Today’s mask mandate will spur retail business activity, Scott predicts

By Guy Page

July 24, 2020 – Gov. Phil Scott doesn’t think the universal mask mandate he announced today will make Vermonters less willing to patronize businesses in-person. The opposite will be true, he predicted.

Vermont Daily asked Gov. Scott at his press conference today: “The Times Argus reported yesterday that banks and retailers are running short of small change in part because people aren’t walking into stores as much. It was also reported yesterday that the Stowe Reporter and its affiliate papers have had to lay off their editor and several other key news staff due to continued declining advertising. Given these canaries in the coal mine, are you concerned that your mask mandate will drive consumers to buy even more online and less through in-person visits to small, Vermont-owned retail businesses? And has your administration discussed if this increased online buying could turn into a permanent consumer choice for more Vermonters?” 

Gov. Scott replied: “I believe just the opposite. With the mask mandate, people will be more comforted [about going into stores]. I believe that this action that we are taking is proactive and will have the opposite effect.” Vermonters concerned about health risks will have more confidence shopping, he said. 

Today’s mandate requires universal wearing of masks in all indoor public places, and outdoors where social distancing cannot be practiced, by August 1. There are exceptions, such as while eating, drinking, and exercising, and for children under two and people with health considerations. 

Vermont Daily also asked Health Dept. Commissioner Mark Levine: “Given the false positives on antigen testing in Manchester, as the state’s public health expert are you concerned that some of the increase in large scale positive tests nationwide could be significantly due to a problem with antigen testing?” 

“That’s a great question,” Levine said. Only a third of the U.S. states require backup PCR testing to substantiate antigen testing results. He conceded that antigen testing is new. “I would hate to have this generalized across the country,” and his greater concern is that people will lose faith and confidence in antigen testing. Investigations are ongoing and he is confident it will determine with “clarity and definition” why antigen and PCR testing of the same people produced such wildly different results in Manchester.