Restaurants ordered closed, state agencies, courts alter operating processes Wrap-up of today's government changes that may impact you

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2020 Telegraph Publishing LLC

Gathering the news now is a bit like drinking from a fire hose. Here are today’s updates. On a normal news day, any one of these would be a big story.

  • Monday morning, Gov. Phil Scott held a press conference with members of his cabinet to answer questions about his order closing the schools and announcing four more people who have tested positive for the coronavirus. He also ordered that gatherings in Vermont not exceed 5o people or 50 percent of the occupancy limit of the facility – whichever is less. This restriction applies to all social, recreational or entertainment activities, such as auditoriums, stadiums, arenas, large conference rooms, meeting halls, theaters, gymnasiums, fitness centers, libraries or any other confined indoor or confined outdoor spaces. For The Telegraph article on that press conference, click here.

Additionally, state government agencies and departments are trying to switch the state workforce to remote work, and limiting person-to-person transactions in state offices, like the DMV. Those measures will be combined with 90-day extensions in license and registration renewals.

  • Later in the afternoon, Scott ordered the closure of all bars and eat-in restaurants in the state but allowed eateries to remain open to provide take-out and delivery of meals. The ban goes into effect at 2 p.m. Tuesday (St. Patrick’s Day)and will continue until April 6 although that could be extended. New Hampshire and Massachusetts have also ordered restaurants and bars closed.

On Tuesday, The Telegraph will publish a directory of local restaurants that are offering take-out and/or delivery of meals.

  • Also Monday afternoon, the Vermont Supreme Court announced it had declared a Judicial Emergency due to the coronavirus outbreak and all non-emergency Superior Court hearings, whether evidentiary or non-evidentiary, will be postponed. The order cites specific exceptions for high-priority cases that must be heard.

All Judicial Bureau hearings are postponed. For those proceedings that do go forward because they fall under one of the exceptions to the order, parties and counsel may participate remotely by telephone without seeking permission by motion. Where feasible, parties may participate by video appearance as approved by the judge. Parties or counsel must make advance arrangements to appear by video.

The emergency will extend until April 15, 2020, unless further extended by order of the court. Until March 30, 2020, no person will be permitted to enter a courthouse except for the purposes outlined in the order and only if they pass screening questions related to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

  • Finally, early this evening, Secretary of State Jim Condos announced that due to the pandemic, all Secretary of State division buildings are temporarily closed to the public, including 128 State St. in Montpelier, which houses Corporations and Business Services, Elections, Municipal Assistance, Administration and IT. The closure also includes the Office of Professional Regulation located at 89 Main St., Montpelier, and the Vermont State Archives and Records Administration, at 1078 US Route 2 in Middlesex. The secretary’s press release said that in-person assistance at the Office of Professional Regulation and State Archives and Records will be by appointment only and that most services provided by the Secretary of State’s office can be completed online. Some staff may remain on-site, but others will be telecommuting.
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