Mask mandate Special Session next Monday

UnSplash photo credit

by Guy Page

It looks like November 22 will be Mask Mandate Monday in the Vermont Legislature.

At the urgent request of the leaders of the Vermont House and Senate, Gov. Phil Scott has grudgingly agreed to call a Special Session of the Legislature for next Monday, Nov. 22. He agreed to sign legislation giving municipalities limited power to impose mask mandates. 

“I disagree [with the need for a universal mandate], but to move forward I extended an olive branch,” Scott said at today’s press conference. He said municipalities must revote on the masking policy every 30 days, which in any event would end in April. “I see it as a compromise between my position and their position…I will veto anything else.”

For weeks, Senate and House leaders have been asking Scott to reimpose a state of emergency to require indoor masking in public places. He has refused, saying the situation doesn’t warrant such a drastic response and that Vermont should continue to improve on its 90%+ vaccination rate of eligible Vermonters, especially among the young. In August Scott forbade Brattleboro to impose its own mask mandate.

That’s just not good enough, Senate Pro Tem Becca Balint said last week when cases climbed to an all-time record of 571: ““This virus is unpredictable. We all hoped infection rates would drop as more Vermonters got vaccinated, but clearly that hasn’t happened, and we are overdue for a reassessment of strategy and a course correction.” Balint is not calling for reducing or abandoning the state’s aggressive vaccination policy. Instead, she wants to mandate masks in indoor public areas in high-transmission areas. 

At least one Vermonter skilled in public health says both Scott and the Legislature are taking the wrong approach. Kendra Bowen, a Charlotte resident with a Masters’ Degree in Public Health, said in a recent Vermont Daily Chronicle op-ed: “My solution is that we continue to encourage vaccines and masks, but stop mandating and worrying about those who do not, and get back to living and fostering our “natural immunity.” Stay home if you feel sick.”

She also said she appreciated Health Commissioner Levine’s admission last week that Vermont’s high vaccination rate has contributed to our low natural immunity

The letter signed by Gov. Scott on Nov. 15 and a press release response the same day by Balint and Krowinski explains their respective positions in detail and in their own words. 

Governor Scott to House Speaker Krowinski and Senate Pro Tem Balint:

Emergency powers not justified, won’t work; legislation must be limited

The following letter was sent by Gov. Phil Scott to House Speaker Jill Krowinski and Senate Pro Tem Becca Balint Nov. 15.

As you know, I believe the Executive’s emergency authority should be used judiciously. These powers must be reserved for significant emergencies. As a democratic constitutional republic, our constitution clearly intends to balance the power of government, so no one branch, official, or group of officials, is in a position of absolute power. Abuse of emergency powers – or lowering expectations of when and how they might be used – is a dangerous and slippery slope we must not allow and should never be politicized. 

There is no doubt that COVID-19 continues to be a persistent challenge. We will be dealing with periodic surges and clusters as we navigate the path from pandemic to endemic. As Dr. Levine has noted, eventually it will become just another virus like seasonal flu or the common cold. But we must continue to do our part as individuals and community members to move forward on this path by getting vaccinated, receiving boosters, and protecting the elderly Vermonters who are most at risk. 

As you know, because of vaccine effectiveness, boosters and advancing treatments, case fatality and case hospitalization rates are declining. In fact, even in this period of high case counts, over the last 30 days rates in the over 65 age bands (those most at risk of hospitalization) have declined by 2.5 percent. In addition, with nearly two years of experience, knowledge of the virus and its risks have increased substantially. Thankfully, while it is a challenge, and we must remain vigilant and encourage the unvaccinated to do their part, it no longer rises to the level of an emergency that would justify use of emergency powers. 

As President Biden has frequently noted, this is now a pandemic of the unvaccinated. And I believe confrontations over mandates, and the partisan politicization of these issues, ultimately delay the decisions we need these individuals to reach. As such, I do not believe a mask mandate will have the impact you hope at this time. Based on our earlier experience with a mandate, we are unlikely to see compliance among the unvaccinated adults we need to mask, and in the places where we need more people to mask – like in social gatherings where food and alcohol is involved. 

To put it more bluntly, the people, businesses and communities who comply with guidance – or who welcome mandates – are not where we need the greatest change; politicized conflict only makes it more difficult to persuade those who we need to reach. However, during this period of elevated cases I will continue to strongly encourage these Vermonters to wear masks indoors when around others from outside their household, get vaccinated and make good choices on a day-to-day basis. 

In light of your recent press releases, it’s obvious we have differences of opinion regarding how best to move forward from pandemic to endemic and use of gubernatorial emergency powers. 

For these reasons, I propose a special session of the General Assembly for the single purpose of expressly granting each individual municipality the narrowly crafted, and time-limited, authority to mandate the use of facial coverings indoors within their jurisdictions. Specifically, I’m willing to support legislation that is clearly and narrowly crafted to do the following: 

First, the legislation must be limited to facial covering requirements indoors within a municipality’s jurisdiction (except schools, which shall remain governed by the policies set forth by the local school board) for the specific, and exclusive, purpose of addressing COVID-19. 

Second, the legislation must allow each municipality to enact, by action of the municipality’s governing body, a mask mandate beginning Monday, November 29, 2021, or upon passage, whichever is earlier. 

Third, the legislation and authority to impose a local mask mandate shall sunset on April 30, 2022. 

Fourth, the statute passed in special session must require the governing body of the municipality to reevaluate and vote to extend or rescind the policy on a month-to-month basis. 

I offer this as a compromise – not because I believe mandates are the right approach under current circumstances. Therefore, I want to be very clear, should the Legislature propose any additional restrictions or mandates on a statewide or municipal basis, I will not support them. This special session would be for the exclusive purpose of passing narrowly crafted, and time-limited legislation giving municipalities the temporary authority to mandate the use of facial coverings indoors within their jurisdictions, as outlined above. 

I have asked my staff to prepare the paperwork calling a special session for Monday, November 22, 2021, and look forward to discussing this compromise proposal when we meet later today. 

Krowinski and Balint respond: Ok, Governor, anything’s better than nothing

The same day, Krowinski and Balint published this open letter:

“We appreciated meeting with the Governor and discussing ways to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and the differences of opinion in the ways that we believe we should move forward. In our meeting today, the Governor told us that he would support the passage of legislation, similar to a proposal made by the League of Cities and Towns last week, granting limited authority to municipalities to mandate masks in their communities. While we appreciate this step toward giving Vermonters more tools to promote public health, we are deeply disappointed that there is not a broader approach to keeping Vermonters safe and our health care system afloat.

“Under current law, the Governor has the authority to approve local public health measures without the need for the legislature to reconvene, but at this point, we believe that taking any action is better than continuing down the path that we are currently on when it comes to preventing the spread of disease. The Governor has the authority to act now and he has also made it very clear that if the legislature attempted to pass any legislation other than what he has proposed during this special session, he would veto it. We are still discussing all policy options and will work with public health experts to help us evaluate alternative public health actions. 

“Again, while this it is not what we had envisioned as a response to this moment in the pandemic, when Vermont has one of the highest case rates in the country, if it takes the legislature reconvening to step in on behalf of Vermonters, we are more than happy to provide a tool to help mitigate the spread of the virus in our communities.”

The special session no doubt will be discussed at Gov. Scott’s press conference at noon today. 

17 replies »

  1. The governor and the legislature are both boats in a fog. The truth of Vermont’s record cases is something completely different. Robert W. Malone, MD, the original inventor of mRNA vaccines, explains it this way:

    “SARS-CoV-2 variants are a consequence of an error-prone viral polymerase. Viruses exist and propagate as swarms of variants. But specific variants that evade the vaccine will emerge from the vaccinated population due to natural selection. This will cause variants to evolve that circumvent the vaccine and cause more disease and death in the elderly. Universal vaccination into the teeth of an epidemic during high viral pressure is a very bad idea.”

    The takeaway is that Vermont should take its foot off the gas, NOT vaccinate further, and encourage now-proven early treatments.

  2. “Based on our earlier experience with a mandate, we are unlikely to see compliance among the unvaccinated adults we need to mask”- Really? We need to mask unvaccinated adults because why?? Because you think they have cooties unlike the vaxed people who are pure, righteous and of course don’t get or spread Covid?

    If you want to wear a mask, wear a mask. If you want to wear 2 or 3 masks be my guest. Same goes for the vax. Stop trying to control what everyone else does.

  3. Did any of these people wanting this think that the increase in case counts is because we’re testing more 🤔…. Positive doesn’t equal sick…

    “Stop trying to control what everyone else does.” EXACTLY 💯

  4. Here we go again… Proving that SARS-CoV-2 is a man-made political virus, Vermont’s liberal and socialist legislators will deem a thin cloth covering will eradicate this virus. Following the “science and data” as told by fauci and his believers, the mask will work, the “vaccine” will work, if one is injected with more of it. Then more still, will be the cry.
    Meanwhile, Vermont’s new daily cases have dropped by over 50% in the past week. It will be interesting what the data politicians will use to spin the need for a mask mandate on, in light of a dropping metric of new cases. The true motivation might be best explained that the liberals need to feel safe at Starbucks, so you need to be forced into wearing a mask.
    Because the political class and the media have done an exemplary job of promoting fear over SARS-CoV-2 to accomplish an agenda, the US will now never be free of this tactic, whether the threat is real or imagined.
    Ronald Reagan said in 1964 ” The trouble with our liberal friends is not that they’re ignorant, it’s just that they know so much that isn’t so”. Unfortunately, his words ring true almost 60 years later.

    • Or as credited to Mark Twain, “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”

  5. From Epoch Times story:
    “The biggest takeaway is that more than 100 years of attempts to prove that masks are beneficial has produced a large volume of mostly low-quality evidence that has generally failed to demonstrate their value in most settings,” Dr. Jonathan Darrow, an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, told The Epoch Times in an email.

    Link to the story:

    Link to the study:

  6. This debate again turns on the recurring idea that the government has the power to, ought to and actually can compel citizens to behave in some specific way. I think Governor Scott position is reminding us that as law abiding citizens we are generally at least acquiescent with this, even when we don’t agree. We relinquish individual liberty because we value the common good. The success of our society depends on this citizen co-operation. But it has its limits. The more intrusive our legislation&regulation gets…the more it is IMPERATIVES to which we must SUBMIT, the more likely our co-operation will go sideways

  7. The RIGHT TO BREATHE FREELY is a basic HUMAN RIGHT AND FREEDOM. The proper and healthy functioning of our human bodies requires that we breath in oxygen and nitrogen and we breath out mostly carbon dioxide.

    We have almost two years of practical evidence from ALL OVER THE GLOBE that MASKS DON’T
    MAKE A DIFFERENCE WITH COVID NUMBERS. What will another mask mandate change or accomplish in Vermont? Balint and Krowinski will “FEEL GOOD AND LOOK LIKE THEY ARE DOING SOMETHING?”

    We need to work together to get rid of Krowinski and Ballint and the many others just like them at the next election. They are a typical sampling of the arrogant, selfish, elitist, woke, overly-emotional, non-thinking, Constitution-hating, Marxist/Socialists in our State/Federal Governments.

    THEY DON”T SERVE US and they don’t care about the Lives and Freedoms of ALL THE REST OF US LITTLE PEOPLE who are beneath them and work to pay the taxes that provide their paychecks. VOTE THEM OUT!!!

  8. These comments are excellent and I my research concurs with them. It’s a political game now to obfuscate and undermine the free exercise of our social and political liberties. I will find the towns that DO NOT have the mask mandate. That is where I will do my shopping and dining out. And I will go to those towns even if individual stores in those towns ask for masks, as I always comply. And they better not put mask mandates that further hurt our more vulnerable populations. Do you really think these towns are going to cut off their nose to spite their face? Note: recently got back from NYC. People on public transport without masks in Manhattan. Why? No one to enforce, no money to enforce, no will to enforce …, depleted police force needed for rape and murder catch and release. At least Adams is in there now. Or, are they going to use infrastructure money for enforcement?

  9. mandate or not, those who don’t want to wear a mask, won’t. Those who do, will. Kinda simple if you ask me

  10. This is an admission that the vaccines don’t work. Wearing a mask is the only option left to prevent more infections.

    Of course, we all know masks have limited effectiveness. But limited as it is, at least there’s now concensus that vaccine mandates are a waste of time.

    These two liberal/woke/progs do not wish to learn anything, do not listen to other points of view or science, believe they are more intelligent than you or I, could care less about anyone’s safety (especially unborn babies), will do what they want (not what their constituents want) and you will be told to hold your tongue. Phil Scott has the choice of further economic destruction to the state, risk noncompliance or he can put on his big boy pants and veto whatever they try to do to control us.

  12. In the science of masks, masks are ineffective in protecting yourself or others.
    The vaccines are not working as intended, vaccinated people can still get the virous and pass it on to others. The only thing that the vaccine does is make you less sick.
    Also consider that there are multiple side effects to the vaccine.
    Currently, 70% of the people dying are the ones that are vaccinated, and usually the elderly with underlying conditions.
    In conclusion, I do not wear a mask and will not get vaccinated. The same goes for the flue shot which I have never had and never had the flue.

  13. Our reputation is tanking. National news how Vermont is most vaccinated and the virus still out of control here. Economic disaster incoming. No one will want to come here to visit or do anything here. We we are now being shown across the nation and world as a disaster State and going back to failed policies.