by Guy Page
Brattleboro passed a municipal mask mandate ordinance last night, and Burlington is poised to do so Wednesday, Dec. 1. The hometowns of Senate Pro Tem Becca Balint (D-Windham) and House Speaker Jill Krowinski (D-Burlington) are the first municipalities to act on the Municipal Mask Mandate bill approved by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Phil Scott this week.
Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger said yesterday he will bring forward a mask ordinance that would require facial coverings in indoor public settings, except for situations where all employees and customers are verified to be vaccinated against COVID-19. The ordinance will be before the City Council for approval at a special meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 1. It will not need voter approval.
The Brattleboro ordinance was prepared for last night’s selectboard meeting in anticipation of the Municipal Mask Mandate bill passing in Special Session of the Vermont Legislature, according to a letter from town official Peter Elwell. The ordinance states:
“Requirement to Wear Face Covering. All establishments located in the Town of Brattleboro that invite the public into their premises for the purpose of receiving services, purchasing products, or otherwise transacting business, shall require both staff and customers (or visitors) to wear cloth face coverings or face shields over their nose and mouth while inside the establishment. Exceptions. Cloth face coverings are not required on young children under age 5 and should not be placed on anyone who has trouble breathing or anyone who is unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.”
The ordinance was approved last night with only one selectboard member voting no, according to VT Digger. “I am pro-vaccination and masking, but I’m anti-this mandate,” Wessel reportedly said. “I’m feeling we will separate people into camps and lose a community push toward getting out of this pandemic.”
The Burlington mayor’s proposed mask mandate would:
· Exempt 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.
· Exempt vaccinated workers who do not interact with members of the public.
· Exempt places of worship and schools within the Burlington School District (which follow guidance from the Vermont Agency of Education).
· Include all public transportation including buses, trains, taxis, and ride shares.
· Be reconsidered every 30 days for the following 30-day period and could be suspended if the risk of COVID-19 transmission in Chittenden County has dropped to a “moderate” level as defined by the Center for Disease Control (CDC).
· Sunset no later than 11:59 p.m. on Saturday, April 30, 2022, consistent with State Act. 1.
State law doesn’t include “decline to wear a mask or cloth face covering” option – As introduced by Gov. Phil Scott, the draft of the Municipal Mask Mandate bill included an ‘out’ for people declining to wear a mask: “A person who declines to wear a mask or cloth face covering because of a medical or developmental issue, or difficulty breathing, shall not be required to produce documentation, or other evidence, verifying the condition.”
This phrase was stricken from the bill by the Legislature. The final version of the entire bill appears below:
S.1 AS PASSED BY HOUSE AND SENATE
An act relating to temporary municipal rules in response to COVID-19
It is hereby enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Vermont:
Sec. 1. MUNICIPAL REGULATORY AUTHORITY; TEMPORARY AUTHORITY TO ADOPT RULES REQUIRING FACE
(a) As used in this section, “municipality” means a city, town, or incorporated village.
(b) For the purpose of COVID-19 prevention and mitigation, the legislative body of a municipality shall have the authority to adopt a temporary rule requiring individuals to wear face coverings while indoors at locations that are open to the public. A rule adopted pursuant to this section shall not apply to school buildings or school property, which shall remain under the authority of the school board.
(c)(1) The legislative body of a municipality shall adopt a rule authorized by this section at a regular or special meeting of the legislative body warned for that purpose.
(2) Notwithstanding 24 V.S.A. §§ 1972 and 1973 or any municipal charter provision to the contrary, a rule adopted pursuant to this section shall take effect upon adoption and shall not be subject to a petition for permissive referendum. (d) A rule adopted pursuant to this section shall remain in effect for not more than 45 days following its initial adoption. The legislative body of a municipality that adopted a rule pursuant to this section shall meet during the period in which the initial rule is in effect and vote either to rescind the rule or to extend the rule for an additional 30 days. Thereafter, the legislative body
shall meet at a minimum once every 30 days to reconsider the rule, at which meeting the legislative body shall vote either to rescind the rule or to extend the rule for an additional 30-day period.
(e) The authority granted by this section shall expire on April 30, 2022, and any municipal face covering rule in effect on that date shall be repealed.
Sec. 2. EFFECTIVE DATE
This act shall take effect on passage.