vt Travel ban has teeth

STAY AWAY – Police are warning New Yorkers and the Vermont lodging industry not to make non-essential lodging bookings. They’re asking for voluntary compliance – now. But repeated non-compliance could lead to fines or even jail, AG TJ Donovan said today Vermont.org photo

AG says fines, jail possible for repeated non-compliance of travel ban

By Guy Page

March 30, 2020 – At a press conference this morning, Gov. Phil Scott and Attorney General TJ Donovan said today’s ban on all online booking of lodgings are absolutely necessary to limit deaths from the virus. 

The ban expresses concern that visitors from hot-spot states like Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey are attempting to come to Vermont. 

Scott, Donovan and Public Safety Commissioner Michael Schirling stressed repeatedly that it is their hope and expectation that everyone – Vermonters and visitors alike – fully and voluntarily comply with newly announced travel restrictions:  any visitors driving to Vermont must not leave their cars, and upon arrival must self-quarantine for 14 days; all online lodging bookings are banned. “Essential” lodgers as outlined in the ban may book by phone only. 

This weekend, police monitored more than 300 hotels, motels and BnB’s. Of these, 88 were found to be open, and half were non-compliant. The Vermont hospitality industry can expect police to be found in parking lots monitoring visitors, officials said. 

Furthermore, AG Donovan noted that if necessary – which he repeated they all hope it won’t be – fines of up to $10,000 and jail time of up to six months can be imposed. However the ban does not require Vermont police to actively stop drivers enter Vermont from a “hot-spot” state.

Gov. Scott stressed that strenuous efforts to keep out-of-staters out of Vermont should not be pursued with an “us against them” mentality. “We’re all in this together,” he said, repeating one of his constant reminders to Vermonters. However, all Vermonters and visitors without exception must practice social distancing if Vermont is to limit the number of Covid-19 deaths and illness, he said. 

In response to a question by a reporter, Gov. Scott also affirmed that the State has moved several refrigerated trucks to different parts of the state, to be used if existing mortuaries cannot accommodate the number of bodies. He said this decision was a matter of prudent planning, and not based on expectation of need. 

Later this week, the governor will hold a press conference to discuss computer models of the growth rate of Covid-19 in Vermont, and when it can be expected to peak.

Bored at home? Watch Legislature on YouTube….

If you’re already regretting your State of Emergency Resolution to read Moby Dick, you could always take a break by watching Vermont Legislature committees online. 

Highlighted activities this week, with links to hear/watch committees, include:

  • S338, reducing inmate population by decreasing probation/parole recidivism, 9 am Wednesday in House Corrections & Institutions. 
  • Hear how our state energy and telecommunications infrastructure is working, 11 am Wednesday April 1, House Energy & Technology – live stream link not posted for the House telecommunications committee….hmmm….. 
  • Learn more about Covid-19 emergency housing assistance and paid sick leave Wednesday 2 pm, House General, Housing & MIlitary Affairs. 
  • Listen to the latest on Childcare re: Covid-19, 11 am Tuesday 3/31, House Human Services. 
  • Senate Natural Resources and Energy’s “focus will remain on monitoring and responding to the COVID 19 pandemic, including in areas of jurisdiction. These impacts may include financial as well as staffing impacts across the wide array of activities [the committee] has worked on – water, solid waste, energy issues.” In particular this will include discussion of Covid-19 impact on energy efficiency programs and weatherization.

At present, only committee meetings are scheduled. Neither House nor Senate have finalized plans to meet remotely as a full body. The House resolution to meet remotely last week still requires a remote vote of three-quarters of the members. 

Other committees either have blank agendas, or have listed generic-sounding meetings like “Covid-19 discussion.” See complete weekly schedule for House and Senate committees here.