“Congratulations, Vermont!” With those words Gov. Phil Scott on Monday lifted COVID-19 restrictions that have been in place for 15 months. Effective immediately, there are no restrictions on the size of public gatherings, although individual businesses or venues may impose mask requirements on employees and guests or set other measures as they see fit. The announcement came as the state became the first in the nation to vaccinate 80 percent of its eligible population (those who have received at least one dose) against the disease that has killed nearly 600,000 Americans.The order is effective immediately, although the emergency order first issued on March 13, 2020, will not expire until midnight Tuesday (June 15). The Scott administration plans to present a new order on Tuesday designed to preserve the emergency (FEMA) money that has been used to support Vermonters in need of food or housing during the long pandemic. “We don’t want to create any cliffs,” Scott said at a special Monday news conference to announce the lifting of restrictions. The announcement comes a day ahead of the expiration of the Montpelier City Council’s mask mandate, which it voted to sunset on June 15. Scott said the state still recommends that unvaccinated people follow guidelines for mask-wearing, social distancing, and hygiene.