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Burlington City Council opts to stick with mask mandate for now

Published: May. 17, 2021 at 6:00 PM EDT|Updated: May. 18, 2021 at 5:12 AM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - The Burlington City Council on Monday decided not to lift the mask mandate for fully vaccinated people in the Queen City, despite updated guidance from the state and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“It’s just like, you never know the status of people right now, whether they’ve had their first vaccine, their second one. So, you are just not really sure who is actually safe,” said Oliver Phelps of Bakersfield, one of several people we spoke to on Church Street who supported the council’s decision.

Some council members Monday expressed concern about the state’s decision to ditch distancing and masking for fully vaccinated people.

“I don’t understand why we are exposing people who don’t even have the chance to be fully vaccinated yet-- in a lot of chances-- to people who may or may not be vaccinated. I don’t feel like that’s leading with our values,” said City Councilor Zoraya Hightower, P-Ward 1.

Mayor Miro Weinberger is against the city making its own public policy. He believes the city should listen to the experts and adopt the state and CDC guidance.

“I’m quite uncomfortable with the idea that the city of Burlington, without a public health function, is going to make a public health policy,” said Weinberger, D-Burlington.

That means no matter your vaccine status, masks are still a must in stores and shops. It is welcome news for some business owners.

“We were a little unclear about should we still have masks be worn when customers come in. Who’s to say who’s vaccinated, who’s not. We’re basically taking people’s word for it. So, it seemed very abrupt for people to start coming in without masks,” said Brendan Foster at Maven Skateshop.

“We’ve been doing it for over a year now, so I think, keep everyone safe. It’s a small, small thing to do all play our part,” said Jason Perron at Sox Market.

However, some Burlington residents say they don’t feel strongly about the mandate because they know people are getting vaccinated here.

“When I look at the statistics in Vermont, I think like 70% of the people have received one shot, and that’s good enough for me,” said one resident.

The Burlington City Council will take this issue back up at their June 7 meeting. By that point, likely thousands more people should be fully vaccinated.

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