As cases of COVID-19 rise in Vermont, the Republican Party wants people to have choice in whether to wear masks, even as top Democrats call for new mandates.
Over the past week Democtrats have increased their calls for a mask mandate on the public, including for young children in schools.
“The first thing that came to mind when I saw today’s case count of 591 was, ‘Why?” Vermont Speaker of the House Jill Krowinski, D-Burlington, said in a statement. “Why is more action not being taken to protect Vermonters and keep our communities safe? Why don’t we implement the strategies we know work, like a mask mandate, to mitigate the spread of COVID-19?’”
But Paul Dame, the new chairman of the Vermont GOP, told True North that Republicans are advocating personal choice on health issues.
“Vermont Republicans are backing our governor on the issue of opposing a statewide mask mandate,” he said in an email. “While we support the right of every Vermonter to decide for themselves when it is appropriate to mask, we trust the people of Vermont to do the right thing according to their individual circumstances. Other states who have imposed mask mandates do not have demonstrably better results than states that don’t.”
Dame said that a mask mandate is inconsistent with other COVID-related policies.
“Last year we were told that masks need to be worn when in close personal contact for over 15 minutes within 6 feet. Requiring masks in settings with incidental exposure like grocery stores and gas stations that never meet this requirement are inconsistent with the data presented then,” he said.
On Monday, Gov. Phil Scott said he would call lawmakers back into session to debate and pass a measure opening the possibility for municipalities to enact time-bound local mandates.
The calls on the left for more mask-wearing come even after last week’s Republican gains in the November elections have been credited in part due to overbearing COVID restrictions. A recent memo by major Democrat Party donor Priorities USA shows that the party’s financial supporters are getting cold feet with COVID-related mandates, among other issues.
“Voters are frustrated, skeptical, and tired — of Covid, of economic hardship, of school closings, of higher prices and stagnant wages, of unaffordable prescription drugs and health care and more,” their statement reads.
Krowinski argues that Vermonters are worried about Covid again and are “looking for the Governor and his administration to take steps to support them in their day to day lives.”
Of the 591 COVID-19 cases reported last week, it is not yet clear how many of these people had symptoms of illness. Around the world, scientists have questioned the extensive use of PCR tests for COVID-19, a popular COVID test used in Vermont, arguing that asymptomatic positive results are too frequent.
“Why do we offer a PCR test for Covid to anyone who has a cold?” said the University of Birmingham Microbiology Professor Alan McNally. “We have never done this with any other infectious disease.”
On a recent Fox News segment “Breakfast with Friends,” a reporter enters a New Jersey diner to ask patrons which issues are driving them to the polls. The answers showed that COVID-related mandates are wearing on voters.
“I believe it was education, taxes, lockdowns, mandates for vaccines, control of the people, losing our independence, and that’s just for start,” said one diner.
The New York Times reported that the New Jersey gubernatorial race “puts mask and vaccine mandates to a political test.”
Despite these national trends, Vermont Democrats are doubling down on mask mandates.
“Vermonters are absolutely burned out and cannot understand why more is not being done to mitigate the spread in our communities,” Krowinski said in her statement.
Several studies indicate that the virus does not spread among asymptomatic carriers, including a new study last week detailing how school closings in Japan had no measurable impact on the spread of COVID-19.