The following was read by Christopher-Aaron Felker, chair of the Burlington GOP, to the Burlington City Council before it approved a municipal mask mandate Wednesday, Dec. 1.
We agreed to comply with mask mandates this past year due to the facts that COVID-19 is a novel virus and at the time there were no vaccines approved or available to the public and no recognized treatments to this virus.
This is not where we as a city find ourselves today. Today Vermont, Chittenden County and Burlington are positioned as one of the most vaccinated states, counties and cities in the entire United States.
We have abundant access to testing and treatments to cope with any potential infection from COVID-19.
As we continue as a city to navigate through the worst pandemic to strike the globe in a hundred years it is important to note that our community has effectively reached the endemic stage of COVID-19. As such, we should be encouraging individuals to assume personal responsibility for their own health while guaranteeing our city promotes a culture of open access and accessibility for all who live, work and visit our fine city.
There is no such thing as collective liberty, all liberty is individual liberty. As such, I have and will continue to advocate for individuals to choose to exercise their rights to wear a mask just as I will advocate for individuals to exercise their rights to not wear a mask.
The Governor is on record stating that these are unnecessary and the entire GOP caucus in the House and Senate opposed these unwarranted and unnecessary powers.
Municipal mask mandates negatively impact our business community. ● Over the last 18-20 months we have seen that mask mandates harm businesses and result in more people shopping online retailers. ● We have also seen mask mandates decrease the overall number of people who are comfortable patronizing our local restaurants. ● Our businesses are already battling labor/staffing shortages and unnecessary overregulation will only contribute to more labor shortages.
The Vermont Republican Party has expressed unified written opposition to so called Vaccine Passports as an affront to our civil liberties, and I am in complete agreement that these effectively create an unacceptable and truly untenable second class citizen status.
The Administration’s push to grant mask waivers for businesses who utilize Vaccine Passports codifies into law a precedent that businesses have the right to deny service in an area of public accommodation to anyone not willing to surrender access to their medical history. Furthermore, the Administration’s push to endorse this reckless intrusion is not based upon sound science as it completely fails to recognize that literally millions of American citizens have already achieved a natural immunity from battling and recovering from COVID-19 infections.
Municipal mask mandates are unenforceable “safety theater” and only serve to undermine all our messaging efforts on the efficacy of vaccines to fight and limit the negative impacts of COVID-19 in our society.
I am amenable to revisiting this issue in the future if and when these three criteria are satisfied:
1. The Governor has declared a State of Emergency.
2. UVMMC has issued a statement of medical urgency & necessity advising for a mask mandate.
3. The National Guard is rebuilding the emergency field hospital at the Champlain Valley Exposition.
While a Yankee will do all that you ask of him, he will do nothing that you demand. As such, on behalf of my party members, the residents and visitors to the City of Burlington, I respectfully request that this Council reject the proposed municipal mask mandate ordinance and it’s associated draconian vaccine passport presented by the Administration to Council this evening as unnecessary and incongruent with the principles of liberty that our nation holds dear.
Thank you. God Bless America.
Christopher-Aaron P. Felker
Chairman, Burlington Republican Party