The decision by Vermont lawmakers to implement a town-by-town masking policy is causing widespread debate as each community decides how to respond to the threat from the coronavirus.
In Rutland Town, Selectboard member Don Chioffi was the only official on the board to vote against a new mandatory masking policy that includes fines starting at $25 for the first offense.
“It’s a big power grab and a tremendous overreach by big government, with all its power, and I’ve had it with mandates,” Chioffi told TNR in a phone interview Friday. “The government has reached far enough into our lives and it should be over.”
While Chioffi was the minority voice on the board, he said comments on social media have been 90 percent supportive, and some constituents are informing him that they will be taking their Christmas shopping dollars elsewhere if the town goes through with this mandate.
In Burlington, Mayor Miro Weinberger is backing a citywide proposal to mandate masks for any business that can’t prove all workers and customers are vaccinated. The only exceptions include places of worship, schools and vaccinated employees who don’t interact with the public. The City Council will take up the proposal in a special session on Wednesday.
On Twitter, former city councilor Ed Adrian praised the mayor’s proposal.
Well done @MiroBTV. Cloth mask wearing (and even n95s) at this point is performative. We’ve moved past the pandemic at this point and are in a long term endemic. We need policies to reflect that. #VTpoli https://t.co/hi8lx9X9r4
— Ed Adrian (@CounselorAdrian) November 24, 2021
Norwich Selectboard Vice Chair Roger Arnold posted Thursday night that each town must “promote community” by requiring each other to wear masks.
In the absence of a universal, statewide mask policy, towns must now work together to promote community over individualism and solidarity over personal responsibility through local mandates (and all during a stressful budget season, I might add). #vtpoli https://t.co/eHj7NYEuSS
— Roger D. Arnold (@roger_arnold) November 26, 2021
A Valley News report states that several towns in the Upper Valley, including Hardford’s Selectboard on Tuesday, will take up the controversial subject.
Some lawmakers, including Sen. Minority Leader Randy Brock, R-Franklin, noted that while the League of Cities and Towns did formally request that the governor put forth the town-by-town proposal for masking laws, the organization had not reached out to any Vermont communities for feedback. Brock told his Senate colleagues that 68 towns indicated to him that they were against the idea, while just two supported it.
Anne Sosin, a health researcher and policy fellow at the Nelson A. Rockefeller Center at Dartmouth College, is calling for a statewide mandate.
We have strong and consistent evidence that masks work—and that’s why I’m happy that they were required when I testified in the Vermont legislature this week. A statewide data-driven mask policy would make other workplaces across VT safer. #vtpoli pic.twitter.com/3BjoIFpux8
— Anne Sosin (@asosin) November 24, 2021
The city of Montpelier also is expected to impose a local mask mandate. As reported by VTDigger, Montpelier City Manger William Fraser, in a written message to Gov. Phil Scott, said “Montpelier will almost certainly enact a local mask requirement. It seems less likely to be helpful, however, if similar requirements are not enacted in neighboring communities.”
Some from outside of Vermont expressed disappointment with the recent COVID restriction trend.
I always thought that there was some residual Vermont Republic, green mountain boys, basedness endemic to the state. Sure they elect Sanders but the woods are full of off the grid, maple tree tapping hunters who cant be bothered to vote. Getting the suspicion I’m wrong lately.
— New South Catholic (@newsouthviceroy) November 26, 2021
New data from the Vermont Department of Health continues to support that most COVID-19 deaths are among the elderly. As of Nov. 23, 217 COVID-associated deaths are over age 80, 97 victims were in their 70s, 49 in their 60s, and 27 in their 50s. The state has recorded 16 deaths of Vermonters under age 50.
The state of Florida, which has been criticized for not supporting masking mandates, reported the lowest daily coronavirus cases per capita in the nation this week.