”
The governor also announced on Friday that a $1.5 million grant program for affordable summer programs for Vermont youth has been expanded to $3.85 million in federal money. His administration and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders worked with Vermont Afterschool to create the Summer Matters initiative. About 100 grants will go to programs in 13 Vermont counties, Scott said.
“This summer will be critical in helping Vermont's youth recover from the pandemic,” he said.
The funded programs are estimated to create about 31,650 new and additional summer program slots, said Holly Morehouse, executive director of Vermont Afterschool.
“Ninety-eight percentage of the selected programs have measures in place to provide low- or no-cost programming for eligible children and youth, and on average the funded programs will be able to decrease the weekly costs to parents and families by about $160 to $200 per child per week,” she said. More than half will provide transportation.
“There are small rural places in Vermont that have never had any summer programming that have come together with their town library, their parks and recreation department, local artists, and other community members to offer multiple free full-day programming for elementary school age children,” she said.
There's a traveling art bus, a makers' space, and a community music center creating more outdoor free programming for kids and youth, she said. There are also counselor-in-training experiences for middle school students and program jobs and life-guard positions for youth, she said.