The Vermont state legislature, under the leadership of Republican Gov. Phil Scott, passed a measure this week allowing local governments to impose their own mask requirements, nearly two years after the start of the pandemic.
The legislation, which passed 17-10 in the Senate and 90-41 in the House, essentially allows municipalities to temporarily adopt their own mask requirements in the face of a wave of viruses. According to VT Digger, “he received almost unanimous Republican opposition and also lost some support on the left.”
Scott pushed lawmakers to move in that direction because he didn’t want to implement a statewide mask mandate, despite push from Democratic lawmakers. In a November 15 letter to members of the legislature, the governor described the legislation he would support:
First, legislation should be limited to facial coverage requirements within a municipality’s jurisdiction (with the exception of schools, which will continue to be governed by policies established by the local school board) for the specific and exclusive purpose to fight COVID-19.
Second, the legislation must allow each municipality to issue, by action of the governing body of the municipality, a mask mandate as of Monday, November 29, 2021 or during the passage, whichever comes first.
Third, the legislation and the power to impose a local mask warrant will expire on April 30, 2022.
Fourth, the law passed in extraordinary session must require the municipality’s governing body to reassess and vote to extend or cancel the policy on a monthly basis.
“We want to make sure that we keep local people safe, businesses safe and if cities feel like a way to do that is to hide they should be able to make that decision themselves,” said President Pro Senator Tem Becca Balint (D).
However, others, like Republican Senator Randy Brock, believe the measure “will delay the rate of compliance”, citing “division” and “division.”
According to WCAX:
Outside, a group of protesters pushed back against the policy. They say the warrants on masks or vaccines are overbroad by the government and policymakers are not listening to their concerns.
“There are voices here with many professionals that are not being listened to. They are not welcome in the debate, they are excluded, ”said Matthew Sellers of East Montpellier.
According to New York Times’ Coronavirus data tracker, Vermont reports a daily average of 369 cases, or 59 per 100,000, well more than the six per capita reported by Florida, which continues to have the lowest per capita case rate from the country. Vermont’s figures represent a 17% increase in cases over the past 14 days, but it has one of the highest vaccination rates in the country at 73%.
An Oct. 5 directive from the Vermont Department of Health urged individuals to wear masks in indoor public places.