The mayor of Burlington is asking that businesses that do not require a vaccine for employees and customers implement a mask mandate.
The move is now allowed after Gov. Phil Scott on Tuesday signed a bill making municipalities responsible for mask mandates through April 30.
“Today, Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger announced he will bring forward a Mask Ordinance that would require facial coverings in indoor public settings except for in situations where all employees and customers are verified to be vaccinated against COVID-19,” a city press release states.
The decision to require masking will be decided on by Burlington City Council on Dec. 1.
Weinberger suggested that high COVID case counts were concerning and influenced his decision.
“On the one hand, vaccinations have made the great majority of us far safer than we were at the beginning of 2021,” he said. “On the other hand, we have repeatedly seen record numbers of cases here in Vermont in recent weeks, bucking the national trends in a concerning way. In drafting this new mask mandate the City team has sought to strike a balance with a structure that both protects public health and supports the local businesses we are asking to partner with us on the frontline of our community pandemic response.”
The mayor’s guidelines further detail that businesses must verify that all their workers and customers are vaccinated or at least that they are taking repeated COVID tests. It’s not clear how the verification process might be done, or who is responsible for enforcement.
The proposed Burlington measure states “all businesses and public institutions that affirmatively verify the vaccination of all patrons and require employees to be vaccinated or take regular COVID-19 tests” will be exempted.
If workers of any establishment do not interact with the public, then that can be sufficient for non-masking. Schools are exempt from the proposal because they are expected to follow their own COVID-related guidelines from the Agency of Education. Places of worship are also exempt.
The guidelines apply to moving around the city when not on foot. It states, “all public transportation including buses, trains, taxis, and ride shares” will be expected to comply.
Every 30 days the city would have to renew the policy for it to remain in effect. Also, if the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers the city to be of “moderate” risk levels from the virus, that can lead to suspending the policy.
The city of Brattleboro has beaten Burlington as the first city in the state to implement a new masking policy based on the new state law. Unlike Burlington, Brattleboro will have a universal mandate for all indoor businesses regardless of vaccination status.
A study from South Korea published in the Journal of the American Medical Society Internal Medicine indicates that about 30 percent of COVID carriers are without symptoms. Other estimates show more than half of younger populations are asymptomatic.