Vermonters’ Post-Restriction Plans: Going To Shows, Traveling To Canada And Lots Of Dusting –

Jeremy Little. Courtesy photo

” aperture”:”0″,”credit”:””,”camera”:””,”caption”:””,”created_timestamp”:”0″,”copyright”:””,”focal_length”:”0″,”iso”:”0″,”shutter_speed”:”0″,”title”:””,”orientation”:”0″}” data-image-title=”jeremy-little” data-large-file=”×610.jpg” data-medium-file=”×300.jpg” data-orig-file=”” data-orig-size=”2000,2000″ data-permalink=”” data- data-src=”×610.jpg” data- height=”479″ src=”data:image/svg+xml,%3Csvg%20xmlns=%22” width=”479″>Jeremy Little. Courtesy photo Vermonters allowed themselves cautious optimism for the months ahead as the state lifted its Covid-19 restrictions this week, expressing gratitude for the state’s sustained low case numbers and an eagerness to return to some semblance of normalcy. 

“It’s just a relief that we’ve pulled through the pandemic and that, for the most part, it’s over,” said Jeremy Little, 19, of Georgia, Vermont.

Gov. Phil Scott announced the changes Monday, after the state hit its target of more than 80% of eligible Vermonters vaccinated. 

Little, a student at St. Michael’s College, said he is relieved that masks are no longer required as summer approaches. His primary joy, however, is seeing people in person for the first time in more than a year without serious concern about transmitting Covid-19.

“It will be really nice to finally go and see people outside and do things in more crowded places that haven’t been open,” said Little, pointing to the Vermont Comedy Club as a venue whose reopening he’s anticipating. 

Still, Little said he’s concerned about other parts of the country with low vaccination rates as new strains, including the highly infectious Delta variant, gain hold. He hopes other states will follow suit and join Vermont in reaching a vaccination level of 80%.

“Obviously, there are still concerns, but I am optimistic that this really is a light at the end of the tunnel,” he said. 

Similar to Little, Tim Dudley, said he had been eagerly awaiting the lifting of pandemic-related restrictions. 

The 68-year-old Burlington resident said he thinks Scott “deserves a lot of praise about how he kept everybody informed,” but nevertheless felt some restrictions were too severe, including capacity limits that he wished could have taken into account the specifics of an individual location. 

Dudley, a construction estimator and supervisor, also compared Vermont’s response to that of other states when he visited Florida four times over the winter, prior to getting vaccinated.

“Nobody wears a mask,” he said, referring to his time in the Sunshine State. 

Dudley said he followed Vermont’s guidelines for travel and quarantined upon arrival. He is now vaccinated.

Carey Bass. Photo by Abigail Chang/VTDigger

” aperture”:”0″,”credit”:””,”camera”:””,”caption”:””,”created_timestamp”:”0″,”copyright”:””,”focal_length”:”0″,”iso”:”0″,”shutter_speed”:”0″,”title”:””,”orientation”:”0″}” data-image-title=”carey-bass” data-large-file=”×582.jpg” data-medium-file=”×286.jpg” data-orig-file=”” data-orig-size=”2000,1909″ data-permalink=”” data- data-src=”×582.jpg” data- height=”439″ src=”data:image/svg+xml,%3Csvg%20xmlns=%22” width=”460″>Carey Bass. Photo by Abigail Chang/VTDigger Even with lifted restrictions, some Vermonters remain cautious. Middlebury resident Carey Bass, 44, still wears a mask indoors when she leaves home, she said, even though it is no longer required by the state. She said she wears a mask in solidarity with people who are still nervous about being indoors unmasked.

She also continues to wear a mask, including on routine errands like a trip to the grocery store, because her daughters are unvaccinated.

“They’re wearing their masks, and they’re like, ‘Mom, why are you wearing yours?’ and it’s like ‘Well, because you still have to. I’ll do it with you,’” she said.

But now, with the recent rollback of restrictions, Bass said she is not clear on the guidance for unvaccinated children, including those under age 12 who are not yet eligible for a vaccine. (During a press conference Monday, Health Commissioner Mark Levine said the Vermont Department of Health recommends that unvaccinated children wear masks in crowded indoor environments, but it is no longer required.)

David Welch, 61, was strolling along Church Street in Burlington on Tuesday, soaking in the sunshine and engaging in his usual people-watching. He’s done this for much of the past two decades since he was released from prison in 2001. 

The worst months of the pandemic, though, were different. Welch, who lives alone, said he found comfort in writing regularly, a habit he first took up in prison.

David Welch. Photo by Riley Robinson/VTDigger

” aperture”:”0″,”credit”:””,”camera”:””,”caption”:””,”created_timestamp”:”0″,”copyright”:””,”focal_length”:”0″,”iso”:”0″,”shutter_speed”:”0″,”title”:””,”orientation”:”0″}” data-image-title=”david-welch” data-large-file=”×610.jpg” data-medium-file=”×300.jpg” data-orig-file=”” data-orig-size=”2000,2000″ data-permalink=”” data- data-src=”×610.jpg” data- height=”454″ src=”data:image/svg+xml,%3Csvg%20xmlns=%22” width=”454″>David Welch. Photo by Riley Robinson/VTDigger Then, after months of relative quiet, he was shocked to walk outside and face crowds dancing at the Burlington Discover Jazz Festival earlier this month. 

“I came out to wall-to-wall people,” he said. “It was like I was in a different dimension, like in the Twilight Zone.” 

Welch said he hopes the pandemic has fostered an increase in compassion for one another, while calling public attention to poverty and homelessness. 

“I just hope people see that life is real, that there’s more to life than the dog-eat-dog attitude,” he said. 

Though Matthew Betourney, a 39-year-old resident of Rutland, was positive about Vermont’s response in most regards, he was frustrated with the state’s eviction moratorium, which is slated to end July 15, 30 days after the state’s emergency order expires Tuesday night. 

“Seems like we’ve done pretty good — as long as you’re not a landlord,” Betourney said.

He hopes the end of the state’s Covid-19 restrictions means that tenants will soon be required to pay rent.

Betourney described himself as self-employed but said he became a landlord as “a favor for a friend of a friend.” 

Betourney said many landlords have been “screwed” by the policy. He thinks courts will be backed up for the next year with landlords trying to evict tenants.

Other small business-owners have also struggled but are looking forward to brighter days. Sam Tolstoi, 35, co-owner of Manhattan Pizza & Pub in Burlington, closed the restaurant in November 2020 after months of outdoor-only service.

He decided to wait until the state removed all Covid-19 restrictions before reopening. “We didn’t want to invest a bunch of money into barriers and make our staff deal with being the mask police,” he said. With the governor’s announcement this week, he’s now preparing to welcome customers again July 1. 

Tolstoi said he was forced to lay off his entire staff over the winter and used that time for building renovations. He expects to reduce the restaurant’s operations from seven days a week down to four — partially because he’s short-staffed, and for his own mental health and well-being. 

For now, he’s focused on cleaning the space, after almost a year and a half without using the indoor dining room. 

“I’m dusting everything,” he said. “I’m about to get up and vacuum the ceilings.” 

David Munford. Photo by Abigail Chang/VTDigger

” aperture”:”0″,”credit”:””,”camera”:””,”caption”:””,”created_timestamp”:”0″,”copyright”:””,”focal_length”:”0″,”iso”:”0″,”shutter_speed”:”0″,”title”:””,”orientation”:”0″}” data-image-title=”david-munford” data-large-file=”×610.jpg” data-medium-file=”×300.jpg” data-orig-file=”” data-orig-size=”2000,2000″ data-permalink=”” data- data-src=”×610.jpg” data- height=”473″ src=”data:image/svg+xml,%3Csvg%20xmlns=%22” width=”473″>David Munford. Photo by Abigail Chang/VTDigger Some people are simply looking forward to a sense of normalcy. Retired historian and teacher David Munford, 70, said he feels a combination of relief and pride now that Vermont’s statewide restrictions have come to an end. 

He hopes the lifted restrictions will mean masking no longer serves as a political identifier.

“As a child of the ’60s, I remember what it was like to have long hair and how it was an instant badge of political and social and cultural affinity,” he said, comparing the situation to modern-day masking. 

He doesn’t expect the end of the emergency order to result in major changes to his lifestyle and will continue carrying around a mask in the pocket of his shorts. But he hopes the loosening of restrictions in Vermont will soon mean the reopening of the Canadian border so he can resume annual fishing trips in central Quebec. 

As Vermonters face new opportunities to gather together, many have expressed gratitude for in-person connection. 

Dorothea Longevin, 54, a certified life coach, said she thinks many Vermonters have been watching the numbers closely, awaiting the 80% threshold when Scott said he would lift restrictions. 

“For me, personally, it’s really reminded me how grateful we can be that we can connect with each other and to not lose sight of how meaningful those interactions are,” she said.

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