92 towns/cities saying no, 20 yes for masks in public places
By Guy Page
92 Vermont Towns and cities are saying no to imposing a municipal public places mask mandate. Athens, Guilford and New Haven are latest towns to respond as a “no” to a Vermont Daily Chronicle survey of municipalities. Shelburne flipped from a ‘no’ to a ‘yes’ at its Dec. 21 selectboard meeting.
The selectboard said no on Dec. 7 but unanimously reversed its decision on Dec. 21, as a result of public pressure from people concerned about the Omicron variant, the Shelburne News reports.
The 92 ‘no’ communities fall into three categories: No votes by selectboards/councils; inaction and no plans to act; and taking action to require masks only in town-owned buildings. 19 municipalities have adopted mask mandates in all public places.
Furthermore, at least 10 other towns have indicated no action taken yet, but also have not indicated whether any action pro or con is being contemplated. As more than a month has passed since the law took effect, these towns could be construed as Nos but instead are listed as ‘uncommitted’ out of an abundance of caution.
Town by town municipal mask mandate decisions include:
Plymouth, the birthplace of President Calvin Coolidge, is an emphatic No to a public places mask mandate, selectman K.T. Cappellini reports.
“On Dec 6 we voted squarely against a town-wide mask mandate,” the 2016 legislative candidate from Windsor County said. “At the behest of the Town Clerk, the selectboard did however vote in favor of a mask mandate for all visitors to the town hall.”
Other towns reporting as “No” towns include Goshen, Guildhall, Canaan, and Chittenden.
The town of Brattleboro – statewide mask mandate Sen. Becca Balint’s hometown and one of the first to approve a mandate – relaxed its mandate, allowing artists to perform mask-free.
And in Vermont’s capitol city of Montpelier, the mask mandate passed earlier this month has been relaxed, the Times-Argus reported Dec. 23. City employees need not wear a mask if they are working alone in a room. The TA noted that “During their Wednesday night meeting, councilors approved a surgical adjustment to a local mask mandate many have followed, but plenty have ignored since it went into effect earlier this month.”
The Connecticut River Valley town of Fairlee has decided against a mask mandate. Pittsfield, in Rutland County, has enacted a mandate.
Dorset and Hancock are latest towns to say no to requiring masking in all public places.
Dorset, a Bennington County town of 2000, adopted a policy similar to Bennington, in which masking is strongly encouraged but not required. Addison County’s Hancock – pop. 300 and named after Declaration of Independence signer John Hancock – requires masks in town buildings only.
In Plainfield, the Washington County home of Goddard College, selectmen have not adopted a mask mandate, and no action is pending, a town spokesperson said.
Westminster and Wardsboro have joined the ranks of Vermont towns saying no to a municipal mask mandate. Richmond voted last night to adopt a mandate.
Williamstown, North Hero and Bolton are saying no to an all-public places mask mandate. Seven other towns also have been added to the ‘no’ category, with one – Pomfret – joining the ‘yes’ side.
Hartford – better known to most Vermonters for its village of White River Junction – has passed a municipal mask mandate. The ordinance has a religious service exemption.
The selectboard of the Town of Enosburgh nixed a mask ordinance at its last meeting, a town spokesperson said. “They discussed it, and they didn’t want to do it,” she said. “If you want to wear one, fine, if you don’t want to, that’s fine too.” Pittsford in Rutland County also declined to adopt a mask ordinance, according to news reports.
An announcement on the town website for Glover says the selectboard is soliciting public opinion into the New Year before making any decision: “The select board has not set a date as to when, or if, they will be deciding on a mask mandate, but welcomes hearing public opinion during the month of December and into January.
The Caledonia County town of Lyndonville and the Rutland County town of Clarendon both have opted to not impose a mask mandate, according to eyewitness and media reports.
According to the Rutland Herald, Clarendon selectboard discussed the issue for only two minutes before voting no.
The town of Northfield voted No on December 14. Also, the town of Manchester has been removed from the “yes” list upon clarification that its ordinance merely allows businesses requiring masks to sign up for a town mask registry.
St. Albans City councilors have canvassed business owners and have decided that the city “would rather not do it at this time,” City Manager Dominic Cloud said. St. Albans is the leading commercial center for Franklin County.
As reported yesterday, Middlebury and Vergennes, the two largest shopping towns in Addison County, have both decided against a municipal mask mandate.
Middlebury selectmen chose instead to pass a resolution saying masks “should” be worn in public places. There was much discussion on the difference between “should” and “shall,” and in the end the board chose “should,” a town spokesperson said this morning. In legislative language, “shall” means it must be done. Should” means it’s advised but optional.
Middlebury College recently decided to hold all-remote classes for the rest of the semester due to an outbreak among 50 students and staff, despite its 99% vaccination rate.
According to one observer of the Vergennes selectboard meeting, “Several business owners decided that it wouldn’t benefit them in any way, and that it would cause more divisiveness within their businesses.”
Meeting in Special Session Nov. 22, the Vermont Legislature passed S.1, empowering municipalities to adopt mask mandates to reduce Covid-19 transmission through April 30, 2022. The bill contains no firm deadline for municipalities to act, but does require review 45 days after adoption, and permits renewal every 30 days. S1 also says the selectboard/council may act without a citizen referendum.
The following is an up-to-date tally of Vermont municipalities known to have discussed municipal mandates requiring masking in public places. It will be updated as often as necessary as towns and cities decide yea or nay.
Sources for information below include Vermonters who attended meetings, town officials, and media reports. Readers are encouraged to contact their own town/city clerks using the Vermont Association of Town Clerks directory and email information to email@example.com.
Brattleboro – Nov. 23
Burlington – Dec. 2
East Montpelier – Dec. 6
Essex Town – Dec. 6
Montpelier – Dec. 8
Norwich – Dec. 8
Rutland Town – Nov. 24
Barre – Nov. 30
Bennington – Dec. 14*
Brandon – Dec. 7
Bristol – Nov. 22
Burke – Dec. 6
Cabot – Dec. 14
Cambridge – Dec. 7
Charlotte – Dec. 6
Clarendon – Dec. 15
Fairfax – Dec. 6
Halifax – Dec. 4
Hardwick – Dec. 2
Hyde Park – Nov. 29
Middlebury – Dec. 14
Middlesex – Dec. 7
Morrisville – Dec. 6
Northfield- Dec. 14
Orwell – Dec. 14
Rutland City – Dec. 6
Springfield – Dec. 6
St. Johnsbury – Dec. 13
Stowe – Dec. 6
Vergennes – Dec. 14
Waterbury – Dec. 6
Westminster – Nov. 23
No action or discussion scheduled
Municipal Buildings Only
Ripton – Dec. 13
South Burlington – Dec. 6
Wolcott – Dec. 1
St. Albans Town and City