Vermont mask mandate goes into effect Saturday

Published: Jul. 31, 2020 at 4:45 AM EDT|Updated: Jul. 31, 2020 at 11:35 AM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Vermont Gov. Phil Scott for months had been hesitant to call for a mask mandate, instead opting for encouragement. But last week, as cases continued to surge across the country, he took more aggressive action and now a statewide mask mandate goes into effect on Saturday.

Masks will be required in public places -- both inside and outside -- where social distancing can’t be maintained. Children under the age of 2 and those with a medical condition still don’t have to wear one. Businesses and other entities may require customers to wear masks, including signage explaining mask requirements and denial of entry or service to those who decline to wear masks.

“We have really encouraged our employees to work with the customers to try to encourage masks and gloves,” said Chris Conant, the owner of Clausen’s Greenhouse in Colchester.

He says the mandate, even without a form of enforcement, does help small businesses like his, since Clausen’s has been more strictly enforcing mask policies.

“I think, if anything, it just reassures us that we’re doing the right thing, we have been doing the right thing, and moving forward we will do it as long as we are told and I really encourage people to follow suit,” said Conant.

Governor Scott says wearing a mask is not just about keeping numbers from climbing, but about not losing the progress we have already made.

“If we want our kids to go back to school, if we want the place we work or eat or shop to stay open, if we want our health care system and hospital beds available when we need help, then wearing a mask or physically separating is the best way to do that,” said Scott.

Following the announcement, we found immediate pushback on our social media pages, including comments like “Annnd he just lost the election,” “Even if it were constitutional, Phil Scott will not make me wear anything,” and ”Way to go Phil, just lost my vote.”

But not everyone is resistant.

“It’s for my own protection, sure, but the idea is that as I am talking, I’m spitting and I really can’t do that with my mask on,” said Justin Wright from Eden.

There won’t be any fines or penalties for not wearing a mask, but some residents are ready to take it in stride.

“Now is the time to really buckle down and stop being selfish and put your mask on,” said Sally Johnson of Waterville.

Governor Scott still plans to continue his education campaign on the science behind wearing a mask.

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